It only took 10 minutes to get over to Elon.
At the Web Summit in Lisbon, on Thursday, I am at a press conference along with Microsoft President Brad Smith, and Ukraine's minister for digital transformation, Mykhailo Federorov.
Smith announced a $100 million donation of cloud services to Ukraine in order to fight the Russians. The second question in the Q&A was: “Is Elon Musk still supporting Ukraine via Starlink [his satellite Internet service]?”
Fedorov smiles, and speaks in Ukrainian. Translation: “Yes Elon is.”
These days, Musk seems to be part and parcel of every conversation. Musk is a huge presence at the largest tech conference in the world, with 71,033 people from 160 countries. It's Tesla, not Starlink and SpaceX. What is Musk thinking? What is Musk thinking? What is the matter with all these layoffs?
This is true even in Europe where antipathy and distrust towards large American tech companies are high. Web Summit has more Europeans than CES or South by Southwest. According to Paddy Cosgrave, Web Summit CEO, Americans make up the fifth largest contingent. This makes it an excellent place to see Musk from a different perspective, even though Elon is taking over the room.
Elon seems determined and bound to dominate the news cycle. Every. Single. Day. Day. He's also trying massive change on huge industries, cars, space travel and social media. He may be hateful or you may love him. But, there is one thing you cannot do: ignore him.
Musk is the world's richest man and the most well-known person in the world. He's always looking for attention on the largest social media platforms in the world, which he currently owns. This is a powerful combination.
We'll return to Twitter, which is the most active sector on Musk's heatmap right now. What do we know about it, besides his amusing, sometimes silly posts and quarrels with AOC, other than that?
First: As Microsoft's Brad Smith said to me, “Elon Musk has undeniably been one of the greatest tech visionaries of our generation.” Second: Running social media companies and turning them into super apps may be beyond Elon's expertise. Third: Twitter has $13 Billion in debt, which makes it extremely leveraged. This will have a significant impact on Musk's decision-making. Fourth: Despite Twitter's 238 million DAUs (digital assets), Dan Howley from Yahoo Finance points out that Twitter is losing market share as newer upstarts such as TikTok and BeReal grab more of the market and draw younger audiences. Fifth: We don't know if Musk actually has a plan. Sixth: No doubt Twitter distracts Musk from running SpaceX or Tesla. Seventh: Many people doubted him in the past, but he has proven them wrong. Sometimes. This really doesn't have any bearing on Twitter.
Are you too ambitious? Sorry, I can't be more specific, but that's the gospel.
Mikki Kobvel is a Ukrainian software consultant, who lives in Lisbon and Singapore. She said, “I'm a technical person — I do code — so I have a lot respect for Elon.” “But I worry when someone does something for their image.
Andrey Khusid is the founder and CEO at Miro, a tech startup that has created a unicorn. It is based in the Netherlands, with offices in San Francisco. It is unlikely that Elon will succeed on Twitter. However, I believe he has a plan. These are only steps right now. He has a great idea. We should judge him on the end result and not the steps. It might be the most important social networking platform in the entire world.
Here, Americans are sharing their views on Musk, most notably ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood.
“We invested [in Twitter], but [Elon] took the private. Ann Curry interviewed Wood on the main stage. “Elon believes vertical integration. He could make this a super app, like WeChat Pay. He started his career in the payments industry using PayPal.
Wood actually has created a way that retail investors can buy into Twitter via the Ark Venture Fund. This fund reportedly has 12% in Twitter assets. You can invest as low as $500 to buy in.
Curry also asked Wood questions about Twitter's toxicity.
Wood stated that the darkness was in their opaqueness. “We didn’t see the algorithms or how they worked.”
Wood said that Twitter could use open-source software and code which can be modified and viewed by the public.
Chris Anderson, the head of TED (as TED Talks) shared this perspective with me at a dinner. He talked about how he believes Musk will shift toward a crowdsourced or outsourced model that determines what content is accentuated.
You may recall Anderson's prescient 2013 Businessperson of Year cover story about Musk for Fortune. I was there when Anderson interviewed Musk when he made his first bid for Twitter. Musk also spoke about open-source then.
Musk stated that Twitter should open source its algorithm and make changes to people's Twitter tweets. If they are emphasized or deemphasized, the action should be made public so that anyone can see the action was taken.
Another dinner was a chance to meet Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, also known as CZ. He told me that the country is very crypto-friendly. CZ recently made headlines for investing $500 million in Elon’s Twitter buyout. Why?
He said, “It's all in freedom of speech.”
There are many conspiracy theories and rabbit holes about what Musk plans to do with Twitter, beyond open sourcing and super apps. I was told by a Web Summit participant in Britain that Elon's Twitter will be the product if it is content moderation.
Although I believe I understand what it means, I am not certain.
Apart from his praise for Musk, Microsoft's Smith tried to distinguish between Twitter and the social media platform of his company.
He said that LinkedIn, which Microsoft owns, is a platform that aims to create more light than heat. “In today's world, there is a lot heat. I believe we should all work together to create a little more light and encourage civil discourse.
That would be the eighth fact we know about Elon, Twitter and Twitter: He probably doesn't prioritize civil discourse.
Originally published on Yahoo.com