Investor

Musk tells investor conference he plans to make Twitter ‘extremely valuable’

The day Elon Musk took over Twitter and fired half of his staff, he took a break to visit one of his staunchest backers, fund manager Ron Baron, to say he had a plan to make Twitter a hugely valuable national institution.

Musk turned out to be the highlight of the 29th annual Baron Investment Conference, which is saying a lot, considering pop star Bruno Mars provided the entertainment for the event. The Baron Funds Wealth Managers and Investors Conference was held last Friday at Lincoln Center in New York.

Musk is the CEO of electric car maker Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX, a maker of reusable spacecraft, which also owns Starlink, a producer of low-orbit internet satellites. And since Oct. 27, with the completion of a $44 billion buyout, he’s owned Twitter.

He told the conference that in 2000, when he ran X.com, which later became PayPal
PYPL
(PYPL), he devised a strategy to create “the most valuable national institution in the world”. He didn’t elaborate, but said the plan would make Twitter a “much better system” and “ultimately extremely valuable.”

The goal, he said, was to get 80% of Americans on Twitter and turn the platform into a digital public square where people feel comfortable expressing their opinions and exchanging ideas. .

Conference host Baron, founder and CEO of Baron Capital, which manages the Baron Funds family, conducted the interview. His Baron funds are big investors in Tesla. Since 2014, when the Baron family and Baron Capital first invested in Tesla, they have purchased 17.5 million shares at a cost of $322 million and an average price of $18.39. The total market value of the portfolio is now $3.76 billion.

Baron asked Musk how he plans to stop people posting anti-Semitic and racist comments on the platform.

“I want to be clear, content moderation policies have not changed and it is not acceptable to engage in hateful conduct on Twitter,” Musk replied. “We actually had targeted attacks where people were able to temporarily post hate speech on Twitter. But, those were taken down immediately.”

Musk said his controversial new verification system will solve that problem. The verification system shows that high-level accounts actually belong to the people whose names appear on the account. A previously free perk, Musk said he wants to get as many people verified as possible for $7.99 a month. However, many people are unhappy with the fee even though the fee will allow users to edit tweets and post long-form videos and audio podcasts. He said it would also allow Twitter to start sharing revenue with content creators.

“It will be transformative,” he said.

The verification system is not just a way to increase revenue, but a way to reduce spam and bots that attempt to manipulate public opinion and are prevalent on the platform. Musk said the cost of creating a bot is very cheap, less than a penny. But if people have to pay $8 for 100,000 fake accounts, it will become prohibitively expensive at $800,000 per month.

He explained that Twitter had “serious revenue issues before acquisition talks began.” He added that every ad-dependent tech company was going through a tough time, but Twitter was more vulnerable than most because it’s more discretionary for big brands. Additionally, activist groups have caused a significant drop in advertising by pressuring major advertisers to stop buying ads on Twitter. This despite Musk’s attempts to clarify that moderation rules have not changed.

Musk said his workload has gone from 70 hours a week to 120.

“But I think once Twitter gets on the right track, it’s going to be a lot easier to manage than SpaceX or Tesla.”

However, that doesn’t seem to be happening soon. On the day of the conference, Musk tweeted that layoffs weren’t an option because “the company is losing more than $4 million a day. All those who left were offered 3 months of severance pay, ie 50% more than the legal obligation. »

Thursday, The New York Times
NYT
reported that Musk said the company didn’t have enough money to survive and “mentioned bankruptcy“.

Baron asked Musk, with all his money and success, why does he keep working?

The Tesla CEO replied that what he was working on was important and that Tesla had greatly accelerated the advent of sustainable energy. “Before Tesla, nobody made electric cars, and now almost every automaker in the world is building electric cars. It’s a big deal, but there’s still a long way to go.”

“I think SpaceX is important for the long-term existence of humanity. I think we need to become a multiplanetary species and a space civilization,” he said.

He concluded by saying, “It is important that we take steps to ensure that the light of awareness continues. We really have to understand that consciousness is just a small candle in a vast darkness and it can easily be extinguished.