Twitter's Brain Drain Seems Unstoppable

By Evan Niu,

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Another day, another executive departure.

This time around, we're talking about Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) CTO Adam Messinger leaving the struggling social media company. Messinger tweeted out a brief farewell tweet last night announcing his departure:

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Also leaving is Josh McFarland, who was serving as VP of product. He'll be joining venture capital firm Greylock Partners as a partner early next year. Cue obligatory goodbye tweet:

At this point, Twitter's ongoing brain drain seems unstoppable.

A tale of two departures

Each executive's announcement is notable in different ways.

For starters, Messinger is a C-suite exec, and his departure will follow COO Adam Bain's departure just last month, as well as another high-level VP (Richard Alfonsi)a few weeks ago. Every company has turnover, but excessive turnover at the highest levels of a company is a particularly punishing combination. It doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in what remains of the management team.

While McFarland wasn't part of the C-suite, his departure has important implications for other reasons. McFarland was sort of an acqui-hire; he founded an ad tech company called TellApart, which was backed by Greylock Partners and subsequently sold to Twitter in April of last year for nearly $500 million, the vast majority of which consisted of stock. That means McFarland is exiting just a year and a half later. Presumably, some or all of McFarland's shares that he received have now vested (McFarland wasn't in a senior enough position to require Form 4 filings).

Greylock Partners has reportedly been trying to get McFarland to join its team for the better part of a decade, according to TechCrunch, so there's a bit more history and context surrounding his move. Note that Twitter just acqui-hired a new VP of product (Keith Coleman) earlier this month when it acquired Yes, Inc. for an undisclosed sum.

In case it wasn't obvious, it should be stated that acqui-hiring to replace talent at a large scale is simply not a sustainable strategy. Just ask a struggling Web 1.0 search company that went on an acqui-hiring spree, swallowing 53 companies and start-ups over the span of a few years, and now has little to show for it.

Will the bleeding ever end?

Twitter now says that it is attempting to streamline and flatten its organizational hierarchy, according to Recode. Here's Twitter's statement on the executive transitions provided to that site:

Going forward, if Twitter ever hopes to regain investor confidence, it will need to show that it can stem its talent losses.

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Evan Niu, CFA has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.