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Friday, March 1, 2024

Sriram Krishnan: The Indian-American in Musk’s Twitter ‘inner circle’


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San Francisco: After purging his Twitter, Elon Musk has reportedly put together a small team of his own – of friends and confidantes – and entrusted them with the job of implementing his vision for the social media platform.

Apparently it includes Sriram Krishnan, an Indian-origin software engineer and former Twitter executive who left the company last year, a BBC report says.

Last week, Krishnan, who now works at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz or a16z, tweeted that he was “helping out Mr Musk temporarily”, just after the unceremonious sacking of former CEO Parag Agrawal and other Indian-origin executives.

It is not immediately clear in what capacity Krishnan will be joining Twitter, the BBC said, adding that when contacted for comment, Krishnan said he “can’t help right now with anything Twitter-related”.

It’s also hard to say how close his association with Musk is at this point, though reports have repeatedly described him as a part of his “inner circle”.

In a 2021 interview to a YouTube channel called Silicon Valley Girl, Krishnan said he and his wife Aarthi Ramamurthy first got to know Musk when he helped with “something Twitter-related” a few years ago and that they “built a relationship through that”.

The couple also met Musk during a private tour of SpaceX’s headquarters in California “several years ago”, according to The New York Times.

But the most prominent exchange between them came in February 2021 when Musk appeared in a talk show the couple hosted on Clubhouse.

Social media burst out with incredulity – the world’s richest man had just showed up on an invite-only app for an exclusive – and the show began to trend heavily, the BBC reported.

The Good Time Show, which has since moved to other platforms, continues to be hugely popular in the US. The podcast offers a glimpse into the overlapping worlds of internet culture, politics and the latest developments in Silicon Valley, where Krishnan and Ramamurthy are well-known figures.

Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of a16z, says that Mr Krishnan is “perhaps the only person in the world to have served in senior product positions in the three biggest social platforms of our time”, according to the company website. In addition to Twitter, the 37-year-old worked at Microsoft, Yahoo, Snap and Facebook in the past.

Ramamurthy has worked at Facebook and Netflix before starting two of her own companies.

Together, they have been described as a well-connected “tech power couple”.

Krishnan was born in Chennai to a “very traditional” middle-income household. His life changed when he convinced his father to buy him a computer – a luxury in the late 1990s, he had told the YouTube channel.

“It cost about Rs 60,000-70,000, a large part of my father’s pay check,” he told in the 2021 interview. “I told him I would use it for my studies.”

But he still did not have internet because a dial-up connection was expensive and unaffordable.

So he would buy coding books instead to teach himself the basics, and practise every night.

Krishnan met Ramamurthy online in 2002 while studying engineering at Anna University, Chennai. “A mutual friend wanted to start a coding project, so he decided to get the two nerdiest people he knew – me and Aarthi – on board,” he told the YouTube channel earlier.

“One of our first dates was watching bit-torrent copy of a 1999 Silicon Valley film in my tiny room,” Krishnan said in the interview.

Their big break came a few months later when one of Krishnan’s blog posts on Microsoft was noticed by a company executive, who then hired the couple in 2005.

In 2007, Krishnan moved to the US and Ramamurthy joined him six months later.

After working at Microsoft, the couple moved on to other big tech companies. They got American citizenship in 2017.

Last December, they started their career as podcasters – a decision born out of pandemic-fuelled boredom, Krishnan has explained in the past.

So, they decided to get on to Clubhouse, which became popular during the pandemic, to have conversations about the tech space. The interviews are woven with analysis and candid repartee with experts, including the likes of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, the BBC said.

Krishnan has been an open admirer of Musk in the past, describing him as an “inspirational person and an iconic founder”.

He has also openly supported Musk’s vision for Twitter and criticised practices such as de-platforming on the microblogging website.

“Having extrajudicial internet cops that lead to enforcement on your platform is the road to dystopian authoritarianism,” he wrote on Twitter last month.

There’s speculation that Musk might have got Mr Krishnan – a cryptocurrency expert – on board to integrate his doge bitcoin with Twitter, the BBC report added.

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