We recently had the chance to speak to Jeff Lawson, CEO of Twilio, about the start of the company and what he sees happening in the future of the telco industry.
An overview of Jeff's background
Jeff is a serial entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience building products and businesses. He actually started his first company in his teens. Before co-founding Twilio, Jeff co-founded Nine Star and Versity.com, was the first CTO for Stubhub.com, and was an early product manager at Amazon Web Services.
What advice would you give someone looking to set up their own business?
Have an visceral belief that what you’re building is something the world needs - not just a good money-making opportunity. You have to be passionate about it because that internal drive is what’s going to get your through a lot of challenging times.
How did Twilio come about?
Each of the three early stage businesses I was involved in had the same fundamental challenge -building the right communications for our needs was practically impossible and the expense was cost prohibitive.
I knew that if we could offer developers a way to embed communications into any application, if we could move communications from it’s legacy in hardware to it’s future in software, developers could build virtually any communications solution they need.
What attracted you to the telecoms industry?
Since Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call 150 years ago, what we can do with the phone has changed very little.
This is an industry that has not innovated. We still punch numbers on a phone to make a phone call and the phone call is still a standalone action. I believe that in the fullness of time, all communications will occur in the context of what you’re doing.
Uber is a great example of communications in context. When I order an Uber, I simply push a button that orders my car. If I need to call the driver to tell him exactly where I’m standing, I don’t dial a number, I simply hit another button in the app that says either to call the driver or text the driver. When he answers the phone, he knows who I am. This is how all communications will be in the future - context rich.
What makes Twilio's software special?
Twilio enables businesses innovate, prototype, build, deploy, iterate and bring ideas to market faster than ever before. We’re fundamentally changing the way businesses build communication solutions.
We’ve modernised communications by bringing it into the realm of software and the cloud. We’ve virtualised the entire telecom infrastructure needed for communications in a cloud-based, global environment - no specialty telecom knowledge is needed and there is no hardware or capex to deal with.
Communications solutions are simple to build and scalable and Twilio’s pay-as-you go pricing enables businesses to pay only for what they use. Never before has it been possible to innovate so quickly and whether its an IoT app, a sharing economy app or an app that customers just love, increasingly, Twilio is the engine under the hood of that app.
What are your future goals/ambitions for the company?
We are focused on being the tool in the tool belt that developers love and the tool they use to bring any communication solution they can think of to life.
What future trends do you see emerging in the Telecom industry?
We’re really at day 1 of what’s possible. Contextual communications will be a big focus for businesses. We’ll also see companies going global faster than ever before.
With communications now moved to software and the cloud, geo-political boundaries are not a hinderance to global growth.
We’ve done all the negotiating on behalf of businesses so if you’re in the UK and want to expand into Germany or France or any one of over 200 countries, you can do it in minutes and days versus weeks and months. With that kind of growth possible, we can’t wait to see what developers will build!