Jeff Lawson, CEO
Pair after pair of shoes hangs on the wall at Twilio’s San Francisco headquarters. These are Twilio’s CEO Jeff Lawson’s customers’ shoes, and they are hanging on the walls to remind employees they need to always be thinking of the customer as though they are walking in their shoes. Lawson’s approach extends beyond the physical metaphor to Twilio’s customers and goes to the heart of his management style. “I wanted to build a company that would be like one I would want to work for,” says Lawson, a serial entrepreneur who founded three companies before launching Twilio in 2008. Two were later acquired and one failed.
The equation is simple: either disrupt or get disrupted. But continuous innovation comes with a hefty price tag and no one knows this better than Lawson. The story goes back 10 years when Lawson was working as the CTO for StubHub—currently, the world’s largest ticketing marketplace—and all he wanted to do was create a messaging alert for buyers when they purchased tickets online. On approaching a telecommunications giant, the service provider slapped a six-digit set up fee, a portion of which Lawson was expected to pay before any implementation. The solutions approach and the cost involved was impractical as Lawson wanted to develop the software in phases and start off by testing how customers would react to this experience.
The world of software development in communications services was in desperate need for an iterative approach and thus was born Lawson’s Twilio, a revolutionary cloud communications platform that empowers developers to build messaging, voice, video, and other communication functions using web service APIs. Twilio’s APIs are endlessly scalable and allow developers to bring any idea to life at ‘pay for what you use’ model. The company offers the world’s first fully-programmable contact centre platform, Twilio Flex, which enables firms to bring their futuristic vision of customer engagement experiences into reality. What’s commendable is that, today, Twilio has gone to market with four million developers on their platform.
Twilio Flex is an infinitely flexible and instantly deployable solution, and such is its power that it can be used by developers with any skill set and experience to build every kind of communications feature. With Flex, iterating new contact centre experiences is simpler than ever owing to out-of-the-box functionality, easy call routing, pre-configured agent dashboards, and server less infrastructure. Moreover, every aspect of the Flex platform is customizable, allowing agents to manage tasks across multiple channels, all from one user interface. Twilio believes that organizations shouldn’t have to pick between a pure SaaS or Agile model.
The Twilio software brings agility, ease of management, and continuous delivery of customized solutions at scale, truly giving businesses ownership of their contact center platforms.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity ahead of us to revolutionize one of the largest markets in all of IT communications
While most organizations looking for contact center solutions have to wrap their business around the provider’s offerings, Twilio adapts to a client’s needs and maps out a journey for them. All products built on Twilio can be launched as quickly as the business requires, and that’s the beauty of the platform. In fact, Twilio steers away from a rip and replace approach and it is all about future-proofing businesses.
Take the instance of a major clothing retailer from Japan who has a legacy system in place but, at the same time, uses Twilio’s platform and its superior network capabilities. Twilio’s SIP trunking features, Toll Free Phone Numbers in over 100 countries, and APIs allowed them to move their telco infrastructure to the cloud while augmenting the communication layer. Moreover, with Twilio, another retail client like Marks & Spencer was also able to implement simple interactive voice responses coupled with intelligent machine learning redeploying more than 100 of their agents back to customer facing roles in the shopfronts.
<"It’s still day one of
this journey, and I
couldn’t be more
proud of our team
and excited about
the road ahead"
The Most Trusted Cloud Communication Partners
Born from a breed of developers who hold a deep understanding of software, Twilio’s software is programmed to be agile at a global scale and that’s a fundamental differentiation that other contact center solution providers in the market cannot match up to. The state-of-the-art quality of Twilio’s solutions is a major factor why both startups and global enterprises from across verticals such as financial services, real estate, and healthcare, place their trust in Twilio. Industry bigwigs like Coca-Cola, Salesforce, Twitter, the Red Cross, and Dell all reach out to Twilio to build seamless customer interaction experiences.
A perfect example that highlights their unique value proposition is Twilio’s engagement with San Francisco-based Lyft, a major player in the booming ride-sharing industry. Lyft was weighed down by three core challenges. The first being wasted agent time, where each agent accessed 11 different data points across multiple views, all within their custom CRM to resolve a ticket. They had multiple portals for ticket and email management but none of these systems spoke to each other.
Lastly, Lyft had limited channels of communications and wanted to expand into this area which Twilio offers. With Twilio Flex, the client was able to run all their services from one platform and instantly rev up their contact centers. Agents were presented with the information they needed to address a problem, without switching between multiple systems. Most importantly, agents now had contextual data about their users as well as drivers to serve them better and create a one-of-kind customer journey. With Twilio, they also achieved omni-channel communication capability to chat and send SMS, accessible anytime and from any place around the world.
Another feature of Twilio Flex, which made a significant difference, was its ease of integration. The software was compatible with Lyft’s existing systems, supported every development language, and enabled the free flow of information within various departments. Apart from being programmable at every layer of the stack, Twilio Flex is also integrated with advanced analytics to help contact centers deliver high-quality performance and customer experience. Ultimately, with Twilio, Lyft was able to markedly reduce their cost per user and also cut support costs.
The Road Ahead
A serial entrepreneur, Lawson got his first taste of success in middle school, when he started an events video business that mostly filmed and edited footage of bar mitzvahs. By the time he graduated high school, the Detroit native was pulling in as much as $5,000 some weekends filming weddings. He launched his first internet startup— Versity.com, which provided lectures notes for college courses—while studying at the University of Michigan and later developed StubHub’s original ticket-selling website as the popular ticket reseller’s first chief technology officer. After finishing college, Lawson interviewed at Amazon in 2004 for a fledgling division that was developing a cloud computing service. He spent 15 months working on what would become the e-commerce giant’s cash cow—Amazon Web Services (AWS)— and was inspired by what he saw there. “This whole idea that you can offer infrastructure as a service was kind of mind-blowing,” says Lawson.
Today, Twilio’s platform serves people in over 180 countries, from Swaziland and Azerbaijan to Switzerland and Brazil. The company’s revenue has grown from $88.8 million in 2014 to $650 million in 2018, and its active customer accounts went from under 17,000 to over 64,000 in the same time period. Between 2017 and 2018, Twilio’s revenue grew 63 percent, though its net loss widened from $63.7 million to $121.9 million. However, investors seem confident in Twilio’s future performance, as the platform charges its clients by usage, which means increasing fees as more people use apps to buy groceries, shop financial products and hail rides. “We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity ahead of us to revolutionize one of the largest markets in all of IT communications,” mentions Lawson. “It’s still day one of this journey, and I couldn’t be more proud of our team and excited about the road ahead.”