Twilio, Champion of the Developer-Centric Company

Most people who use Twilio have never even heard of the company. The software provider which powers text messaging, voice calls, video calls, authentication and wireless capabilities inside of apps, is the backbone behind some today’s most popular platforms, including Airbnb, Netflix and Uber.

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The cloud communications company offers an easy set of APIs that developers use to embed communications into their apps. The next-generation, developer-centric company hit the public markets in June 2016, raising $150 million at a $1.2 billion valuation. Shares nearly doubled within their first day trading on the NYSE under the ticker TWLO, doubling again within their first two months. Shares have gained from an IPO price of $15, to $26.78 in Jan 2018, reflecting a market capitalization near $2.5 billion.

Twilio credits much of its success to its “developer first approach” to selling communications products. Instead of leveraging a top down, IT type style sale with an enterprise sales force, Twilio puts “a new tool in the toolkit of the world’s developers.” In this sense, when developers realize that there is a problem to be solved, such as communicating better with customers or adding a two factor authentication to an app, they can pull out Twilio and build a prototype right away. “That’s faster, way faster than you can often get an enterprise sales rep on the phone. You actually ship the product before you could even start that enterprise sales process, in the traditional sense,” explained Chief Executive Officer Jeff Lawson in an interview at the SaaStr Annual 2017 conference.

In the recent period, while Twilio has focused on winning bigger customers and traditional enterprises, the firm says it still relies on bottom up sales with the insertion point at the developers.

Lawson, a 40-year-old father of two, runs his company by the mantra “be humble and be frugal.” Byron Deeter of Bessemer Venture Partners, an early backer and one of Twilio’s largest shareholders, described the entrepreneur as someone with “no bravado and no ego, that gives him a special charisma and authenticity.”