It’s been a wild ride for Twilio, the $US2.4 billion cloud communications company behind 2016’s hottest tech IPO.
After debuting in June 2016 at $US15 per share, Twilio’s stock soared to a peak of $US70.96 by September. By Halloween, Twilio was down to less than half that. Early May saw another dip after Twilio announced that Uber, one of its marquee customers, was starting to reduce its reliance on the service to send text messages to drivers and passengers.
By market close on Wednesday, Twilio was trading at around $US26 per share. That’s still 73% above its IPO price, but 63% below its all-time high.
Business Insider caught up with Twilio CEO and cofounder Jeff Lawson at the company’s annual Signal event in San Francisco to talk about life post-IPO, and the plan for what’s next.
In general, Lawson says that he was, and remains, unfazed by each dip and pop in Twilio’s stock. It’s tempting to judge Twilio by its stock price, but a company is much more complicated and multidimensional than that, he says.
“You can get very distracted by that number,” Lawson says.
Don’t get distracted
Lawson says he’s “impressed” that Wall Streets understands his business, which he acknowledges is not as easy for the average person to grok compared to well-known consumer brands such as Facebook or Microsoft.
Twilio’s service lets developers easily bolt various specialised features onto their apps, such as texting, phone calling, Facebook messaging, and even fax.
“I thought the investors hadn’t really seen a developer-friendly company like us before,” says Lawson, who says that he’s pleased, overall, with the market’s reaction.
Lawson says that his priorities as the CEO of a public company are the same as they were when Twilio was privately held: Keep customers happy, and keep the revenue growth going as it marches towards its goal of profitability.
And the proof is in the pudding, as they say: Twilio revenues grew 47% last quarter over the same period in 2016, which he says is “faster than our peers in the market.” The company says 600,000 developers signed up to use Twilio’s service in the last year. Lawson also hypes the company’s “efficiency,” saying that the company burns “far less” cash than other companies of comparable age and size.
“Long term, what matters is running a great business,” says Lawson. “If that’s not what I’m focused on, I’m doing it wrong.”
At Signal, Twilio unveiled a new set of services called “Twilio Engagement Cloud” — basically, a set of prepackaged code for software developers that makes it much easier to implement commonly-done tasks.
To use an example from Lawson, a San Francisco laundry-on-demand startup called Rinse used Twilio’s code to quickly build a system into the app so a customer could call their delivery person directly. It sounds basic, but it’s actually a really hard problem for any developer who doesn’t have the resources of an Uber or Amazon or Google behind them.
The strategy here, says Lawson, is to make it ever easier to build Twilio into your products. He says that while the individual pieces of the Engagement Cloud have been around Twilio for a long time, this is a “fleshing out” of the product line, such that the company can do more of the work on behalf of developers.
“We are trying to build a bigger picture,” says Lawson.
And while some Wall Street analysts worry about Twilio’s competitive position — given that heavyweights like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google have a habit of entering new markets and muscling out smaller players — Lawson notes that Twilio has been around longer, has deals with phone providers all around the globe, and has lots of goodwill among developers.
“We’ve been investing in our supernetwork around the world,” says Lawson. “We feel really good about the lead we have.”
Besides, as Lawson notes, Amazon and Salesforce actually both use Twilio technology to power some of the voice-based products they offer to their own customers: “They’re customers of ours,” Lawson says.
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