Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson Talks Platforms And Profits

Today at TechCrunch Disrupt London, Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson sat down with our own Frederic Lardinois to talk platforms, carriers and money.

Lawson, after making a pitch about what Twilio does, detailed the back history of the company. As you might have guessed, the idea for the unicorn was born of a personal need.

Back when Twilio was getting started, according to Lawson, “the world of communications was diametrically opposed to software.” Twilio was founded, he went on to say, to bring the legacy hardware of the communications world to software.

That wasn’t too popular, it turned out. According to the CEO, large carriers were not initial fans of either Twilio or other services like GroupMe. Lawson said he essentially had to tell carriers that his service was a win for all three parties: the carriers, Twilio and end users, which are carrier subscribers.

Sometimes the argument that you will drive usage resonates. In the words of Lawson, “carriers now understand the value that developers” bring.

Let’s Talk Money

Lardinois then asked Lawson about financial performance. He managed to dodge a question regarding external interest in purchasing his company. I quote: “I can’t speak to that.” He did note that inside carriers, there are people who are Twilio fans, and people who are not fans of his company. I take that to mean that the chance of a large carrier snapping Twilio up are quite remote.

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Staying on the topic, Lardinois asked if Twilio was profitable. Lawson initially declined to answer the question, and then did anyway. After stating that Twilio is unit profitable, he said that the company is “investing very heavily” in growth. I can translate that for you: Twilio makes a profit every time a developer uses one of its paid services, but the company overall loses money.

That’s not a bad thing, provided that the company’s investments bear out over time, driving profitable future cash flows. However, all of that is true of every company that invests in growth, so his response wasn’t surprising.

Finally, Lardinois asked the IPO question. Lawson again declined to answer, but then said what we wanted to hear: “Potentially one day? Sure. [But] the IPO is not a goal in and of itself.”