You probably don’t know what Twilio does. CEO Jeff Lawson is cool with that.


Lawson spoke with Recode’s Ina Fried at Code Enterprise.

If you still haven’t heard of Twilio, you are forgiven. Despite the fact they are a $2.7 billion public company, you can’t buy a Twilio, nor can you take one to work or stay at one on your next vacation.

That said, Twilio’s tools are running behind the scenes when you call your Uber driver or text with your Airbnb host. CEO Jeff Lawson says the easiest way to think of the company is “AWS for telecom.”

“What I care about is that the people who need to know about Twilio know about Twilio,” Lawson told Recode’s Ina Fried Tuesday at the Code Enterprise conference. “Developers are our core market.”

More than one million developers are currently on Twilio’s platform, he added. The company’s hope is that when their companies need to do something like calling or texting a consumer, those developers will volunteer Twilio as a way to do it.

“Do I want to connect with a brand by calling them? Probably not,” Lawson said. “What I probably want to do is message them.”

It’s not just businesses like Uber and Airbnb, either. The company is also helping non-profits like Crisis Text Line and the American Red Cross deliver their vital services via modern tools. Lawson said these efforts have the beneficial side effect of reassuring for-profit clients — for example, if the company is willing to stake its reliability on a suicide help line, then it can handle other big challenges, too.

“You do that extra work to test the system, because you realize that every message matters,” he said of the Crisis Text Line. “And I think that’s a big deal. We build our tools to meet that critical use case.”

He noted that Twilio’s IPO earlier this year also undergirds that trust, rowing against dubious fears of “bad unicorns” in the private markets. Its share price is up 24 percent from its first day on the NYSE, but has fallen, over the past month and a half, to about half of its value in late September.

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