How Twilio is building a software platform to refresh a 150-year-old technology (podcast)

VB_WhatToThink_Innovation_1200w400

This episode of the What to Think podcast is sponsored by Pivotal Tracker.

In this week’s podcast, we kick off an occasional series of interviews with platform builders: the founders and inventors who are creating software platforms upon which others are able to build things. We’re calling this series “Innovation Engines.”

Our guest this week is Jeff Lawson, the founder and CEO of Twilio.

Twilio’s mission, as Lawson explains it, is to create developer tools that allow app makers to include communications features — phone, video calling, text messages — in their apps.

“We’ve wrapped the whole planet in this [communications] technology, yet how we actually interact with that technology has changed very little,” Lawson told us. “The phone app on an iPhone is still basically just a 12-button dialer. … It’s a flat-screen representation of a 150-year-old network.”

By providing tools for developers to integrate phone calls into their apps, Twilio is aiming to surpass that limitation. Instead of pushing you over to the phone dialer, an app might connect you with a customer service representative in real time, from within the app — without having to re-enter your customer number or confirm your name — and it’s Twilio’s tools that make that possible.

These tools have attracted a large and enthusiastic following to Twilio. Over 700,000 developers now use the platform.

In our conversation, Lawson talks about how the telecommunications world and the software world are converging, and why devoting time and thought to its API and its documentation has been critical to Twilio’s success as a platform.

Note: Twilio has reportedly recently raised a $100 million round of funding, valuing it at more than $1 billion. However, Lawson and Twilio did not confirm this funding during our conversation.

Plus, we tell you what to think about these interesting stories from VentureBeat:

You can listen to the podcast in the player below.


Or, click here to get the MP3 of this episode of What to Think.

And please subscribe to What to Think in iTunes, and you’ll get every episode delivered to the device of your choice as soon as it’s released!


The What to Think Innovation Engine podcast is brought to you by Pivotal Tracker, the Agile tool that’s been organizing software teams since 2006. Tracker’s simple drag-and-drop interface and structured workflow have allowed developers, product managers, and designers alike to build and manage better software, one story at a time. Is your team ready to get on track? Go to http://ift.tt/vJlT3G to sign up for your 30-day free trial and start delivering better software now.

How Twilio is building a software platform to refresh a 150-year-old technology (podcast)