Sramana Mitra: Given that your primary positioning is that you are replacing hardware-based call center solution with a software and cloud-based call center solution, whom are you replacing in terms of vendors?
Jeff Lawson: It’s the typical hardware-centric companies like Cisco or Via. These are people who are trying to sell you a monolithic, typically hardware, but certainly on-premise stack.
Sramana Mitra: The primary functionality there is this call routing for call centers that needed hardware so far?
Jeff Lawson: The layers of the stack here are essentially connectivity to the global communications network. What Twilio does is take the vast majority of that stack, virtualize it, and put it in the cloud. We have over 100 carrier relationships around the world. We have the whole execution environment to route phone calls and text messages in the cloud. We also have API that lets developers integrate Twilio into their solution to essentially dictate how they want to use our global infrastructure that moment in time. How do they want to route this call? How do they want to cue the call? That’s the infrastructure that we provide to developers.
Sramana Mitra: The call center solution, however, is your own, right? That’s not through a developer partner.
Jeff Lawson: In the case of Home Depot, they went and built it themselves using the building blocks. They are now able to take incoming calls, route them, and do customer integration in their CRM. We also have partners who build pre-packaged SaaS call centers. We have customers like Zendesk or Voice Media. These are companies who build a fast call center. In the case of ZenDesk, any customer can go and get a call center spun up in less than five minutes of using Zendesk.
Sramana Mitra: Other than the call center use case, talk to us about some other use cases. What’s the Uber use case for example?
Jeff Lawson: It’s a good example of how communication is changing. We believe that as communication turns into software, the biggest change that we’re going to see over the next 10 years is that communication ceases to be a standalone activity and gets woven into everything we do. Uber is a great example of this. Have you taken an Uber?
Sramana Mitra: Of course. You’re welcome to explain Uber if that helps you explain the use case better.
Jeff Lawson: The key thing about Uber is they took something that used to be a very poor customer experience and have turned it into a great one. When you hail a cab with Uber, you’re using your smartphone. You get an alert that tells you that your cab is two minutes away or your car is pulling up right now. If you want to call the driver, you just push a button in the app. If you want to text the driver, you just hit a button in the app. This is Twilio behind the scenes powering this.
When I moved to San Francisco in 2009, if I wanted to get a cab, I’d call the phone number on the side of the taxis. Typically, I’d get a busy signal. In about the fifth or sixth time you’d call them, maybe you’d finally reach the dispatcher. Half an hour later when your cab hasn’t shown up, you call back and you get another busy signal. It was a horrible experience.