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Bootstrapping by Services from Wisconsin: SignalWire CEO Anthony Minessale (Part 6)

Posted on Tuesday, Feb 18th 2020

Sramana Mitra: What is that more? If you were to compare with Twilio, how do you compete? Where can you really make a differentiated value happen?

Anthony Minessale: Twilio is probably the first to admit that there doesn’t have to be competition to exist in this market. Head to head with Twilio, we definitely intentionally committed ourselves on taking a very low margin just to help the world understand the disparagement in the cost.

We think that’s interesting because we just want to be helpful in showing customers that they can trust us. There’s a lot more to the world than those kinds of things that you can get today.

What’s evolving very quickly is the idea that everyone wants to chat over video. You see it in the consumer levels. Cell phones have solved it. The business world is still stuck with these legacy IP phones with glowing lights on them.

People are able to do things like put telephones into their network jack, but they’re still the same quality telephony calls. It’s not that great for end-user experience. Businesses are trying to move away from that. Most people don’t even know what a PBX is. I don’t really try to push that. That’s another word that’s overused.

Whether or not it’s IP or analog, it’s still the same paradigm and the same low-quality telephone calls. Moving things to the cloud is one step in the right direction. Because of the advent of 5G, there’s a lot more mobile access to the internet and there’s a lot more development of devices that can go online.

We call our phone a phone but it’s more like a computer. It’s a computer that you put in a pocket that happens to let you make phone calls. Those phone calls right now are usually over cellular networks. They’re testing this and mostly focus on data.

There’s so much internet speed in a typical cell phone that you can power an entire building of telephone calls over it. Instead of having a thousand low-quality calls, we can have 500 high-quality ones. We can start moving people to video. You can’t Facetime Target right now to ask them a question, but you should be able to.

We invested a lot in audio and video conversation technology like WebRTC, which is the ability to use your web browser as a telephone. Anywhere you go on the internet, that webpage is capable of hosting a gateway. Some of the ways that we’re used to communicating just gets better. We’re trying to stay ahead of things. 

Sramana Mitra: From a business model point of view, Twilio has been powering other apps. It’s operated as a PaaS company. Are you the same?

Anthony Minessale: Any of those as-a-Service things have gotten to be marketing heavy. PaaS, we fit into that. We are providing all the heavy lifting for telephony networks. Everything that has to do with telecommunications are mostly just marketing terms.

I’m not even sure if the companies are saying what they mean. They have a lot more work to do. I think they’re starting to figure that out. They have a couple of things in the right direction. To be a real platform, you have to alleviate the burden of having to build anything on your own premise. That’s something that we’re trying to accelerate on.

There’s this buzzword – serverless hosting. Let’s say you want to do something. You’re going to have to get either an Amazon or Rack server. You can then write some programs. We’re still working to get rid of that. That’s where I think the real goal is. Instead, you just write some program in your browser and save it, and it runs.

You just pick what you want to happen and you let someone else deal with it. There are people building things that are identical. Imagine how much wasted time that is. 

Sramana Mitra: What kinds of customers are using you right now? Are enterprises building applications on your technology? Are there independent software vendors who are building on top of your technology?

In Twilio’s case, one of the big things that happened to them was they got Uber as an independent application developed on their technology. 

Anthony Minessale: There’s a spectrum. Because of our roots of being an open source project originally, we have gotten good at the flywheel model of engaging people. We’re not only interested in how much money you’re willing to spend; we’re interested in your feedback and input.

We’ve seen people that we’ve nurtured ending up being influential at some point. We have large enterprise customers who are ready to move over to an existing platform to save money. We have some that are innovative and they’re working on getting their idea off the ground faster. We have freelance people. 

This segment is part 6 in the series : Bootstrapping by Services from Wisconsin: SignalWire CEO Anthony Minessale
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