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Bootstrapping by Services from Wisconsin: SignalWire CEO Anthony Minessale (Part 7)

Posted on Wednesday, Feb 19th 2020

Sramana Mitra: Where is the money coming from? Which is the primary segment that is monetizing for you?

Anthony Minessale: People that are doing millions of minutes a day just by connecting their customers to their employees, and being able to maintain that. There has been a lot of growth on that.

Also the application hosting segment. When you make a cool app so you can communicate with someone, you need a network. A lot of people don’t want to make the network; they just want to make the app. We have SDK’s for that.

Sramana Mitra: How many such apps are running on your technology?

Anthony Minessale: We have somewhere near 4,000 users on our platform.

Sramana Mitra: Are these 4,000 independent software vendors or do they also include large enterprises catering to their employee base?

Anthony Minessale: It’s a spectrum. We have all of the above. 

Sramana Mitra: How does that spread out? What percentage are enterprises versus independent software vendors?

Anthony Minessale: Right now, 10% is large companies. There’s a middle ground of SMEs. Because of new privacy regulations, we try to be compliant. We don’t go digging that deeply. Large companies don’t always make themselves visible when they’re building stuff.

Sramana Mitra: What I’m trying to get at is, what is the business that you’re building? I don’t know if you’re familiar with my writings on PaaS. PaaS is an emerging trend. I believe that people who do a good job of PaaS and enable a lot of independent software developers, who develop on top of their platform and can monetize, are going to end up being very successful companies.

What kind of a business are you building? Some of the secrets of Twilio’s success is that they have been able to activate a lot of app developers on top of their platform who have been monetizing well. Uber is one of the primary examples of that.

If 10% of the developers are inside of large enterprises, that’s one business model. That doesn’t necessarily have the multiplier effect. Whereas if there are a lot of independent software developers on your platform and are building businesses based on your technology, that is a highly-leveraged model.

Anthony Minessale: It could be. It’s also a danger. Remember when Uber got publicly mad at Twilio and said they’re leaving? Their stock dropped the next day because they were too large of a component. We worry about stuff like that too.

I’m not going to be against the idea of having the adoption of large customers driving our growth, but I’d also like to make sure that we don’t only have one major customer that we’re hanging on a hook for.

There’re a lot of startups that are using our technology. A newer company has the biggest case of using fast processes for everything. Today you can start a company with a laptop and a credit card. Almost all of the components you need to build a company are available in the SaaS model.

We have companies that are doing sentiment analysis who are developing on our platform. They want to look at the audio of every call that happens and decide if you’re angry or not. There’s a lot of stuff like that.

You’ll find that they don’t want to necessarily deal with having all the calls. They just want the part that they care about. Uber exploded. They weren’t big when they started. You might have a harder time going to Uber now. We don’t focus on that. When I talk to Uber, I’d rather discuss what can’t you do. 

Sramana Mitra: Your point is very well-taken that rather than this one lumpy revenue stream, what you want is a hundred different independent vendors catering different segments developed on your platform. Maybe each of them is generating $10 million in revenue. Of which, you take 30% in fees. That’s a better model than having one company generating so much revenue.

If you can get a hundred independent software developers developing successful applications in their respective niches, that is a very leveraged model.

Good discussion. Thank you for your time.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Bootstrapping by Services from Wisconsin: SignalWire CEO Anthony Minessale
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