A Conversation With Twilio Founder Jeff Lawson On The Evolution Of Communication

I really think that some of the best things that happen come from a renaissance person mindset. It takes a whole person. A whole set of experiences to really bring about ideas and innovations. [2:07]


We all go through life and have these wide varieties of experiences. Things we are exposed to. You have to believe the culmination of the unique experiences that you build upon your career, and in your life, are the fuel that will take you to wherever you go next. [3:06]


If you have the same life experiences as everyone else how are you going to have an innovative idea? It is the full set of experiences that enable us as entrepreneurs to actually do our best work. [3:25]


Two things that differentiate humans from every other species: [1] We communicate in a more sophisticated way and [2] we build more sophisticated tools. Twilio sits at the intersection of those two most fundamental human things. [5:29]


We are in the earliest stages of what will be seen as the great communications renaissance. [6:52]


For most of humanity communicating meant talking to someone that was within a few feet of you. For the past 150 years, you could communicate at a distance. Most of that was by a phone call. All that has changed in the last 15 years. The frequency with which we now communicate with each other brings us closer. [7:06]


I think it is completely understated the way digital technologies are transforming our relationships. [9:21]


The idea that one company would bring you all the innovation in the world? No way that’s going to happen. The thing that creates innovations is the creative energy of millions of developers and the entrepreneurial environment. [10:55]


You have to step back and think: What is the purpose of communication? It is to engage with people with whom we care and depend on. We are confusing that with complete strangers, bots, and manipulation campaigns of foreign governments. Then throw into the mix that the whole motivation of these companies is not to connect us —it is to keep us glued to the screen. [13:38]


There is a reason companies like Facebook and Twitter are not communications companies. They are media companies. The job of a media company is to keep you glued to a screen. The job of a communication company is to connect you. [14:03]


I think you should take a step back and be weary of a system that is designed to keep you glued to a screen. Be weary of anonymous people on the internet. [14:53]


The other insane thing is when someone says something crazy to you online — who are you arguing with? Why is this person worth your time or engagement? [14:59]


I think we should just focus on the real people that are actually important to our lives. That seems like a much more fulfilling way to live our lives, doesn’t it? [15:16]


I think that we are reaching this point of recognition that technology has the ability to manipulate the human mind at a chemical level. [Technology is] Hacking the brain stem to do the bidding of the people who write that software. For a long time, we failed to recognize that. [17:08]


With that recognition, I am hopeful we will become skeptical of some of these technologies. [17:44]


I’ve always thought that communications - the market Twilio is addressing - is essentially limitless in potential. Therefore we can keep building this company for decades. We could build an iconic tech company for the ages. [Because] How often do you get to see one of the largest and most important industries on the planet undergo a once in a lifetime transformation? From its legacy in hardware to its future in software. [23:31]


[As a public company] We have a bigger stage but we focus on the same things: Our customers, our product, our team. If you take your eye off those things then you are doing it wrong. [26:04]


This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to take new technologies —that allow you to build things that operate at scale — and build amazing companies as an entrepreneur because of it. [28:44]


For most of the human experience, the things you create could be enjoyed by a few dozen or a hundred people. But now you can build something, put it on the web, and have billions of people interact with the thing you’ve built. [28:55]


I would say there is a new era of software that is upon us. What is the fastest-growing enterprise software company in history? AWS. And they aren’t selling software at all — they aren’t selling licenses or seats. They are selling infrastructure and they are selling it on a per-use basis. That is completely restructuring all the major categories of software. . . Every major category of software is getting broken down into its fundamental building blocks and given back to the world to rebuild in the way they need it to work. If you think about that trend and the financial aspects of it —the scale of the companies that have been built in this new API model — it is a new way of delivering software value. . . That is incredibly powerful. [33:54]


Full podcast here.