39. Twilio

Making cellular data accessible

Founders: Jeff Lawson, Evan Cooke, John Wolthuis
Launched: 2008
Funding: $240 million
Valuation: $1 billion
Disrupting: Enterprise software, telecom, cloud services
Rival: N/A

Twilio believes that communication is at the heart of every business, and at the heart of every business is a developer. That's why this San Francisco-based company has spent the past nine years convincing developers — close to 1 million of them are registered — to use its application programming interface to add call, voice, text and picture messaging to any app by adding just a few lines of code.


Now the company is taking the next step in its development. In late May, Twilio filed for a $100 million initial public offering, making it just one of a handful of tech IPOs in 2016. In its registration statement, it revealed that it has 28,000 active customer accounts, 15 percent of which are located outside the United States and that, at the end of 2015, it brought in nearly $167 million in revenue but had a net loss of $35 million.

Companies such as The Home Depot, Uber, Coca-Cola, Airbnb and Nordstrom are customers, using Twilio's API in their apps to enhance their communications functions. The company earns money by charging their customers a fee based on the pay-for-what-you-use model and by providing communication services, such as setting up VoIPs, IP infrastructure and connectivity.

In May it launched Twilio Notify, an API for orchestrating notifications across SMS, push notifications and messaging apps. Developers and businesses no longer need to integrate their software with messaging channels; developers can simply use Notify to indicate which customers get a particular message and Twilio will reach them using their preferred channel. Twilio also launched a new platform that uses wireless bandwidth. The concept is called Twilio Programmable Wireless, and the company is partnering with telecom giant T-Mobile for the launch. The plan is to develop the next generation of communication software by using the SIM card found in every mobile device. With this new platform, developers can build their apps using cellular data without having to rely on things like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Former StubHub executive Jeff Lawson started Twilio in 2008. So far, the company has raised close to $240 million from investors such as Bessemer Venture Partners, Redpoint Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, giving it close to a $1 billion valuation. Twilio employs 567 people and has offices around the world, including Hong Kong, London, Singapore and China.

Jeff Lawson, co-founder and CEO of Twilio
Source: Twilio
Jeff Lawson, co-founder and CEO of Twilio

Latest Special Reports

  • Piggybanks navigating a maze

    Americans are still shaken by the pandemic and the volatility of the markets. Many are working to manage the impact on their retirement and savings. The implications of the pandemic and economic volatility and changes in tax laws bring new considerations for individuals and especially those retirees planning for and managing future finances.

  • Financial advisors stress that now is the time for investors to get serious about year-end financial planning checkup.

  • More than ever, the hope for a sustainable world has gained real traction among the next generation, businesses, governments — and investors. There’s a long way to go. But technology, entrepreneurship and smart policymaking hold hope for turning green abstractions into tangible reality. CNBC’s Sustainable Future is the premier destination for tracking how smart investments, new ideas and tech innovation can generate commerce — and a world — with staying power.