Twilio's Nine Things

In the last MBA Mondays post talking about company culture, I wrote:

It helps a lot to have a one pager that outlines the core values of the company. I just saw our portfolio company Twilio's version of that. They call it "Our 9 Things." I wish I could publish it here but I don't have permission from Jeff and so I will resist the urge. It has things like "think at scale" and "be frugal" on it. You get the idea I hope. This "guiding light" is a framework for the culture and values of the organization and each new hire should be assessed against the framework to make sure the fit is good.

Well it turns out that Twilio published their "9 things" on their website this week and so I can now publish them here.

Twilio's nine things

I like that they published them in the form of a telephone dialpad. For those that don't know Twilio makes telephony work easily in web and mobile apps. Putting the 9 things in this format makes a statement in itself about their culture.

These need not and should not be your company's values, although it is likely that you may share a number of these values with Twilio. The point is to articulate what your culture is about and put it front and center so that everyone knows what they are.

Nicely done Twilio.

#MBA Mondays

Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    555-3269 redial

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t get it. might be too early and pre-coffee for me

      1. Emmanuel Bellity

        how can you blog pre-coffee !

        1. fredwilson

          I almost always do

          1. Emmanuel Bellity

            i can’t do anything pre-coffee, sadly

          2. Luke Chamberlin

            Pre-coffee the only thing I’m good at is making coffee.

          3. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      2. jason wright

        The engaged tone? Redial later.

        1. JimHirshfield

          I don’t get it.

          1. jason wright

            tea or coffee Jim?

          2. JimHirshfield

            Is that an invitation? If so, yes, I’d love to grab a hot beverage with you.

          3. JimHirshfield

            Is that an invitation? If so, yes, I’d love to grab a hot beverage with you.

          4. JimHirshfield

            Is that an invitation? If so, yes, I’d love to grab a hot beverage with you.

    2. ShanaC

      I don’t get it…

      1. jason wright

        have you had coffee yet?

  2. awaldstein

    Important and somewhat easy to write these down, so hard to live them in the passion of the work day.I love goals that are always around the corner from where you are.Culture is one of them. That’s why it’s key.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Indeed. You need a guiding point that hopefully the leaders have helped direct – should of had a leading hand in. Then they can foster the desired environment and bring on people who will fit into that company culture.For me, thinking of hiring people with any other leading metric is terrifying – the unknowns of who they might be and the disruption they could cause to a relatively fragile ecosystem (at least initially when you’re still getting a foothold), and any disruption would be a big unnecessary one.

      1. Guest

        Matthew,Company culture is not a goal per se, it actually exists and its real. When we attempt to establish “guiding points” all we are doing is attempting to make sense out of the madness.Every individual you hire WILL change the company culture because we hire individuals and the hiring process is not about cloning.Management is about dealing with the “unknowns” and dealing with “disruption.”Rather than thinking of culture and fit as a guiding point why not think about a company as a real big “melting pot.”

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. Guest

            Stories are for the reader/listener and the best stories are those that make the storyteller disappear….

          2. JLM

            .At the end of the day, we are all just story tellers writing our own stories with our lives.That is why it is important to live the story we want to be..

          3. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            LOL…We are all stories in about half-century … IT all depends on whether it is a good story, bad story, just another story or legendary story.Legendary stories are not inherited they are gifted by the invisible hand.

        2. Matt A. Myers

          Thanks for your thoughts.I realize now after reviewing different thoughts I wrote today, the wording I used was much more fixed to a specific state than I meant. I wouldn’t hope to mold anyone into a specific way.I love the wording of melting pot that you use. I understand everyone is an individual, and their own experiences make life more vibrant, interesting, and that brings value. I would hope they would bring something unique and valuable to the table that might otherwise be overlooked or under-appreciated.Some values I would require of course, would be people who are kind, respectful, etc..I usually find these out in people through basic conversation.It is nice to hear how you described management’s job. Kind of quells fears of what to expect in the holistic sense.Thanks.

        3. Donna Brewington White

          Whenever I recruit for a company with only a few people, I think “this person will represent X% of the company” — that is a sobering thought.

          1. Guest

            Yep, even inside a small to medium company one new person in a department can pretty much totally change the culture of a company.IF they are worth their salt, then the change should be positive….sometimes culture can lead to “inbreeding.”I am all for a set of values relatively carved in stone, but I really have no problem with a change in culture…with good management a change in culture can be a very positive thing!

  3. Cam MacRae

    If wonder if making Start with why #3 and not #5 was a conscious choice or a happy accident. A conscious choice would say as much about their culture as anything else.(Oh yeah… and I like this list very much).

  4. tyronerubin

    The first person I know who emphasized this in tech was Tony Hsieh… and in his superb book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose@fredwilson:disqus would it be a similar or the same thing?@ebellity:disqus having coffee after a task is like a reward back to Fridays post on routine and a great book called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg where he speaks of making a type of daily reward. For example a smoothie after gym and you think of the smoothie as your reward for gym. I wake up and have a whole trip to work and rather have my coffee at work after all the slog that goes with getting to work.Disqus’s new commenting is a definite improvement but with some design issues. Like when re-editing a comment the dialogue box does not expand enough for easier editing. I see commenting going a bit more real time. Almost chat like. I always remember what happened with Google Wave as some example of where realtime collaboration was headed. Google docs is super for this. is great for a collation of commenting but a real-time commenting focus would be interesting.

    1. Timothy Meade

      Namesake had some great concepts, I think the framework was a little heavy and not responsive enough but the realtime aspect was great.

  5. testtest

    “I like that they published them in the form of a telephone dialpad”lucky they have 9 values! coincidence.there’s a problem using metaphor in design: when some of the metaphor doesn’t carry, the designer ends up adding in the by idioms. not metaphors.

    1. Cam MacRae

      Interesting. My number starts with zero, so in the first instance I identified it as broken, but quickly filled the blanks for myself. Of course I’d already read the post, so it had been spelled out for me; I wonder what my reaction would have been otherwise…

    2. jason wright

      …and telephone numbers have zeros.What would be the zero value?

      1. testtest

        dial pads also have pound/hash and asterisk. does leaving that row of keys out allow for a nice grid?

        1. jason wright

          the hash has currency. i like circles. perhaps we should return to the metaphor of the dial.

          1. testtest

            in most cases metaphors shouldn’t be used at all.another issue is internationalization. for example, there was an issue in japan with OS X’s trash can–in japan they don’t have trash cans (apparently).

          2. jason wright

            Interesting. In the movie Sphere on the space ship it was “trash, basura”, but that was Hollywood.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Love, compassion – by default!

        1. jason wright

          Yes, the default setting. For those who lose sight of this in their quest for success just press zero for a reset.



    3. John Revay

      Very much agree – still trying to figure out OWL over the #1

    4. Matt A. Myers

      “design by idioms. not metaphors.”Bingo.Language understanding and who a person is or can become, how well they might fit into a culture or be able to take on a culture, is connected to their own language use – or ability to interpret language.Luckily like attracts like, so using nuanced language that instills specific feeling will attract those who are similar. Announcing your company culture / core value is likely a good idea; A little caution: you may also attract those desperate for culture and finding a community – nothing wrong with that, though make sure you know how to manage such a person and help them grow.And on the other side, your culture they are desperate for might be exactly where they will thrive and your ecosystem and culture will benefit as a whole from this person – as they will benefit from the new community they are apart of.I too am desperate for a specific culture, though I haven’t been able to find it – so here I am, building a company to have the resources to build and cultivate the community and culture I want to always surround myself in.

      1. Emily Merkle

        Hi Matthew, i too am working on putting together a team to get a revolution off the ground – and Twiliio’s culture per above is very much the way I operate my life.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Well, you and I should go for tea sometime then! 🙂

      2. testtest

        carry your culture with you.

        1. Matt A. Myers


    5. ShanaC

      but they forget the pound, 0, and star key….

      1. testtest

        metaphors always hide some aspects; and emphasize others

      2. Dave W Baldwin

        @fredwilson:disqus I thinks Miss Shana revealed something brilliant 😉

  6. Kevin Friedman

    Thank you for publishing. Great set of values and very creative! Values may not add to the bottom line but I think they make all the difference between “good” and “great.”Living out values like this is a whole ‘nother thing… but starting with an awesome statement like this is a great start. 🙂

  7. leigh

    These are great.Usually you see:”customer first””respect””Integrity”culture vs. words is what i think Twillio has managed to accomplish. they have context. meaning. I’d know what to do with those if i worked there. nicely done.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I think this is the only way you could onload people who will be a good fit to a company’s culture. If you hire purely by skillset then that person really might not enjoy working at a company long-term – they just might not feel like they fit in.”Customer first” “Respect” “Integrity” are dangerous ways to describe a company culture IMHO. Customer first bothers me a lot whenever I see or hear it. If someone’s being an asshole to you, you shouldn’t lose your self-respect over it. Similarly, respect is relatively to the individual and can’t be summed up in a word.Using simple words doesn’t show a signal that culture has really been thought-through or considered as important, or that perhaps those in lead aren’t sensitive to that nature or have a nuanced enough understanding to be cultivating a specific environment.What Twilio’s done is a good example that they care about their environment, the company they are creating – the culture they are trying to cultivate.

      1. ShanaC

        What should companies do when they don’t get respect from their customers. I’m thinking about what happened to DIGG here – lack of respect definitely brought them down

        1. Matt A. Myers

          I think you’re looking at it backwards. Digg first disrespected their customers with such a dramatic UI/UX change. Their users’ reactions was just karma- what was going to happen. That’s why you shouldn’t change things you don’t understand the inner workings of.

          1. Cam MacRae

            They didn’t do it purposefully. Digg hit a wall, and in trying to knock it down they developed a fatal case of second system syndrome.It could just as easily have happened to Twitter, which is why a guy like Greg Pass is worth his weight in option certificates.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            Not purposefully – they just didn’t have any understanding, or perhaps didn’t listen to anyone, relating to design and psychology.Twitter tested design first before rolling it out. Also, the changes weren’t as dramatic as you might think at first look (in comparison to Digg); Not trying to knock on what Greg Pass is worth – no real idea who he is or what he is about.

          3. Cam MacRae

            The changes at Twitter were just as dramatic as those at Digg. The fact that you can’t tell is testament to how well they managed the process.Digg’s problem wasn’t a lack of understanding, it was that they succumbed to second system syndrome and put themselves in a position where their options were ship-or-die and ship-and-die.

          4. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          5. leapy

            deleted. disqus / firefox on android repost glitch

          6. leapy

            agreed. removed all the intimacy.

  8. Guest

    I came across something written by United Technologies in the WSJ many years ago and I took it, had our company logo added and had it redesigned in our company colors and basically every new employee was given a framed copy once they achieved the goals of their probationary status.We basically made it “cultural” by having it “earned” and then celebrating and welcoming the new employee to our “culture.”To say that people thought I was nuts for spending that type of money on something so stupid was an understatement but it created an “espirit de corps” that was unstoppable. It gave even gave the janitors a sense of pride and a feeling that their jobs were important too!Here it is:I’m a littlefed upwith theconstantcriticism ofAmericanworkmanship.How other peopledo their jobsis their business.But I dogood workand I know it.I haveperfected myskills.I make each minute count.When I makea mistakeI correct it.I would gladlysign my nameto every piece ofwork I do.I’m going tohang this messageover my work areato letmy employer,my customers,my co-workersknow thatI take pridein mywork.Short and simple and all I had to ask, “Would you sign this?” and immediately the employee knew that their effort wasn’t good enough….

    1. John Revay

      Hi Carl,Thank you for sharing – I may “lift this” and suggest for a few companies that I work w/ adopt this.PS, I once was a janitor – cleaned the floors of my Uncle’s grocery store while in High School.

      1. Guest

        I just realized this morning when I surfed the net that United Technologies had it copyrighted! WHOOPS!I am writing a blog post on the logic of why I adopted the strategy I did in regards to company “culture.”

      2. JLM

        .We should have a blog about the most common job everyone has done at some time or another.I spent a summer digging ditches with a convicted murderer. To say I was uneasy was an understatement.It turned out to be one of the best learning experiences of my entire life.I used to bring yogurt and fruit for lunch. You could not eat heavy because of the heat and work.We broke the silence by his asking me what the hell was I eating. The next day I brought him one and after that we used to talk like crazy.I could go on for hours about the things I learned and, most importantly, how sincerely he wanted me not to travel where he had.I never spoke to him again but I can still see his face and hear his words in my head.There is great dignity in hard work. Exactly why the current unemployment is about much more than having a job, it is about having self worth and dignity..

        1. John Revay

          It would be a great posting – as you commented above – “there is great dignity in hard work” ( & and job well done)My deal with my Uncle Stan’s and his local grocery store. – It was simple – I worked for him in HS and during many of my college breaks – and he essentially paid me $5,000/ yr for four years (approximately 4yrs worth of tuition at this Southern New England Jesuit college that I attended and graduated from). I think he and my aunt always wanted me to come back to the small town that I grew up in and take over the business…After college, I never made it back other than to visit – which I did quite often.

    2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

      I have a slight problem with “even the janitor” – I wonder if he or she says to his or her friends – “Why even our CEO respects all of his staff some days”. How would you feel?I realise that this was not intended – and mean no offense – I am illustrating a problem – The huge problem with “trying” to espouse good values. We (our team) fail to live up to the standards we set ourselves all the time, and we try to show our values through action rather than living up to things written in stone. When we occasionally get it right – we know – people tell us, and that is much more effective than when we spend time telling ourselves.

      1. Guest

        James, you hit on a key point, which I call the “trickle down” theory of company culture…That is why in the early 1990’s when I came up with my idea I focused on defining company culture from the bottom up.Since Fred has started this “Culture and Fit” theme it has really made me realize how differently I do look at organizations….

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          Thanks Carl,Our staff sometimes get to deal with filthy environments (from boiler-houses in “the projects”) to nasty chemicals in big pharma. Both of these can be handled professionally – It is great when a client notices we swept up behind ourselves. It is part of our project plan (which may focus on esoteric software changes), but only ends with leaving things as we would like to find them.The one corruption that can never be cleaned up is when you value your own word less highly than others do. This cannot be fixed because trust is granted by others, not purchased and can only be breached by the holder not the giver.These ideas fit very closely to your “declaration” – I might only add a caveat – we are not perfect but we can take pride in honest failure.

          1. Guest

            James,I ask myself all the time, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”That is how I view the value of ones own words. You have to value them even when there is no one around to measure the value other than yourself.”Honest Failure” is where one apologizes and becomes better by.

          2. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Carl, You will certainly be aware of Berkeley… – Who influenced both Mach and Einstein. The subject speaks to the possibility of an absolute objectivity.I rather like the idea of a universal observer, to whom our words make a noise if to no other person (this can keep us on the right path). And if we do not listen to and assess ourselves, we have to expect that we may be caught unaware.Some people might call this having a conscience, others the omnipresence of a Creator. What to me is clear is that the CEO of any company is on a stage however small, and that breaking the fourth wall… is effective for skilled players but for others fractures a fragile illusion. – The limericks regarding observability and the silence of the trees go thus..There was once a man who said, “God Must think it exceedingly odd If he finds that this tree Continues to be When there’s no one about in the Quad.”.answered byDear Sir, Your astonishment’s odd: I am always about in the Quad. And that’s why the tree Will continue to be, Since observed by Yours faithfully, God.

        2. ShanaC

          Care to volunteer a post to look more closely at it?

          1. Guest

            I am trying to write a blog post as we speak….Lets see how it goes.

      2. Luke Chamberlin

        Great observation. Written statements can be good reminders but true culture is exposed through actions.

  9. jason wright

    No video today?

    1. fredwilson

      changed it up

      1. jason wright

        the survey request keeps popping up – ‘crowd science’ i think it says.

        1. fredwilson

          i was told they removed it. i haven’t seen it since yesterday. when was the last time you saw it?

          1. jason wright

            earlier today, around five hours ago. it’s not in the same ‘bugging me’ league as repeated unsolicited telephone sales calls can be.

          2. fredwilson

            well it bugs me. and i appreciate you helping me figure this out

          3. jason wright

            crowd sourced debugging. swatting time.

  10. JimHirshfield

    Disqus 2012 not working on android nexus one. Just doesn’t load. So on iPhone now.

    1. ShanaC


  11. Richard

    Poor base 2, it does all the work and base 10 gets all the praise.

    1. Luke Chamberlin


  12. Matt A. Myers

    I see a company’s core values as being the mantra to repeat and have as a guiding light.Before you can reach anywhere you need an intent set.If you have no intent then you’ll be wandering aimlessly. That in business isn’t so good for productivity, especially when you have a bunch of people wandering aimlessly bumping into each other occasionally.Much better if everyone is aiming for the same end point, even if using different paths to get there.I know my core values have lead me to where I am, to my level of understanding, being more and more sure of who I am – and better at being who I want to be.I imagine a company’s core values would have the same affect, and the stronger core values are in place in a company and those in the company – I imagine the better or easier it becomes to find others who would fit into its culture, or at least quickly know who doesn’t vibe well.

  13. ShanaC

    The very first thing I remember explained to me in drawing class is that to draw “correctly”, you need to ignore instructions. Staring at you hands while drawing will cause you to judge yourself as you draw, and end up hindering the activity of your brain from actually seeing correctly.”Draw the owl” reminds me that if you think instructions will get you there, you are probably wrong. In order to create a path, you need to kill judgement, stop looking, and go…

  14. Emily Merkle

    Mission:nurture youth to think & be empathic.take the lead in their own lives; communities; world; universe.Why?Too often, many of us know What to Think, but do not know How to Think.In my mind, How to Think is far more important that What.How to Think. Drawing from philosophers, Thinkers, etc.Think like scientists; engineers.Encourage all of us, not only the young, but all – to:Ask Why. Be curious. Wonder.Let us teach our youth to think, to feel, and to love. in doing so, we teach ourselves.How do we nurture children and ourselves to Think, Love, Lead?To Think:draw on the classic and modern philosophers/thinkers.follow the thinking of the epic scientists.learn a programming early and often.To Love:First, love yourself.To practice empathy:Do unto others as you would have unto you.To Lead:Leadership is a quality we can all quietly possess.A leader is a dealer in hope.A leader stands up for themselves and for another.By Thinking Differently, we can create.By Thinking Differently, we can cooperate.By Thinking Differently, we can change the world.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Blog post this, so I can favourite it, please – perhaps even re-blog. 🙂

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Did you post the above comment to it? I couldn’t find it

    2. JLM

      .”A leader is a dealer in hope.”Brilliant, really.Exactly why Candidate Obama fooled us all — we wanted to believe and we wanted to hope..

  15. Emily Merkle

    I need people to work with me to change the world. Anyone?

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I’m in.

      1. Emily Merkle

        I have a mission to talk with you about, if you are curious & some early thinking. How can you best be reached?

        1. Matt A. Myers

          DM’d you on Twitter

          1. Emily Merkle

            Skype’d you a couple times; i am around tomorrow after 12 EDTEmilyMarieMerkle

          2. Emily Merkle

            Skype’d you a couple times; i am around tomorrow after 12 EDTEmilyMarieMerkle

          3. Emily Merkle

            Skype’d you a couple times; i am around tomorrow after 12 EDTEmilyMarieMerkle

          4. Emily Merkle

            Skype’d you a couple times; i am around tomorrow after 12 EDTEmilyMarieMerkle

          5. Emily Merkle

            Skype’d you a couple times; i am around tomorrow after 12 EDTEmilyMarieMerkle

          6. Emily Merkle

            Skype’d you a couple times; i am around tomorrow after 12 EDTEmilyMarieMerkle

  16. William Mougayar

    The 9 shaped as a telephone dial is very cute & fitting with their goal of disrupting the telco industry, but these look like a mix of values & cultural/operating principles- which is fine & reinforces what they want. I also noticed this in their About page & I like its simplicity. We make heroes We wrangle data We invest in you Any startup needs to communicate their values, principles, objectives, beliefs, culture nuggets, etc. in order to get every employee on the same page. A bit of organization in a sea of change will help any ship sail through the rough seas. It’s about finding your True North. 

    1. Timothy Meade

      I discovered Twilio when I was looking for something and couldn’t find it for months, thinking about how to build a system out of asterisk on the cheap with voip, and knowing that I really only needed one feature. Then I found Twilio and the fit into what I was trying to build was obvious. I think that communicates more strongly than this collection of ideals to customers, though I can see the value for employees.

  17. awaldstein

    Let me throw a soft wrench in this.i agree with the intent. I agree that an internal cohesion that touches an approach to the market is key. I agree that we stumble forward and learn and need to be patient.But I also like cultures of winning and a sales oriented approach to teams where leadership is earned, where competition is healthy and camaraderie happens as the community constantly re-levels itself.This doesn’t mean that there is only a big board with numbers on it (although there probably is) but that all of these 9 are wrapped up into a business drive to accomplish the goal of success.Difficult balance but we work to win as well as to learn.

  18. Mark Gannon

    The best document of this type I’ve read is the 1965 HP Corporate Objectives available at the bottom of this linkMy biggest compliant about these sort of documents is the difference between the document and reality. It is very easy to write a document with a lot of good sounding stuff in it, but it is much more difficult to live the values.My second biggest complaint is vagueness. Non-corporate entities like to “work hard/play hard”. Keep it vague enough and its about as useful as a tarot card reading.

  19. Aaron Klein

    We just held a team planning retreat this last week, and we spent some time refining our mission and developing our values for the first time.As we’re about to hire our first addition to the team, we thought it was important to be able to communicate what we value. I’m planning to blog these, but it just feels right to beta test them with AVC first. :)Our Mission:Empowering People to Invest Within Their Risk ToleranceOur Values:* Focus: We are willing to do a small number of things in order to do them really well.* Shipping: We always want to delight our users, but we err on the side of shipping so we can learn from them.* Collaboration: We design our systems and our code to promote the ability of our team to work together seamlessly.* Communication: We use open and direct communication to save time and solve problems quickly.* Teamwork: We trust each other with our careers, and we expect nothing but the best from each other.* Accountability: We set high goals for ourselves, and we hold each other accountable for achieving them.* Creativity: We measure team members in creative roles by their accomplishments, not their hours.* Objectivity: We answer questions objectively and mathematically whenever possible.* Trust: We choose long term advantage over short term gains. When in doubt, do what is best for users.

    1. Cam MacRae

      Nice. +1.I don’t think you should limit measuring team members by their accomplishments and not their hours to people in creative roles for two reasons:a) Every role is creative.b) Everyone should be measured by their accomplishments.It’s horrible seeing someone of low to average productivity rewarded because they eat dinner in the office, while someone who is super-productive gets a bollocking for leaving at 5pm.Same goes for rewarding someone who screws up but makes a very public diving save over people who quietly and efficiently get on with the business of not screwing up (assuming equivalent productivity).Of course there’s no possibility that will happen at Riskalyze until you’re a multi-billion dollar company, but there’s no harm in planning ahead 😉

      1. Aaron Klein

        You know, Cam, that’s an awesome point. We can find a place other than our values to communicate that we obviously have a little bit less “hour flexibility” for folks in administrative roles, as opposed to our engineers.Looks like our core value of “shipping” – in this case, of the values themselves – worked. Beta testing ftw!

      2. JLM

        .Much of what you say should be the product of goal setting.If everyone has a written set of goals, then it is easy to follow and chart progress.There is a natural tendency to load up the achievers. You give the toughest assignments to the people you know will get the job done. That is predictable.As long as you recognize and reward this reality, it is OK..

    2. JLM

      .Great stuff. Well played..

      1. Aaron Klein

        Thank you, good sir. That means a lot.

    3. fredwilson

      that’s a good list

      1. Aaron Klein

        Thanks. We left out a lot of other things that we value, which sounded boilerplate. We tried to focus on what made us stand apart.

    4. Donna Brewington White

      Great, Aaron. And believable.I just wonder about the creativity category. Seems that creativity is something much broader than how you measure performance. Seems like what you mean is more like flexibility (that recognizes or fosters creativity). Also, is it only creative types that you measure in terms of accomplishments?

      1. Aaron Klein

        Thanks, Donna!I’m working on rewriting that one based on your and Cam’s input. The real point there is that we recognize that creativity doesn’t happen on a 9-to-5 schedule, so we value team members based on their accomplishments instead of hours.Obviously, there’s a distinction on the flexibility you can have for folks in some roles as compared to others. Call center employees (not that we have them at this point) can’t just say “creativity told me to come in at 11pm tonight” for example.Netflix simply says “salaried vs. hourly” workers…I was saying “creative vs. non-creative roles” but I think there’s a better way to make the distinction.

  20. Scott Barnett

    Awesome – frankly your previous post didn’t have its usual heft because you couldn’t post the values – all I could keep thinking about was why Twilio wouldn’t make them public? Whether you agree with them all or not (I think they’re pretty great, personally), +1 for publishing them!

  21. Luke Chamberlin

    Can anyone help me figure out what “draw the owl” means?

    1. obscurelyfamous

      I believe it refers back to those “How to Draw” books for beginners. And possibly specifically this joke:

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        Excellent link.

  22. LE

    Twilio is great. But someone needs to build an easy to use non-programmer front end for using twilio.I do see this of course:…But there needs to be something that doesn’t involve hiring a developer.A way that anyone could add twilio to their website without having to deal with an API, programming or have any technical knowledge. Don’t make them think. Similar to how you can build a website with wordpress w/o knowing html/css php etc. Or how you would use a website builder to create a site. This will exploit the long tail of potential users for twilio. Another example is tumbler making it quick to go on the web just signup and you have a website.

    1. William Mougayar

      That’s a good point, but the issue you describe could be said about any API-first product, no?

      1. LE

        When I say “But someone needs to build” I don’t mean someone at twilio (although that would be fine but I assume they are focused on the other stuff).I mean it’s an opportunity for a third party to build the above user friendly front end which would work with twilio.(Along with that I realize that twilio is working with developers who are building all sorts of apps. It might be an idea to single out some of those developers with money grants to encourage things that would benefit twilio as well.)



      1. LE

        “someone needs to build” != “twilio”.Talking about the company encouraging this to be done by a developer and someone else building not necessarily becoming vertically integrated and providing it themselves.

  23. JLM

    .Sorry in advance for the seeming meanness of this comment but it is my honest criticism and it is intended to be constructive. You can judge that for yourself.Every time I see something like this I am struck that it is like a rented tuxedo — put on for an effect but not really owned by the wearer. A mode of dress which is required by society (in this case the avant-gard of technology business thinking) and therefore is donned without any consideration of its practicality.I find this utterance to be half an inch deep and a yard wide, no more. Virtually meaningless and totally uninspiring.It has a “wow, look at us, we are so cool, we have a grown up set of values” quality to it.It is not really intended to reveal the core values of the founders and thus the imposition of their vision on the company. It is like it has been negotiated between the founders and themselves in a bit of a — this is who we want to be, if we ever grow up —kind of way.The culture of the company — of which values is only part, mind you — is determined by the example of the company’s leadership. You can preach all the frugality you want but if the boss is staying at the Ritz, flying first class and eating at Jean Gorges — then it is all baloney. Worse, it is a cancer. It will kill the culture of that company.On the other hand, if the boss is accessible, talks to everyone, is the first one in and the last to leave — then the company will be molded to that example.Once upon a time when I bought a controlling interest in a company and took over as the CEO, I reported my company for a regulatory offense that carried a fairly stiff penalty — maybe even a death sentence.I did it without fanfare and made no attempt to communicate it to the company.The regulators could not understand why I had done it. They were beside themselves trying to figure out what I was up to. That alone was worth it. It completely changed the company’s relationship with them all for the good.Ultimately because we had self-reported the violation, they imposed no penalty on us. A precedent which has held to this day.The company immediately realized that I did not resent the rules, was committed to playing by the rules and was not going to ignore or fail to enforce the rules — even on ourselves. They also were flabbergasted as there had always been an unbridled enmity toward the regulators that seemed to justify any behavior.It achieved two very important things — it completely defused the tension between our company and the regulators which paid great dividends as they nudged bad guys into our arms resulting in a few acquisitions; and, the company immediately realized our default and only position was INTEGRITY in all things.I did not announce to the company — in a set of core values — that we would have flawless integrity in all things big and small. I gave them a searing and unimpeachable lesson which example burned an indelible tattoo into their psyche.Years later as the company began to take a bit more form, I did, in fact, publish a document which I have shared with some folks on this blog from time to time in which I put in writing my vision, the mission, the strategy and our values.If you want one, I will send you one. Just let me know. It is the work product of having been a CEO for over a third of a century. It is real and I have scars to prove each and every one of them.Whenever I hire a new person, I don’t preach them to the new employee, I tell them this is what we are all about and is that a good fit for them? If so, then they are joining us rather than us dragging them aboard. It works every time.Two last thoughts —Most folks involved with startups are fairly new to business in general, management and leadership; and, thus the notion that they have a refined sense of what their own values or the company’s values are or should be is not based upon any real experience. That’s perfectly OK.That is not a fatal flaw, but just remember that when you write them down. They are a bit more of a wish list than a well developed reality. Don’t apologize, just acknowledge and keep an eye on what you are writing.Most people want to be led by good leaders and will adopt the values of the organization if it is well lead and successful. Not everybody goes to bed at night worrying about the issues facing the company. Some folks just want to be lead to the Promised Land.What they all want is consideration and the time of the leadership. You can overcome half of all compensation issues by spending time with your people regularly and genuinely.As you discover your values, live them first and then publish them second. You cannot fool anyone when they are able to observe your own personal example.The culture of a company can take a long time and a lot of hard work to develop, proselytize and to inculcate at the brain stem level. It is hard work..

    1. William Mougayar

      What might be interesting to find out is how these 9 principles came about, what is the story behind them, when where they put in place, etc. I think that backdrop may help to round-up any judgement on them.

    2. LE

      It has a “wow, look at us, we are so cool, we have a grown up set of values”.Similarly, my bullshit and “wet behind the ears” alarm rattles when I read this stuff as well. I could never write things like twilio did because I have a hard time believing people believe that type of thing. But hats off to them for writing it because I believe it will help them achieve what they are trying to do. And that is the point. And I mean that. But it reminds me a little of everyone who states their goal is to change the world. Not my goal nor would I run into a burning building and save a stranger. Sorry not me. Doesn’t mean I’m not a nice person and that I don’t help people. I do.Anyway, I think that this just shows our age and what we have been through in life and what we have learned. I almost always run into this when dealing with younger people and also with very liberal older people (my father-in-law is a good example, luckily it makes for interesting conversation.) They think the world is fair or something. If you’ve been in traditional business enough and if you don’t have some kind of a lock on a market or product you will find it isn’t. (Which is why Andy Grove was always paranoid..)My wife (who is younger than I am) got a new job last year and received all the standard spew about teamwork, core values etc. And I cynically told her that is what it was. I didn’t break a sweat when thinking about that one either. It was pretty obvious because of the way the document was written.Here is part of it:…Of course in truth they want to hire doctors right out of medical school to replace experienced doctors because it saves them money and they have debt to pay off from their huge empire building new state of the art hospital. And now we find out that they are tearing down a perfectly good hospital building to prevent competition from opening in the same building. And some other inside stuff I know not for public consumption.That said I am convinced that people buy into this type of stuff and that is why companies and people say these things. Because people believe it. And maybe it becomes an example of “the feigner becoming what they feign” (or whatever that expression is). (Of course it never worked for all those evangelical guys who ended up cheating on their wives..)The fact is business is tough. You have competition. You can’t always be upfront and honest with people. So what does, for example, #5 really mean? I mean it’s pretty obvious you shouldn’t cheat people. But I’m sure Boeing isn’t going to tell an airline that Airbus’s plane is better suited for them and loose a sale. Although a shoe store might do that and get a customer who comes back for more. So my point is do they teach the granularity of some of this? Or are you expecting people to know exactly where that line is?Similarly the “frugal” item, #9. There are times you can be frugal and times when being frugal is not the right thing to do. It takes time to learn that. My daughter wanted to buy a used car and I told her I would pay some of the difference and showed her she could actually buy a new car and it made more sense safety wise and financially. Frugal might have put her in danger. She would never know this. I’m sure you do the same with (as you’ve called her) “perfect daughter”.This is not to say that I don’t think there is value in some of the 9 buttons. There is. But I think you need to provide people with further knowledge on how to achieve all of this and understand where all the lines are. And some of that is just going to take time. You can’t read about it.By the way some of this thinking is also just the luxury of having a pot of money (according to crunchbase twilio raised close to 34 million) in advance of profitability. So I think there is a more idealistic look at things and it’s not quite to the “every man for himself” stage of business that causes the pressures that make people do nasty things.



      1. Tyler Hayes


    4. Kevin Friedman

      Thanks for sharing this powerful reminder and your experiences. It’s so easy to publish a nice sounding list of values (which IS okay I think) but so hard to walk them out at our companies AND in our private lives. I was just saying at our company meeting this past week, that I’d rather be struck by lightning if I’m not personally living out the values that I espouse to our employees and customers… of course, with the freedom to make a ton of mistakes along the way… which is one of our core values. 🙂 A tough thing to say but I know no other way. Anyway, thanks again for being an inspiration.

      1. JLM

        .Please do not take from my comment that I am opposed to doing the best one can including fashioning values. As you have noted, it is hard work to live values. It is not as hard to write down what you would like them to be.It takes 5 years to learn how to run a company. Nobody wants to hear that but that is probably the truth about almost anything.In the interim, do the best you can. The very best..

        1. Kevin Friedman

          Yes, that’s totally what I thought you were saying. 5 years, huh? Guess I should add patience to that list. 🙂 Not surprising though… it’s taken 33 years to even BEGIN to figure out how to do the most basic human functions.

        2. Kevin Friedman

          Oh, and can you please send me the document with your vision, mission, & values? I’d really love to see it.

          1. JLM

            .Will do..

          2. gleslie

            would love to see document as well! grantcleslieATgmailDOTCOM

        3. Tyler Hayes

          “Do the best you can.”Sounds like parenting.(This coming from a 26-year single male who has never had children.)

          1. Donna Brewington White

            “Do the best you can.””Sounds like parenting.”From ___-year old married female with four children.That’s about right. But I would add his next sentence as an aspiration. “The very best .”

    5. Guest

      We like to confuse “values” with “goals” but values are not something you attempt to achieve but rather they are something developed from a past experience and the thought “never again….”My values toward employees were established a long time ago, back when I was 24. I was in Saudi Arabia and had to fire 150 third country nationals. These were men who were earning about $300 a month, were from the rural areas of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines and they had to pay bribes to get the jobs they had. They were not only supporting their immediate families on their salaries but in some cases whole communities.They were being sent home to places where they would never enjoy the lifestyle they currently enjoyed ever.Living through that, watching grown men sob and having them beg, plead, and wrap themselves around your legs it changes you.I do not take hiring lightly and I realize that a job is much more than just a paycheck. I will go the extra mile to make sure that I never have to let anyone go ever again….

      1. JLM

        .Damn good story and I know exactly what you mean. Great lesson at 24, eh?.

        1. Guest

          That is what happens when the price of oil dropped to $40 a barrel! :)Yes, the concept of “lean” organizations is something I learned early on and when I say “…my employees come first..” that is exactly what I mean, I don’t get paid until they do and there have been some rough patches and a few pay less Fridays in my life.

      2. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        That happens everywhere across the world…. begging and pleading for money.I have seen white, black, brown, yellow, tall, short, fat, lean beg … Seeing all that never changed my life … HUMAN BEING IS A PRISONER OF SITUATION AND CIRCUMSTANCES.

        1. Guest

          “Human being is a prisoner of situation and circumstances” yes, you are absolutely correct, but THIS human being refuses to ever be part of an organization that over hires and under manages to the extent that it turns employees into beggers and pleaders….

    6. MParekh

      Thanks for sharing, JLM. Would appreciate a copy of your version at your convenience: michaelATmparekhDOTcom

    7. Matt A. Myers

      I’d love a copy of your vision, the mission, the strategy and values.

      1. JLM

        Email address?

        1. timconroy

          JLM would love a copy as well.timconroy AT

        2. christopherfranck

          JLM please send copy to franckc[at] thank you!

        3. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Ditto, please! :-)carl-at-egoboss.comCheers, JLM!

        4. Mark Beyak

          I would love to read yours JLM.mark@bluebirdinteractive,net

    8. Emil Sotirov

      Thank you JLM, for reminding us that actions speak louder than words.Although, using words to publicly express intent, wishes, and goals may serve as a way of putting pressure upon yourself and the team to live up to the expectations. I remember doing this a lot when I was young – with some success.May I ask for your mission/vision text..? My email is [email protected]

    9. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      I would love a copy of ‘vision mission strategy and value” … can you send it tokagilandamatyahoocom

    10. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      @JLM:disqusI would love a copy of ‘vision mission strategy and value” … can you please do send it to

    11. fredwilson

      i don’t understand how you get that from their 9 things. jeff is a serial entrepreneur. he has done this before several times. he is a grown up, he knows what he is doing. and he does live these values on his sleeve.

      1. LE

        I think @JLM:disqus was responding to the same thing I saw. The pattern that we see so many times with corporate bullshit. In this case, since you know Jeff, you don’t see it the way we see it. (Same happened with some criticism of Mark Pincus whom you defended). But I don’t know Jeff and I guess neither does @JLM – hence the cynicism. @JLM attributed it to age and inexperience. I put more of the emphasis on BS although I did say “wet behind the ears” as well.FYI to Jeff if you are reading this.Your crunchbase profile lists the URL of another Jeff Lawson you might want to fix that:…( which is someone else ..)

    12. John Revay

      Jeff if not too late – can you kindly send me a copy as well – I will look forward to reading it.FirstnameLastname at Gmail – no spaces or dashes.Thank you inadvance

    13. Gonzalo Santos

      @JLM:disqus Will you please send me the document with your vision, mission, & values? I’d really love to see it. Thanks. Send to gATsantosDOTgs

  24. jason wright

    I don’t think companies should publish their values. When they do it has the feel of yet more marketing. The values only have real meaning when inside the company, and when outside they’re a bit abstract, a fish out of water.

    1. fredwilson

      i think it helps to know if you want to work at a company to be able to see them upfront

  25. LE

    Here is a product that would use twilio that I would like to see:There is already a way to send a text message at a later time. Not a big deal and actually if you have OSX or any Unix system you can do that right from the command line.What I want to see is an app that allows you to send a txt to someone but they will not be interrupted or bothered if the txt arrives at a bad time (like the middle of the night since many people have their phones on 24×7.) or if they aren’t a priority to you as you have defined by a list of rules.So you send the sms to the cloud and the app checks the cloud (say in the morning or when you get out of the meeting) and gives you the queued up texts that were sent. Even prioritizes by the person sending. And the app would also knows that you want to be interrupted by any messages that comes from a certain person or contains certain language or other filters. (So it would simply route that text directly to your phone and it would arrive like any text that already goes to your phone). You give people your new sms text number which sits in front of your existing phone number (same as google voice for voice).

  26. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    I was searching for the word HONESTY not found 1 in the whole thread….so i made it up here :-)Fulfill the customer requirements and stakeholder’s with honesty.

  27. Gorazd Švajger

    My first thought was: “Ugh, marketese. This reads like a card from bullshit bingo.”I can’t believe I’m already a jaded old fart at 32.

  28. John Revay

    Did not get the reference to OWL – so I did a search and got to this BI article/ Slide show.Worth a quick scan through the slidesLooks like a great place to work – creative, hardworking

    1. fredwilson

      yes. they must draw an owl. i am not sure i could do that.

      1. John Revay

        Yes draw an owl and CODE an app – i am not sure that i could do that.Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo Hoo HOOOO-AH!

  29. Dave W Baldwin

    Interesting batch of comments.Remember perspective. Twilio is working with a lot of smaller entities. A 19 yr old may look at them and say, “Cool!”, while others who are 35+ may say, “Yeah, right…”.But you have to start somewhere.In the case of what someone like myself thinks is more important is the bigger picture where the question of “Who exactly owns my data?” comes into play. It is refreshing when someone who is a bigger player uses words like, “That’s bullshit” when referring to some of the things happening today.There are companies emerging that strategize/design via perspective of what’s better for the customer. We need to support them. And if Twilio’s “9” turn you negative, maybe suggest a different way of doing it.

  30. Robert Holtz

    Thanks for sharing these, Twilio. We appreciate it. Thanks, Fred, for mentioning them.

  31. Guest

    “…a one pager…”I call those a “1Sheet”. I even created a logo for them to help trigger the right frame of mind when someone reads them.

  32. Donna Brewington White

    I am still idealistic enough to read this and say “wow.” No apologies for this.We need something to believe in, to aspire to, some sort of base definition that is not too confining — and yet empowers us to be our best selves. Like the sort of discipline or structure that actually creates freedom (still stuck on the post about routines).The “wow” is for the thinking and desire that produced these values and the courage to publish them. Now, for the hard part. How do you build these into the fabric of who you are as a company? There are ways to do this. I can’t imagine that these were just meant to be window-dressing. You’ve got to start with some sort of definition, a line in the sand. I like Twilio’s. A lot.

  33. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    Rarely do I disagree with Fred and I already commented but this from Jason Freed (Rework 37 Signals ) says it all..Standing for something isn’t just about writing it down. It’s about believing it and living it.

  34. Emily Merkle

    I worked up this guidance for the sales/biz dev efforts at a former startup ad network: not too mushy or highfalutin. And, it works.· Honesty in alldealings.· When in doubt,admit you don’t know – and that you’ll get the answer ASAP.· Along with that,be humble enough to know what you don’t know.· We don’t pitch,we have conversations.· Under-promise andover-deliver.· Controlexpectations.· Believe in yourcompany’s mission, intent, strengths, and accomplishments.· With that beliefwill come confidence – always an advertiser turn-on.· Be realisticabout our weaknesses and head them off at the pass – the advertiser will findout the truth eventually, so take the opportunity to address it head-on and incontrol of the conversation.· Speak with care,and listen with even more.· Don’t make apromise you are not confident you can keep.· You are thespokesperson and face of the company – which means you occasionally have totake one for the team. Be ready to express your unwavering support for yourteam, and don’t be afraid or too proud to admit “we” messed up. It happens.Just make every effort not to repeat the error.· Elicit as muchinformation from the advertiser as you can in every circumstance; you can neverhave too much client data.· Treat alladvertisers with the same level of respect and privacy you afford all others –fairness in all dealings.· Communicate withas much frequency as necessary and with efficiency – have respect for yourclients’ time.· Take the highroad when it comes to the competition.· Internally, treatthe AdCloud Media team as if they were your best client – communicate well,show respect, have integrity, and address issues head-on as adults.· Don’t putanything into writing you wouldn’t want broadcast on Google.· Do not get tooattached to your title per se – we all chip in where and when we can aroundhere.· There’s a fineline between stalking and diligent follow-up. Know that line.· Patientpersistence wins the day.

  35. jason wright

    Isn’t this blog the document?

  36. fredwilson

    we like to think is a living document that lays all of that out

  37. jason wright

    I really dig this idea.