Posts from Twilio

Fun Feature Friday: Voice Fan Mail

I learned about this cool Twilio SoundCloud hack and thought it would make a fun feature friday post.

The band Young Guns encourages fans to call them, leave a voicemail (powered by our portfolio company Twilio).

The voicemail gets transcribed and uploaded to our portfolio company SoundCloud, embedded to their site in custom SC player and band calls the person with the best voicemail.

I just called and called and left them a message. I hope I get the call back.


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

Some Happenings In Our Portfolio

Yesterday, I saw an informal survey of our portfolio companies. One of the questions was "what can we help you with?"  One of the answers was "get Fred to blog more about us."

That gave me a good chuckle. Regular readers know that I do blog a fair bit about our portfolio companies but I also try to keep it balanced. Too much pimping of the portfolio doesn't make for a good VC blog.

All that said, this is a blog post about some happenings in our portfolio.

1) Yesterday Twitter announced a new version of their web client. They are rolling it out already. I got it sometime last night. It is a two pane interface. You click on a tweet and open up a second pane with a lot of additional data on that tweet, including embeds of videos and photos. If you have the iPad Twitter client, you'll immediately understand. One thing I wish they would have included from the iPad client is the full page behind the link. I love reading on the iPad client that way and I wish the they had included that feature in the new web client. I think this is a big improvement to the web client and congratulations to the engineering and product teams who designed and built it.

2) On Monday, Boxee put their Boxee Box up for pre-order on Amazon. It is currently #6 in electronics and was as high as #4 yesterday. The Boxee promise is "Watch What You Want":

We get it – you want to the freedom to watch whatever you want on your TV: Movies, TV Shows, Sports, but also any other video that is available online. You want to do it without having to connect a computer to your TV or use a keyboard and mouse. We’re all over it. The Boxee Box by D-Link: watch, organize, share – you are now in full command of your TV for the first time. No rules, no contracts.

If you want to watch everything you can watch on your laptop on your TV, check out the Boxee Box. It should ship soon.

3) Twilio lowered prices for inbound and outbound calls made on its telephony API. Here are the new prices:

Twilio pricing
I've gotten feedback on this blog in previous posts about Twilio that their prices seemed high. As Twilio generates more volume, they will drive prices down and pass them onto their developers. As it should be.

4) Get Glue launched an iPad client. I used it to check into several TV shows on Sunday and each time I did that, there were between 50 and 100 people checked into the same TV shows. It's a really cool app to have on the family room coffee table while watching TV, reading books, and listening to music and such. If you haven't tried it, check it out.


I am sure I've missed a bunch of other happenings in our portfolio in the past week. I might make this a regular feature here on AVC to alleviate that issue. I'm curious what all of you think about that.

#VC & Technology

Open VBX

Yesterday our portfolio company Twilio announced the developer availability of their Open VBX platform. Techcrunch and GigaOm had good posts on it. Techcrunch called it "open source google voice for business" and Om Malik said "OpenVBX is simple and yields the one thing users want most: a voice mail box that also forwards calls to different numbers."

There is other open source PBX software out there, namely Asterisk and Freeswitch. And there are other cloud based telephony APIs as well. But what is important about Open VBX and the Twilio web service API for telephony is the pairing of the two. With Open VBX you get free software to build telephony services and a web based telephony cloud to provision the numbers, calls, text messages, and way more.

My partner Albert, who led our investment in Twilio, has more on his blog. If you are interested in Open VBX, you should read his post.

We are big fans of the open source software movement. We believe that free and open software opens up markets and new capabilities much more quickly than closed and expensive software products. In the comments to my post on another open source effort we are funding, MongoDB, there was a discussion about why a VC firm would want to invest in free and open software. In that discussion, I explained that there are a number of ways to make money with open source software. The most obvious one is the "Red Hat" model of building a services and support business on top of the open source software. Red Hat has revenues of almost $600mm per year and boasts a public market valuation of over $5bn. MySQL, which also used that approach, sold to Sun for $1bn.

But the intersection of web services and open source opens up some more interesting possibilities. Look at WordPress. The WordPress software is available open source. But they also operate a hosted version at that is a commercial effort. MongoDB is available as open source software that anyone can download and run on their servers for free. But I am sure that hosted versions of MongoDB will become popular as well.

And Open VBX takes that model and adds something more. Yes, there will be hosted versions of Open VBX. Dreamhost already offers a one click install of Open VBX. But Twilio's telephony APIs for phone calls, messaging, and more are paid offerings that plug into Open VBX and offer another business model for open source software.

So we believe the pairing of open source software and cloud based business models vastly increases the commercial potential of open source software and we are excited to see Twilio leading the market into this exciting new world of open software.

#VC & Technology


While everyone was on the holiday break at the end of last year, Twilio wrote a blog post that very few people noticed. They announced that our firm, Union Square Ventures, had become an investor in Twilio.

Twilio is not a services for the masses. Yet. 

It's a service that web developers can use to build telephony apps or build telephony into their app. This image on Twilio's home page says it all.

Twilio image

In the "Areas of Interest" post that I wrote at the start of the year, I wrote:

Developers are the new power users. If you cater to them, you can build a large user base with significant network effects.

We believe that one way to build a large network of web users is to build something that makes developers' lives easier. And Twilio does exactly that. It masks all the complexity of telephony into a finite number of API calls that web developers can use to build apps quickly and easily.

When we first met Twilio, the founder Jeff Lawson blew me away when he told me that the entire service was built on five API calls; <say>, <play>, <gather>, <record>, and <dial>. Clearly they've added a few more, like <conference> highlighted above.

Today, Twilio is announcing they've added SMS to the service, with <sms>. Now you can easily allow users to access your web app via SMS without having to set up shortcodes, dealing with aggregators, doing the configurations, etc. TechCrunch has the details.

My partner Albert led this investment for us. He's a web developer himself and has already saved himself countless hours with Twilio. Albert wrote a post about Twilio on the USV blog today. If you are a developer of web apps and are interested in adding telephony, you should check out Twilio.

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#VC & Technology