Twilio has been leading cloud communications software out of their headquarters in San Franciso for the past few years. Now, european director James Parton talks about their plans in Europe.
Role and company:
European director of Twilio
We currently have over 150 employees, with our headquarters in San Francisco, CA. I work from the London office with the Twilio Europe team.
Growth forecast for the next three years:
We are investing for growth. We don’t talk about specific numbers but rest assured we are obsessively focused on our goal of powering the future of business communications software.
In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:
We are a market leading cloud communications company powering the future of business communications software by enabling voice, VoIP, and messaging to be easily embedded into applications using our web service APIs. We level the playing field for developers, allowing them to write communication applications in their native coding languages.
What's the big vision for your business?
We believe in software people. From our employees to our customers, we see a future built by software people. People who take business problems, turn them into software problems, and solve them at scale in the cloud.
People who accelerate the building and adoption of software by focusing on what's important - the user. Twilio bridges the old world of telephony to this new world of software, eliminating the expense and complexity that come with the abundance of telephony protocols and hardware. We give software people the tools to change communications forever.
Current level of international business, and future aspirations:
The nature of our business model enables people around the world to become a Twilio user. Our goal has long been to provide one communications API with global reach. Our services are available across six continents and our user base is growing in each.
Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:
I have been lucky enough to have worked with excellent teams on amazing projects for the vast majority of my career. However one particularly complex project I led for O2 did ultimately fail. After running a full tendering process we thought we had found the ideal partner, but ultimately they could not deliver what they had promised. I learnt that contracts, optimism and sheer belief are no substitute for a real contingency plan should a partner let you down.
What makes you mad in business today?
Closed thinking with a large dash of arrogance. Modern business is all about connections and networking. I assume everyone I meet could be the next Mark Zuckerberg. That attitude gives me the positive energy to treat every conversation as an opportunity.
What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?
I’ve actually been developing a talk on this subject, debuting it at the Startup Launchpad student event in Shoreditch recently. Building on Marc Andreessen’s paper “software is eating the world” there is now huge disruption on the traditional telecommunications industry from young agile technology startups.
For example, popular smartphone app WhatsApp are delivering 12bn messages per day. These services are fundamentally affecting the revenue and business models of the incumbent network operators who see zero upside, and have the added burden of carrying the traffic over their infrastructure. The traditional players need to figure out a way to do profitable business with this new breed of software people & companies.
Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?
I’m sure many entrepreneurs will always ask for access to larger pots of money, but back to my point about networking, the money is there if you put in the effort, have a credible proposition and a good team. Perhaps a greater challenge for European entrepreneurs vs. the US is the number of successful exits.
How would others describe your leadership style?
Wow! You would have to ask them. I like to think I give people space to make something their own and to grow new skills. I operate hands off with a high degree of trust in my people. I’ve always hated being told explicitly what to do, as I like to figure things out myself. I guess I’ve never lost my inbuilt teenager rebellious streak, so I try to avoid doing that myself.
Your biggest personal extravagance?
Gadgets and music.
You've got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK's independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:
It’s almost becoming a cliché in tech circles, but the way we currently teach computer science and coding in schools and universities in this country is still woefully inadequate. There are plenty of great new education companies like Decoded and General Assembly who are filling the gap here to a certain degree, but for the most part, coding is still under supported in the kind of institutions that have the capacity to get to young people and foster an interest at an early stage.
The near constant struggle between companies to find and hire the best developer talent is only going to intensify as industries across the board gear up their staff for a more digital future, not to mention the demand from the ever growing ranks of online UK startups.
Help to prepare the next generation properly by crafting a long-overdue, comprehensive computer studies program for the national curriculum, emphasizing the relevance of building programs from scratch.