Given the meteoric rise of Twilio stock and all the noise they have been making I was looking forward to groundbreaking news out of their Signal conference in San Francisco this week. I didn't hear it or see it.
Instead what I saw was largely the ongoing management of the message, via the media, in order to demonstrate to Wall Street and investors that all is going as planned. And maybe it is. But underneath all this I'm concerned.
Let's look at why I'm concerned:
- The IoT SIM news is largely a rehash of their ongoing efforts to automate and facilitate IoT information and actions. It's the kind of "product" news you expect to hear as a customer, not media or investment analysts. To me this is business as usual.
- FLOW-this is Twilio's Build Your Own Contact Center. It has promise but the difference is you need your own developer to keep your Contact Center up to snuff while the Contact and Call Center providers that are cloud based do that for you so while this is a very useful tool for those who want to roll their own operations, and have the tech resources to do it, this approach is best for department level efforts, not company wide. Here again, this is business as usual type of news, not game changing.
- PAY with Stripe. Interesting, but again, not groundbreaking. Stripe is a hot company in FinTech and FinTech is a sector that is growing as banks move from legacy systems that are premise based to the cloud. It's a hot market so what Twilio is doing is saying we want to be in that market too. It's directional, and soft news not earth shattering.
- Buying SendGrid-it adds revenue, market entry opportunity and a lot of integration. While this is two like minded companies hitching up, the timing, much like Cisco buying Broadsoft was announced at Connections, is more stock price affirmation and news attraction that game changing. They could have announced this at any time but chose Signal as this is all about signalling the market and sending information to the analysts.
For the most part the SIM and Flow are ongoing projects that were announced in the past, and now are being fully commercialized. Yes, product development takes time, but at SIGNAL I would be expecting more of what Google does at I/O and Amazon does at Re:Invent which is really show the developer market what they can do next. Instead this feels more like Salesforce's DREAMFORCE-a show and tell by Twilio paid for by their partners and attendees. PAY is partner tied news. Coat-tailing or "borrowed interest" marketing. It shows what the platform can do, but this is more of what I expect from startups not two mature Silicon Valley darlings. Had this been a voice driven platform for Visa or the MasterCard so it can be used by everyone, every bank, every company, well that would have been groundbreaking. But a single company...hmmm.
Another concern is the media, or lack of real media, that is highlighting Twilio. It is largely the Silicon Valley Echo Chamber. ZD- Net, TechCrunch, Venture Beat..they are in love with the local companies, especially when the CEO has been so forthcoming to them in the past. Even outlets like Cheddar, NoJitter and Fierce are finely tuned to cover these types of announcements, but there's a lack of critical analysis from them, as mostly they use the news release or a very tightly delivered interview from a briefing to compile their reports. While the Wall Street Journal covered the SendGrid news, they didn't spend any time on the rest of what Twilio had to say this week further underscoring the uncertainty I'm feeling.
This very measured flow of what was new could also point to something else. A possible brain drain inside the company. Often when companies IPO and employee stock options fully vest, there's a loss of some of the core workers who are actually doing the work, vs. those selling the company to investors, VCs, partners. They cash out, rather than wait around. Or, if they're still around, the efforts are focused on shoring up what was built not building anything new.
But there's something more. At the heart of all this is the fact that Twilio is really facing stiffer competition in the CPaaS space as many a new entrant has arrived, often with as much horsepower and skills as Twilio or more. As these companies come to the forefront, the heat will be on to deliver more than pieces and parts to the telecommunications developer will be rising, which may be why I feel the way I do.
Perhaps I'm wrong...perhaps I need a full briefing from Twilio........too.