The Most Interesting Tech IPO of the Year


Twilio calls itself a “cloud communications platform"

OK, the competition isn’t fierce. Just four technology companies have gone public in the US this year. But the fifth one, Twilio, which made its IPO intentions known last week, is bound to be the most interesting.

Because the closer you look at Twilio, the more it represents a new kind of tech company for a new era of tech.

All of the information in this piece is derived from Twilio’s IPO prospectus and other public sources. The startup, privately valued at $1 billion last year, intends to raise up to $100 million by going public on the New York Stock Exchange in June under the ticker symbol TWLO.

Twilio, launched in 2008, has never turned a profit. But its losses have narrowed, and revenue grew to $166.9 million in 2015. Revenue last quarter was up 78% from a year ago, while the net loss shrunk by 25%.

In many respects, Twilio is just another startup in the broad category known as software-as-a-service, or SaaS. But that underplays the startup and what it represents. To understand Twilio’s place on the internet, let’s take a closer look at the soon-to-be-public company.

Twilio calls itself a “cloud communications platform,” but remove a layer of jargon, and what Twilio does is send text messages on behalf of other services. When you receive an SMS to confirm your phone number, remind you of an appointment, or generate a password, there’s a good chance it was sent by Twilio, which has 28,648 paying clients.

Leading customers of Twilio include many large, mostly American tech companies like Uber, Box, and EMC. (Quartz uses Twilio to text links of our iPhone app to new users.)

SMS may have peaked in the most of the world, usurped by messaging apps, but it’s still the backbone of so many mobile internet services. These apps generally rely on phone numbers, instead of email addresses, to identify users, and only the ability to text unites them all.

Read the rest of the story here.