Stuck @Om
Stuck @Om
Jun 27, 2019
A Conversation With Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson On The Evolution Of Communication
Play • 35 min

There is no better person to talk with about the evolution and future of communication then Jeff Lawson. We have known each other since 2008 when we met outside a Starbucks—the same year he co-founded Twilio. He was one of the original product managers for Amazon Web Services (AWS), heavily involved in Versity, the founder of NineStar, and CTO of StubHub. He could be described as a serial inventor and early on recognized the need for communication systems.

I believe Jeff truly embodies the best of Silicon Valley. His goal with his work is to help bring out the full span of human potential and allowing people to be innovators. An Application Programming Interface (API) allows developers to enable their ideas to see the light of day. Listen to our conversation as we cover Jeff’s beginnings and company, our innate need as humans to communicate, and the future of connectedness.

Outline of This Episode
  • [0:25] Introduction of Jeff Lawson, the founder and CEO of Twilio
  • [6:50] The evolution of communication
  • [9:36] Mid-90’s AT&T ad campaign
  • [12:10] Communication and connectedness - response to the below issue
  • [15:20] Om left Facebook because of what it’s become
  • [16:41] What does the future of connectedness look like?
  • [18:40] Ethical Considerations in the tech industry
  • [23:30] Conversation about Twilio becoming a publicly traded company
  • [29:33] The impact of Amazon on the Software Industry
The evolution of communication and its impact on culture

I believe the need for humans to be able to interact and communicate with each other is as visceral as the need for food and shelter. We communicate every moment of our lives in some way or another. A hundred years ago no one would believe the communication technology we have today would be possible. Speaking with someone consisted of face-to-face conversations and perhaps writing letters. Soon, telegrams and radio became modes of communication. This eventually gave way to the telephone—people began to connect over long distances as easily as they could in person.

In the last 15 years alone the means of communication have expanded in ways never imagined. Texting, web chats, emails, VOIP, and even FaceTime have sprung up, giving new life to a world where just a century earlier only had the simplest means of communication. This has truly allowed us to build relationships with family members halfway around the world. Not only can we communicate, we can see and hear them. If you listen to this episode, we discuss some of the technological communication advances that AT&T predicted in a 1990’s ad campaign that have now come to life.

Social media was created to build communication, but does it inhibit it?

In the current world of Facebook and Instagram, we must consider whether these products meant to connect people are evolving beyond connectedness to consumerism. Are we talking past each other and not truly listening? Are we confusing conversation with human connection? So often when we are on social media we find ourselves arguing with people we don’t know, trying to make a point, or looking at meaningless content.

In a world where we value communication, are we losing our ability to actually connect?

I think we have met at a point where companies such as Facebook and Twitter have become media outlets. Their purpose is to draw us in and keep us glued to their site. They’ve brought in advertising, inaccurate news is running rampant, and we are always being sold something. We are using social media under the guise of connecting with loved ones—but we must make it worthy of our time and engagement.

We must consider ethics as the tech world is evolving

We are recognizing that technology has the ability to manipulate the human mind at a chemical level. Just let that sink in for a moment. We can essentially hack the brainstem and influence people to do what we are asking of them. Tech is addictive and the more we begin to realize the power that comes with that, the closer I believe we will get to government regulation.

We need to make a return to the idea that technology is created to enrich our lives, not take them over. I believe we have the capacity to move more towards ethical decision making when we are writing software. Technology is growing at breakneck speed, with many wonderful benefits. But it seems there is always a cost to society. Jeff and I discuss in detail some pros and cons of capitalism and consumerism. Please, keep listening.

It’s all about lowering barriers and speeding up Innovation

11 years ago, Jeff had left Amazon but completely recognizes that his work there helped create a movement. Their platform sped up innovation and lowered the barriers for new developers. The industry is evolving from an On-Premises model to Software as a service (Saas). Now, Jeff believes we are entering a whole new era of software—a Platform Business Model. 

Amazon is the fastest growing software company in history—and they don’t sell software at all. They’re selling infrastructure on a per use basis. They’re restructuring every major category of software and breaking it down into their fundamental building blocks. The world can rebuild these in a way they need them to work.

Jeff is very passionate about building software that allows the world to communicate in a meaningful way. Listen to the whole episode as we talk about these topics in depth and what the future of communication looks like and how it will continue to evolve. 

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