How Jeff Lawson of Twilio Perfected His Pitch
BY Burt Helm
After striking out with a number of investors early on, Lawson took a page from Steve Jobs.
After I founded Twilio in late 2007, I started pitching our product--software that lets you make voice and text calls online--to investors. I heard no from many of them, but one guy sticks in my head.
He half-listened to what I was saying and then said, “Sounds like you’ve got a nice lifestyle business here. Certainly nothing big enough to be venture funded.” I was thinking, We’re trying to reinvent a $2 trillion industry. How is that not big enough?
What I had in my head was not translating into words. During pitches, I jumped right into use cases, and I’d wind up arguing with investors about whether dentists needed my service.
So I sat down and I watched a bunch of Steve Jobs keynotes. I studied how he set the stage, describing the state of the world as you know it, and why it sucks. And then, boom--he gives you the answer to a problem you didn’t know you had until five minutes ago.
I started using the same approach to pitch Twilio, explaining how we built the product back when I was at StubHub and needed a way for buyers to talk to sellers online, how I heard the same complaint from other developers, and how any industry could use a way to communicate with customers online.
Finally, I explained how Twilio fills that hole.
I’ve raised $110 million so far, and I believe it is because of how I set the stage. The point isn’t how our product works. What matters is what it can do. That story arc makes a huge difference.