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Twilio and other companies are saying we have terms of service that ensure that people behave in line with societal norms: Twilio Co-Founder & CEO

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Jeff Lawson, Twilio Co-Founder & CEO joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss his new book and the response from the tech industry of the Capitol riots.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. Shares of Twilio have been on a tear along with the broader cloud space-- the stock up more than 300% year on year. And today, we're seeing it hit a new high today as companies increasingly migrate their operations into the cloud. CEO and co-founder Jeff Lawson out with a new book, "How to Harness the Power of Software Developers and Win in the 21st Century," and he joins us today.

Jeff, congratulations on the book. We're going to get to that in just a bit, but I do want to start the discussion by talking about this conversation we have seen play out in the tech space in the wake of the Capitol riots last week-- the responsibility tech companies have in regulating content. Twilio one of those companies that suspended conservative platform Parler, and I am curious what the conversation was internally that led to that action. How do you see your role right now and the conversation about regulating some content, hate speech, disinformation that has been elevated online?

JEFF LAWSON: Well, look, in society, words matter, and actions matter. Like, that's what makes a society function. And that's why companies have acceptable use policies and terms of service. And, look, this isn't a new concept. Like, in the offline world, you can't walk into a movie theater and yell, fire. You can't walk into an ice cream parlor and start shouting racist epithets and expect to continue to be a customer of those establishments.

Basically, online businesses have the same concept. And what you see is Twilio and other companies saying, we have these terms of service that are just ensuring that everybody here is acting in a way that's in line with our societal norms.

ZACK GUZMAN: And I mean, when we're talking about this space too, obviously, you've been running this company here. You started as a developer. And when we think about where kind of the cloud infrastructure has gone, what are your takes on maybe what growth is kind of ahead? Because we've been seeing this rotation when we talk about analysts looking at the space maybe saying that the idea of a Salesforce to play this is kind of done-- when we think Asana, Twilio, all these other companies focusing on the cloud and helping companies really, I guess, capitalize on this shift to working online and accessing customer relations online.

It seems like you guys are in the right space. But when it comes to the biggest question, a lot of people are saying so much of this demand has been pulled forward. And when we return to normal, all that's going to be going away. So what are you seeing maybe in the continued theme of that, not just in 2021, but years ahead?

JEFF LAWSON: Yeah. What we saw in 2020 was an acceleration of the trends that have already been occurring for the last decade, right? Many people have talked about digital transformation and why that is so important. And those wheels have been turning now for 10, you might even say 20 years.

And what 2020 did is it just accelerated many of those plans. Like, if you had a roadmap to move certain parts of your business into software or maybe from on-prem into the cloud, a lot of those plans that maybe were slated to take five years, maybe they got done in one year or six months. And so we didn't take a left turn and do things that we wouldn't have done otherwise as a society, but I think basically the digitization of so many interactions, the building of software to manage our businesses, and to operate digitally have just been accelerated.

And you see this in some of the numbers, like e-commerce, and you read some of the statistics like I have-- that, you know, e-commerce penetration just got accelerated by two or three years, and some companies even more. And that's basically the trajectory that we were already on, it just moved faster.

AKIKO FUJITA: And, Jeff, let's talk about your book, because you started writing this before the pandemic. And it does feel a little prophetic in a way, given that we've seen so much growth in this space over the last nine months or so. What prompted you to write the book. And to the headline-- to the title of the book about harnessing the power of software developers, how has your overarching thesis shifted a bit, given that companies that aren't the Twilios of the world are now software companies as well because the market has shifted in such a significant way?

JEFF LAWSON: Yeah. Every company is becoming a software company, because in the digital economy, those companies who are able to build the products and experiences that their customers love online are the companies that win. And therefore, the companies who are able to unleash the software talent, the builders of that software, those are the companies that are succeeding in this digital economy. So "Ask Your Developer" is a playbook for how to unleash the developer talent and the technical talent in your company, or how to recruit and retain that talent for your company, so that you can win when it comes to winning the hearts, minds, and wallets of customers in this digital economy.

AKIKO FUJITA: When you're talking about that talent, though, there was already so much competition if you look at, for example, the Bay Area on software developers. We've seen a number of companies start to hire outside as well because of this work-from-home environment. How does a company like Twilio keep up in that environment when you're not just talking about a select group of tech companies anymore-- that markets and the competition for software developer talent is even more significant?

JEFF LAWSON: Well, there is great developer talent everywhere in the world. And so I don't think the Bay Area has the monopoly on it. There's great talent everywhere. But you're right-- there is a shortage of talent. There's about 25 million professional software developers in the world. That number is expected almost double in the next decade, which is good news.

And the proceeds of the book, by the way, are helping non-profits who are bringing underrepresented populations into the field of coding and into technology worlds. But when you think about the message of my book, it's how to empower those developers, how to help unleash their talents. Because coding is a creative exercise. And at so many companies, developers are treated almost like digital assembly line workers where they're given a specification and say, write code that does exactly this, and really don't use your brain, just write the code.

At those kinds of companies, I don't think developers want to go to work there, and it's certainly hard to retain that talent when you say, don't use your brain. And so part of the message of my book is to think of code as a creative exercise. Think of developers as creative problem solvers. And share problems, big business problems, with them instead of just sharing solutions. And when you do that, you've got a much better shot at recruiting and retaining the best talent, because you're treating them like really creative professionals, not just code monkeys.

ZACK GUZMAN: And a lot being made about what that talent pool looks like-- interesting to see you donating the proceeds of the books to organizations that teach underrepresented populations to code as well. I wanted to highlight that. But, Jeff Lawson, co-founder and CEO of Twilio, thanks again for joining us today.

JEFF LAWSON: Thank you.