Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Cloud-Based Phone Software Start-Up Twilio Taps Former Jive Exec as Its CMO

There’s a certain kind of geek who gets excited about Twilio. Who among software developers wouldn’t jump at the chance of adding voice-calling and text-messaging options to a public-facing application? Companies like eBay unit StubHub, and Airbnb have used it to create some custom apps that include the use of a phone.

This creates curious opportunities for fun. When Twilio was in the process of raising its most recent funding round — a $17 million series C led by Bessemer Venture Partners and Union Square Ventures — Bessemer partner Byron Deeter created a Twilio-connected number and asked CEO Jeff Lawson to call it. As recounted by VentureBeat, when Lawson called, he heard automated voice messages asking him to press 1 for $5 million, 2 for $10 million and 3 for $15 million.

Hijinks like this say a lot about the culture that surrounds Twilio, but it’s not well known outside the developer community. Addressing that will be job one for Lynda Smith, its new chief marketing officer, who joined the company on April 23.

Smith is joining Twilio from Jive, the social enterprise software concern, where she was senior vice president of marketing until last fall. As CMO, she’ll be responsible for Twilio’s marketing strategy around the world.

“I think the Twilio brand is huge among developers because it gives that community a chance to play with something they haven’t had before,” Smith told me. “But it’s also getting a lot of traction within the telephony industry. … Voice and messaging are still a big part of the worlds that we live in, but they’ve been difficult to bring into new-world software applications because it’s still tied to some old-world things like hardware and protocols.” First priority, she says, is making sure that people outside the developer world know what Twilio is and what they can do with it.

Before Jive, Smith held a number executive slots at Genpact, Nuance, Genesys and Lockheed Martin. She’s a graduate of Simpson College, and has an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School. She’s also on the faculty at Stanford University, where she lectures on global entrepreneurial marketing.

Twilio is definitely on the move: It landed $17 million in that C round late last year, bringing its total capital raised to about $34 million. It also just announced its second conference in San Francisco, in October. Time to get serious about marketing.

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