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Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson started the company in Seattle, but moved it to San Francisco shortly after it was founded.
Twilio’s Jeff Lawson started the company in Seattle, but moved it to San Francisco after it was founded.

OK, folks, it’s Friday, so let’s have a little trivia competition.

Does anyone know the name of the startup company — founded in 2008 by a former Amazon Web Services exec — that just went public on the New York Stock Exchange this week?

That’s right: Twilio.

Many long-time watchers of the Seattle tech community will recall that Twilio was started in Seattle, the brainchild of Jeff Lawson who previously served as one of the first product managers at Amazon Web Services.

The fact that Lawson fled Seattle — and then went on to build a company that’s now valued at more than $2.5 billion — will leave the entrepreneurial community in the Northwest a bit shaken.

After all, it has been some time since a software company went public in these parts. And don’t forget that another cloud-based tech company which was started in Seattle — but moved to the Bay Area — also recently went public. That company was Box, originally started on Mercer Island by Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith.

After its January 2015 IPO, Box is now valued at $1.4 billion.

Just between Box and Twilio, that’s nearly $4 billion worth of value.


Seattleites can cry a little bit in their Fremont Summer Ale tonight.

It was big news when Lawson left Seattle, with the entrepreneur telling me at the time that it was due to personal reasons. His wife received a 3-year fellowship to the University of California, San Francisco, so he decided to move. Lawson almost seemed bummed out when he decided to uproot Twilio, noting in an email that he loved the livability of Seattle, also calling it a “great place to start a company.”

“There is fantastic talent here. Amazon and Microsoft bring in great people who have entrepreneurial desires and who are good developers,” said Lawson in 2009 when he left. “Seattle, I think, is the nation’s best kept secret for a whole lot of reasons.”

Consider that one entrepreneur who simply got away, but don’t completely fret.

There’s at least one Seattle area company looking to jump into the public markets. Seattle-based RFID technology maker Impinj filed to go public earlier this month, looking to raise $60 million.

And many are hopeful that Twilio’s recent success in the public markets — its shares soared more than 90 percent in the IPO and the company raised more than anticipated at $150 million — could open the door to other public offerings in the tech sector.

It marks the first U.S.-backed IPO of 2016, and some are hoping others will follow. As to Lawson, he’s taking it one day at a time.

“You know, it’s just the first day, and this is the beginning of a very long time as a company that’s publicly traded,” Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson said Thursday on CNBC’s Squawk Alley. “So we’re not worried too much about the opening price, we’re worried about the long term.”

Sounds exactly like a disciple of the Jeff Bezos school of entrepreneurial thought.

In fact, in that same interview, Lawson noted that “It is literally day one” as communications moves from a hardware based system to a software based system.

You may recall that Bezos signs all of his annual letters to shareholders with the same phrase: “It’s still day one.”

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