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Twilio’s CEO Explains Why His Company Went Public

U.S. Markets React To UK Referendum On EU MembershipU.S. Markets React To UK Referendum On EU Membership
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23: Twilio Inc. founder and CEO Jeff Lawson (C, in glasses) reacts after ringing the opening bell to celebrate Twilio's initial public offering, at the New York Stock Exchange, June 23, 2016 in New York City. Financial markets are bracing for the outcome of Thursday's historic 'Brexit' referendum, where Britons will head to the polls to decide whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)Drew Angerer — Getty Images

When business software company Twilio filed paperwork in May to go public, it was separating itself from the dozens of other so-called “unicorn” startups that are valued at $1 billion or more.

Lately, going public hasn’t been very en vogue among tech companies. For example, ride-hailing giant Uber continues to delay while data crunching company Palantir has long said it planned to remain private forever.

But not Twilio, whose shares began trading on June 23 on the New York Stock Exchange.

“If you raise venture capital, you really are making a commitment to your investors that you’ll get them a return,” Twilio co-founder and CEO Jeff Lawson said on Monday at the annual TechCrunch Disrupt tech conference in San Francisco.

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Delivering returns to investors can also be achieved through acquisitions, as TechCrunch writer Frederic Lardinois pointed out, but Lawson largely dodged the implied question. “We were always focused on building a business for the long-term,” he said, hinting that remaining independent is the only way to achieve that.

Going public was also a business strategy for Twilio.

“Trust is the number one thing you sell as a cloud company,” said Lawson. “The best way to deliver on trust and to show that companies should trust you […] is to become a public company,” he added, pointing out that people know that public companies are usually run as “tighter ships” than private ones.

Ironically, this last point is largely why many others are avoiding the public markets—they don’t want the public market scrutiny on their businesses, much less have to reveal anything they’re doing behind close doors. (I’m looking at you, ride-hailing and food delivery startups!)

Twilio’s IPO has panned out quite well for the company so far. After initially pricing at $15, higher than originally anticipated, its stock price quickly rose to $25 before noon on its first day of trading.

On Monday, Twilio’s share price closed at $56.52, more than double that initial jump to $25.

But Twilio’s IPO could have been a disaster: It initially planned to go public a day later than it did, which turned out to be the day the U.K. voted to leave the European Union. The subsequent decision to leave threw the markets into disarray for a few days. According to Lawson, his company wasn’t worried about the vote, thinking it wouldn’t have any effect, but nevertheless decided to move its IPO to a day earlier. And good thing that it did.