DOer of the Month: Lyle Pratt of Better Voicemail

Lyle Pratt

Lyle Pratt quit his job as a senior software engineer to found his own company, and didn’t work–at first. Then he launched Better Voicemail using Twilio to provide customized voicemail systems for your mobile phone. Users can set different voicemails for first time callers, record specific greetings for groups, see what information the caller requested, all through the app. Now, Better Voicemail is expanding its market and Lyle is working on the next wave of updates. We caught up with Lyle and asked him what’s next for Better Voicemail, and how it’s been running his own company from the ground up.

We interviewed Lyle Pratt and featured his developer profile on the front page of the DOer Gallery. If  you’d like to share your story on the blog, create your DOer profile and email community@twilio.com

When did you first start using Twilio?
I first started using Twilio in the spring of 2011. I was working on another project in the gift certificate space and needed a way to enable employees to validate home printed gift certificates over the phone. Twilio was the perfect tool for that!

What was the motivation for building Better Voicemail?
After building the functionality to validate gift certificates, my eyes were opened to the massive opportunities in the telephony space. Thats when I started working on Better Voicemail! It started as a product specifically for real estate agents, but is now a valuable tool for any company or professional that conducts business over mobile phones. Incoming calls are assets that shouldn’t be wasted with a lame “leave me a message…BEEP”!

What are some of your favorite projects you built with Twilio?
I often do consulting/freelance work for companies interested in integrating telephony into their products and services. Because of this, I’ve had the opportunity to do some pretty cool things with Twilio. From text message voting apps, to programmatically traversing phone IVRs, to group collaboration tools, Twilio has been a powerful API that I’ve been able leverage in many ways for many clients. Its too hard to pick a favorite!

What technologies did you use to build Better Voicemail and what languages did you use?
I’ve personally built every aspect of the product, leveraging many technologies and languages: the front-end website, server backend, iOS app, Android app, CRM integrations, etc. It runs on Amazon Web Services, the server backend is built with Python, our call flow builder is Javascript, our iOS app is Objective-C, and our Android app is Java. We use every Twilio API available. I also make extensive use of Celery and Amazon SQS to queue SMS messages, manage call flows, and more.

Are there any other projects you have in the works?
I’m always working on new things. One big push for 2013 is integrating Better Voicemail with a broader range of CRMs. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg with this, but its really a huge opportunity. Currently, all of the valuable data (caller name, number, city, state, zip, voicemail transcription, menu choices, etc) from inbound calls that hit your mobile phone just falls into a black hole…it is being wasted. That data should be captured and automatically imported into your CRM! One of the new ones we’ll be adding support for soon is Move Inc’s TopProducer CRM since we have a significant segment of customers in the real estate industry.

Any parting thoughts?
I’m constantly amazed at how many people still haven’t heard of Twilio. I meet people in the telephony industry regularly that “have heard of Twilio, but don’t know what it is”. This is clear evidence that there is still a HUGE opportunity to leverage Twilio and other modern telephony APIs to do new, exciting, and innovative things. While I primarily spend my time at Better Voicemail, I regularly work with other companies to help them effectively make use of Twilio and I’m looking forward to the new things I’ll get to work on in 2013. Anyone can feel free to contact me if they’re looking for help in this area!