US firm talks about its mission to bring telephony services to the long tail of developers.
Twilio is the Gold Partner of ME's Top 50 Mobile Innovators project, which aims to identify the cream of the British mobile content scene. Here, we speak to James Parton about the company's mission and its new European focus...
It's hard to think of many more disruptive companies than Twilio. It regularly appears in those 'ones to watch' lists. And now it's backing ME's own Top 50.
Why? Because Twilio is all about supporting 'do-ers'. Twilio classifies do-ers as those people that roll their sleeves up and build stuff – be that software or companies or both.
The origins of Twilio arose in 2007 from the founders' frustration over the complexity around web telephony.
The rise of VoIP was transforming and democratising the telco space - but not for developers. For those small creatives that wanted to create products based on voice or text – or even complement what they were doing with these extras – there was still a huge barrier consisting of monolithic aggregators and arcane operator hierarchies.
Twilio saw that the open web tools being used by developers could be used to create simple plug-ins to access to core telephony services. What used to take months and require a round of golf with the head of strategic partnerships at Sprint could be done almost instantly with a bit of code and simple pay as you go pricing.
The service works as follows: the developer can buy as many unique numbers from Twilio as they need. When this number is called or texted by the customer, Twilio passes that request to the developer's web server to execute whatever code they want.
This summer the company counted 100,000 developers on its platform.
Impressive number. Of course, Twilio is a platform company and it relies on the ingenuity of its partners to drive excitement around its core services. Happily for the firm, examples abound.
Remember the fuss around group messaging apps last year? After SXSW everyone wanted one. Among the hottest of the start-ups was GroupMe, which sold for over $50m to Skype barely a year after formation.
Its product was powered by Twilio.
Since then there have been many more. Hulu used the solution to dramatically reduce the cost and complexity of its IVR contact centre. Stubhub automated ticket confirmation processes between buyers and sellers, while Zendesk used it as the basis of creating a call centre solution that costs organisations 1.6c a minute to use.
According to James Parton, head of European marketing at Twilio, this is just the start. "There are so many applications of the basic technology," he says.
"You can use it to set up anonymous calls for example, which would be useful for dating sites. You could have a Spotify jukebox in a club and people could text the application to add tracks to the playlist. You could place an outbound phone call from within a customer contact spreadsheet.
"And with voice services the real benefit is the call tracking. Historically it's been difficult to get analytics for calls, but if you can set up unique numbers for every new campaign, that changes."
Parton was hired away from Telefonica, where he headed up marketing for the BlueVia API programme, to accelerate Twilio's growth in Europe (where it now has services in 11 countries). His main task is developer outreach, but further down the line Twilio also wants to scale up its business with enterprises.
And its hiring. So if you speak code in an evangelistic accent, get in touch with James on @jamesparton.
* Twilio will be holding a developer conference on October 16th to 18th in San Francisco. Details here