$17 Million Series C Financing Vote of Confidence in Twilio and “Conversations as a Platform”

Two of its three Series B investors our upping their ante in Twilio, providing cash to fuel the three-year-old company’s international expansion and growth in support of a community of telco application developers and customer that has already exceeded 75,000. In a way, it is a form of “doubling down,” in that the $17 million in Series C, brings the grand total of investment in Twilio (including “seed” money) to $34 million. The grand prize, as we discussed in this post regarding the recent Twilio Developers Conference are the proceeds of the $250 billion in global spending on telephone services around the world.

As a private company, Twilio does not report its bottom line results, but it reports growth in many variables that drive top line growth, including a 400% growth in its customer base and demonstration of a number of applications and use cases that will drive increased traffic in both SMS-based messaging and minutes of use on its telephony cloud. Today, its employee count is approaching 100. They are primarily located in San Francisco. It opened its UK office in October to support European expansion. Some of the cash infusion is earmarked to support presence in Poland, France, Portugal, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Romania, Greece, Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Finland.

Putting the lie to the general critique that many of the Web 2.0 companies – Twitter and Facebook had been cited – generate profits without creating jobs, Twilio has new posts for The company is hiring positions in sales, marketing, and engineering and encourages interested candidates should visit http://twilio.com/jobs.

From a strategic point of view, Twilio’s ability to attract investment signals continued interest in the ever-changing concept of a “The Transformational Telephone Company” – which I think of as a set of resources that comprise “Conversations as a Platform.” Jeff Lawson, one of Twilio’s co-founders, says the company’s sights set on Microsoft’s Skype, which was one of the first IP-based telephony platform providers and, along with Google (whose GoogleVoice rose out of the combination of GrandCentral and Gizmo5), started to simplify the ways that individuals could receive or originate conversations across multiple locations, devices, modalities (text, voice, video) and even time.

These telephony stalwarts demonstrated what was possible on “closed,” proprietary systems. It sparked the imagination of a new generation of telco application developers. Then companies like Voxeo Labs (then called Adhearsion), which now offers a wide range of capabilities to developers through its PRISM platform; the late, lamented Ribbit; and another set of developers around “open PBXs” thrived while building applications on top of Asterisk, VXI, FreeSwitch and others.

With investment, interest and imagination comes action and innovation. 2012 is shaping up to be a year in which the time it takes to conceive of a new service that support better conversations and when it is formally delivered to a mainstream subscribers shrinks from months to weeks (and even days). We’ve already documented how the GroupMe texting service was originated using the Twilio platform in a one-day “hackathon.” After a successful year of service delivery, the company was purchased by Microsoft/Skype for something in excess of $65 million.

In 2012, I expect accelerated activity among the giant companies across telephony, IT and search to continue. Twilio and its community of developers may have its sights set on Skype/Microsoft. The aforementioned Google will continue to grow its presence with a set of offerings that span devices (they own Motorola Mobility), speech processing, call processing, “identity” (with directories embedded in Gmail, G+…) and ultimately eCommerce. That’s where other “giants” in the cloud have come to play: including Amazon Web Services, Saleforce.com and (yes) Oracle. The most interesting “interested parties” in the new ecosystem are the diversified, incumbent telcos: AT&T, Verizon, Vodafone, Orange, Telefonica, Deutsche Telecom and others. Which brings us back to the service delivery platform providers, especially Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Huawei and others.

2012 will be a great year for developers around the world!



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