One of the great promises of cloud computing is to make things that were previously difficult easy. Complexity is hidden and a service can be accessed through a simple API and purchased with a credit card. When that can be achieved, the results are magical. This is true for consumer services, such as Google maps, but it can also be true for developer-oriented web services. A great example of this is Twilio. Twilio hides all the complexity of telephony behind an API that is so simple (only 5 verbs do the bulk of the work) that many applications can literally be created in minutes. Here are just two quick examples for illustration: Tumblr created a post by phone feature and a developer created a personalized phone assistant.
Twilio also delivers on the other great promise of cloud computing: scalability. Twilio’s servers scale up and down dynamically to handle call volumes with amazing spikes. This is possible because Twilio itself runs on a cloud platform and has figured out how to run telephony on this platform. This also means that telephony can become an entirely variable cost endeavor. Need to set up a temporary call center (e.g. for an emergency) that has to be able to handle thousands of simultaneous calls? With Twilio this can be accomplished entirely without fixed cost and disappears as soon as the call center is no longer needed.
But Twilio has accomplished even more. It has made telephony a bona fide citizen of the Internet, by working on the basis of URLs. This is a profound transformation. Not only does it mean that web development skills can now be applied to telephony. But more importantly, telephony is changing from a closed to an open system in which adding new capabilities now becomes as simple as chaining together web service requests. Check out Twilio Labs to see this in action with their “Twimlets,” tiny stateless web services that can be mashed-up with any other application.
Twilio’s announcement today of their SMS service has us equally excited. They’ve completely streamlined the previously complex, time-consuming and costly process of building an SMS application — buying short codes, getting carrier approvals, setting up aggregator contracts, figuring out protocols, etc. Instead of months and thousands of dollars, Twilio SMS takes milliseconds to acquire a phone number, and offers a simple per-message price with no commitments or contracts. Even better, because Twilio’s SMS service is built on the same platform as their voice service, it allows for the seemless integration of the two.
We are thrilled to be supporting the Twilio team as they are working hard to revolutionize telephony. We led a Series A investment in Twilio that closed in December of last year and were delighted to join a great group of existing investors including Manu Kumar, Mitch Kapor, David Cohen, Chris Sacca and Dave McClure (who joined the board as part of this round). The funding allows Jeff Lawson, Evan Cooke, John Wolthuis and the rest of the Twilio team to further step up the pace of innovation — stay tuned for more exciting announcements coming soon.