Twilio, developer of a VoIP API that is used by companies like eBay, Airbnb and Hulu to add voice services into their consumer apps, has been adding support for European countries as part of its expansion strategy, first the UK and then Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland and Poland. Now Twilio is giving that effort a bit more muscle with the appointment of its first full-time, permanent employee outside the U.S.
James Parton is joining the company as its new European marketing director. His hiring is also effectively a jab at the carrier market that Twilio very much has the chance to really disrupt: Parton has been poached from Telefonica, the Spanish mobile powerhouse, where he has most recently been running developer marketing for Telefonica’s multi-regional API effort BlueVia, and before that for BlueVia’s more local precursor, Litmus at O2 UK.
Parton’s experience of explaining and connecting telephony services with developers, and his existing connection with the developer community in Europe, are both essential for Twilio right now as it looks for more traction in the region.
Parton will be starting officially on June 1, and will be based out of London. And Parton is also hiring more people to join him, according to a post on his blog. Specific skills mentioned are those interested in developer evangelism and customer support — which indicates that Twilio is looking to develop a full set of services more local to Europe, not just hire a bunch of sales people.
No permanent replacement yet has been determined for Parton at Telefonica, but the company is now actively on the lookout to replace him.
“Having done the developer work for a large company for the last five years created an itch that I needed to scratch,” Parton told TechCrunch when asked why he took the job. “I wanted to get out of the big company culture and Twilio is on a huge growth trajectory. This means a lot to me and I can’t wait to get cracking.” (Yes, he is British.)
Twilio up to now has been fairly quiet in Europe as it has been getting the building blocks in place to launch a full service in the region. That’s taken longer to sort out here than in the U.S. because of that old chestnut, European fragmentation: even the process of getting VoIP lines and access requires country-by-country applications and negotiations.
One of the things that has caught people’s attention up to now has been the company’s ability to pick up a lot of big customers, as well as a number of smaller developers, using its service. Parton says that while up to now Twilio has started to tap into the “long tail of developers,” he will be focused on picking up more “marquee customers” in the form of big brands and other interesting companies that the company can use as case studies to promote the use of Twilio.
Parton knows all too well, from the other side of the competitive field, the challenges of trying to add disruptive and new services into the entrenched world of telecoms as a way of developing new streams of revenue — and making sure companies like Twilio don’t eat carriers’ proverbial lunch.
“One of telcos’ biggest challenges is the perception issue, and trying to convince developers and startups to work with them. They have a history of over-promising and under-delivering. We overcame some of that with BlueVia but Twilio has been faster.”
Twilio, he says, has been faster to cut-through because of how they’ve developed and executed on the product. “It’s super easy for developers to pick up and get started.”
Twilio has to date raised $33.7 million in funding from an A-list of backers including Besssemer Venture Partners, Union Square Ventures and Dave McClure.
Update: To be clear, Parton is the first full-time and permanent employee outside the U.S. but he’s not the very first person to work for Twilio in Europe. Stevie Graham has been a UK developer evangelist for the company on a contract basis since September 2011: that’s a link to the blog post announcing his arrival, where he refers to himself as “the first and only Twilio employee outside of the United States.” He has also been working full-time.