Twilio Goes After Big Fish In Germany, Adds Local Numbers, Language And Regulatory Support

Twilio, the San Francisco-based communications startup that has been disrupting the telecoms business with its model of API-based voice and text services for web and mobile apps, is today announcing Germany as its next major market in partnership with Telefonica.

On top of this the company is also announcing an Addresses API to make getting numbers across its network significantly easier.

The aim for this is not only to grow the number of smaller developers that Twilio counts as customers — today, there are some 400,000 of these and over 1 million applications integrating its APIs — but also to go after a lot bigger business. As one example, Twilio company is now providing communications services for DriveNow, a joint venture between BMW and rental agency SIXT that works as a messaging service for customers and potentially more down the line.

As CEO Jeff Lawson notes, Twilio was actually already active in the country — Germany was among the 50 countries where Twilio today provides some services. What today’s news means is that Germany is part of a smaller group of countries that also includes the U.S., UK and Japan, where Twilio is doubling down to give users a full service.

“We consider it to be a fully-launched country when you have local numbers as well as a local presence in the ecosystem,” he said in an interview. “It took us a while because Germany is complex. There is no service like Twilio there today because it is a hard market from a regulatory standpoint.” Now Twilio has surmounted that hurdle.

The full list of features now offered in Germany includes the following:

— SMS or voice calling;

— local voice numbers and mobile voice and two-way SMS numbers;

— German language messaging support with Unicode, which enables users to send and receive German language characters in text messages;

  • — German language Text to Speech for automated voice commands during phone calls;

  • — Global Low Latency (GLL) to dynamically choose the highest quality, lowest latency media paths for local phone calls;

  • — Safe Harbor compliance to meet EU privacy and security guidelines;

  • — Additional controls for data privacy with support for fine-grained control over record and content deletion;

  • — SMS delivery status API which provides information message delivery information from carriers in Germany.

While Twilio does not disclose a specific list of carrier partners in the U.S. or UK, Germany is following the route of Japan, where it works with KDDI, in disclosing that its key carrier partner in Germany is Telefonica — a “competitive” new entrant that vies for new business against incumbent Deutsche Telekom.

Lawson says that there is no investment being made by Telefonica as part of this deal, but it’s interesting to note that Spain’s main carrier has been putting a lot of focus into growing its business in Latin America (to the point of even considering a sell-off of key assets in Europe).

No comment at all from Lawson about whether Twilio is working with Telefonica elsewhere, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t potentially seen as a test bed for further collaboration down the line in other countries.

Focusing back on Germany, however, the added on-the-ground support that the company is now giving positions it to go after further enterprise customers, similar to what it does in markets like the U.S., where it, for example, works with large retailers and others to enable voice and messaging services.

The company to date has nabbed over $110 million in backing. Lawson would not comment on Twilio’s revenues or profitability, but he did say that there is more than enough in the bank right now to keep the company focused on growth rather than raising more funding. For a business that is built on scale and margins (it essentially works on a model of taking wholesale numbers and data from larger carriers and reselling by way of its API) more and larger enterprise users among its customer base — for solutions that range from customer service through to Internet-of-things machine-to-machine applications — can only help that strategy.

And that’s increasingly important, too, considering the growing list of competitors that are also going after the same business as Twilio.