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Twilio Accelerates Electric Imp to Reinforce its growing IoT business

While you may mostly think about Twilio in the context of its voice and text messaging platform, the company has recently made a number of moves to bolster its IoT platform, which is already one of its fastest-growing business units. To accelerate this push, the company today announced that it quietly acquired IoT platform Electric…

While you may mostly consider Twilio from the circumstance of its text and voice messaging platform, the company has recently made a number of moves to reinforce its IoT platform, which is already among its fastest-growing business components. To accelerate this drive, the firm today announced it softly obtained IoT platform Electric Imp a few months ago.

Prior to the acquisition, Electric Imp, that was among the prior IoT startups, had raised about $44 million from companies like Ramparts Capital, which led its 2016 Series C round, with participation from Redpoint, Foxconn, Lowercase Capital and PTI Ventures. Both companies did not disclose the purchase price of this acquisition.

Electric Imp makes it easier for businesses to safely connect their IoT apparatus with their information centers and third-party providers. The company was co-founded by Hugo Fiennes, who was the engineering manager for its hardware group at Apple that started the iPhone. He went to Google to work on IoT projects there, but realized that Google had built the idea he wished to work on in the company using Android for Things, after managing four phone launches at Apple. He also turned down a job at Nest — he did the layout and structure of their thermostat, also. Interest, and of his co-founders (which include Gmail designer Kevin Fox, who left the business in 2013, and applications architect Peter Hartley), was elsewhere, though.

“My worry for IoT was, I didn’t wish to be spending many years building something that was going to become a thermostat,” he said. “Not that a thermostat isn’t an important matter — it does save a lot of energy but it was like,’oh my God, this technology — IoT, connecting a business service into the actual world — allows you to optimize the real world.”

So the concept behind Electric Imp was to build a flexible, architecture-agnostic platform that would take care of all of the plumbing to construct an IoT system and then manage its own life cycle throughout recent years. Most companies struggle with things like updates and, associated with that, safety, Fiennes claims. That is what Electric Imp aims to abstract away for the customers.

Image Credits: Twilio

“We always wanted it to be really accessible,” Fiennes said. “We do not know all of the software. It is not like’that is gonna be for us to tracking, let’s just asset tracking.’ They sign up, whatever, just try it and simply buy a dev kit, if we are aware that it’s for general purpose, has to be accessible to anybody. And a lot of our marketing, for better or for worse, was really only,’hello, it is a Fantastic Solution, right?'”

Since Fiennes mentioned, because respect Electric Imp wasn’t that different from Twilio — and also the company actually used Twilio as it demoed its product to possible Series A shareholders.

Twilio CEO and co-founder Jeff Lawson also mentioned that the IoT space hasn’t been innovating at the speed of software. “It has been fun watching Twilio customers invent new attached experiences such as shared scooters, and wearables that empower children to communicate with their parents,” he explained. “It reminds me of this explosion of consumer involvement use cases Twilio customers invented utilizing our Programmable Voice and SMS APIs. But the IoT industry doesn’t appear to draw innovation in precisely the exact same speed as applications. One explanation is that experimentation.  Many of the infrastructure problems remain unsolved, although From democratizing access to mobile IoT connectivity, we’ve been able to help move things along. With the Electric Imp acquisition, we get the team and technology required to make a larger dent in the problems facing future IoT programmers”

Image Credits: Electric Imp

It is well worth noting that Electric Imp isn’t supposed to be a stage for high-bandwidth use instances, like streaming video, but more for connecting sensors that produce a more manageable number of data to the cloud. Among Electric Imp’s clients is Pitney Bowes, making postage meters, but you can also think smart grids, river-level tracking etc.. And while Electric Imp’s technology may also be found in devices for consumers, Fiennes considers that this platform’s value is not necessary in high-volume goods.

“I think it’s kind of like, a lot of these [consumer use cases are] are like,’it is possible to join it. Why?’ But there a lot of things such as, river-level monitoring and a complete load of things that are hard to handle without IoT. And they’re not always enormously high volume, which explains exactly why a repeatable platform that can be sold to a lot of customers without change is actually important as you get to goal the niches where there is a great deal of value”

With this acquisition, Twilio isn’t just buying a product but also a lot of expertise in establishing an IoT infrastructure. While the company doesn’t disclose the size of its IoT group, Twilio’s Evan Cummack, the GM of Twilio IT, and Chetan Chaudhary, the VP of Sales for IoT, who collectively set the IoT business unit, inform me that a lot of early Twilio employees now operate on the IoT side, including Twilio’s very first architect and the company’s first sales rep.

Cummack and Chaudhary told me after a couple of years of working at Twilio, the realized there was lots of untapped potential in IoT to the company.

In the early days of Twilio, both worked on constructing out Twilio’s plan for selling to enterprise companies — and to a extent, they are now aiming to utilize a similar playbook to build out Twilio’s IoT company, although the notion is really quite a bit older and pre-dates Twilio’s 2016 IPO.

“What I understood was that it was the combination of a very powerful go to market together with the technical art that allowed us to get to the early large wins [for Twilio],” Chaudhary said. “And we had this thought around doing exactly the same thing for cellular connectivity for IoT devices because we were already buying wholesale voice and messaging. And I got to work with some of our carrier connections people and helping them shut some of the deals that were connectivity. And I was like:’Why can not we sell SIM cards?'”

Twilio launched its IoT business in partnership with T-Mobile in 2016. The product was its own wired wireless support. It then acquired Berlin’s Core Network Dynamics in 2018 to solve another set of issues which IoT programmers were facing around connecting their IoT devices.

“What we saw once we began playing in connectivity was that there’s still just a tremendous quantity of pipes that’s not solved for,” Cummack noted. “So you’ve got an enormous amount of customers having to construct their own safety stacks, over-the-air update capacities, secure boot, and manufacturing tools, analyzing, manufacturer, even only things like getting connected to wireless networks, cellular networks and Wi-Fi networks has been far too high. And all this stuff is exactly what I’d consider to be platform stuff. It is all kind of pipes.”

In its first days Twilio despite the IoT group for a small startup within the provider. But that seems to be shifting. “Twilio IoT developed from an inner experimentation into a fully fledged business unit using a flourishing connectivity firm,” Lawson told me. “It has the capability to evolve again into a market-leading platform to the emerging IoT developer community.”

Twilio has already integrated lots of Electric Imp’s solutions to its go-to-market strategy, Chaudhary noted. “They’ve already brought […] lots of credibility in a few deals because of their DNA and because of the things which they were able to solve, particularly around the embedded layout and hardware design, we were able to observe a few excellent synergies early on  and today we’ll start to find some new customers, I think, come out of it.”

Fiennes will last at Twilio as a Senior Product Architect, working on IoT and Electric Imp is really releasing its newest product now: the imp006 breakout board for arming IoT goods, that — no surprise there — comes with Twilio’s Super SIM for worldwide connectivity already pre-installed.

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Twilio Accelerates Electric Imp to Reinforce its growing IoT business”