Web telephony landscape rapidly changing, what’s next?

With the latest Voxeo acquisition of Teleku, one thing is certain: Web and cloud telephony is front and center in today’s communications landscape.

Consider this: Phoenix-based Teleku started in January 2010, went private beta in February, became publicly accessible in March, picked up by TechCrunch in April, and acquired by Voxeo in August. So not even six months as a publicized startup, Teleku has been absorbed into one of the premier Web/cloud telephony companies.

Mark Headd on his Vox Populi blog shares his insight about the trend:

Portability – underscored not only by Teleku’s support for the open standard VoiceXML, but also the Tropo crew’s involvement in the Asterisk world, and the defacto standard for building Asterisk apps in Ruby – Adhearsion.

SIP integration – remember this kids: true cloud telephony has SIP baked in – the rest is just marketing fluff. Both Tropo and Teleku support SIP interoperability and make it very easy for developers to use SIP as part of their applications.

Multi-channel / multi-modality – Both Tropo and Teleku have big multi-modal chops. Being able to interact with users on multiple communication channels from one code base is a key tenant of unified communications and cloud telephony, and this will become increasingly important in the future.

Speech recognition – cloud telephony isn’t your grandfather’s way to build a phone app, so why should users be restricted to their grandfather’s way of interacting with a phone app? Speech recognition is fully supported in both Tropo and Teleku, and this will matter more and more to cloud telephony developers going forward.

This trend is undeniable. As I’ve blogged before, the new generation of telephony apps will be created by developers comfortable with mashups, Web standards, and scripting languages. So what movements can we expect going forward and from this acquisition?

Obviously, all eyes are on Twilio, the biggest competitor to Voxeo-backed Tropo. There’s a tweet that stood out to me, by @christoffe, which alleged that Twilio wanted to buy Teleku but “didn’t move fast enough.” Teleku founder Chris Matthieu confirmed that he did meet with the three cofounders of Twilio in San Francisco. But alas, Twilio and Teleku were not meant to be together.

Twilio has some good and well-known DNA in its leadership. It lists Dave McClure of Founder’s Fund and Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures as board directors, two VC names that need no further introduction. Other notable investors listed on CrunchBase include Mitch Kapor (of Lotus fame) and Chris Sacca (one of the first investors in Twitter). Total funding dated 12/2009: $3.7 million. No chump change, but now it has to face Voxeo’s $9 million (at least).

Will Twilio look for an exit? Obviously it understands the need to create a stronger organization with its interest in Teleku. Now it definitely needs a partner that is deep in telecom yet focused on the Web transformation. One company that comes to mind is Alcatel-Lucent, a company that’s made some interesting moves recently too, such as acquiring ProgrammableWeb.

Of course, there’s no telling which company Voxeo may gobble up next to change the game again.


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