In this panel discussion, live-streamed from four locations across the globe late November 2022, we hear from three of the most influential original CPaaS founders about their journeys in building and selling their companies, and the road ahead. Together, these Godfathers of CPaaS combine 30+ years of CPaaS experience and telco innovation, which gives them a unique perspective on the history of CPaaS, the opportunities for telcos to get involved and monetize their network assets, and the future drivers for success.

How it started

Never before have Jason Goecke (Tropo 2011-2015, sold to Cisco), Tony Jamous (Nexmo 2010-2018, sold to Vonage which in turn was sold to Ericsson this year) and Jean Deruelle (Telestax 2011-2021, sold to Mavenir) come together to look back on how all of this got started, what went well and what they would do differently if they had a chance to do it again.

Tropo, Nexmo and Telestax were all started around 2010-2011, just as many of the other leading CPaaS players in the market today. APIs were becoming popular and telco APIs for SMS and voice were discovered by software developers as a way to embed communications into mobile and SaaS applications. Smartphones were becoming a thing, and the ability to use SMS for security checks (2FA) and marketing, number masking and elastic SIP to embed or connect voice, and WebRTC to embed video in all sorts of new social apps proved game changers.

This democratization of telecoms led to a quick growth of the CPaaS providers, huge capital investments in the likes of Twilio, and the first wave of M&A. Tropo was acquired by Cisco in 2016 to form the basis of Webex, Nexmo became part of Vonage which went IPO and was sold to Ericsson last year for more than $6B, and Telestax pivoted to becoming a CPaaS Enabler before being picked up by Mavenir to become part of their Enterprise Communications portfolio last year.

How it’s going

The interest of companies like Cisco, Ericsson and Mavenir in CPaaS, and their focus on working with telcos and CSPs, can be explained by the unique position that CSPs have and the transformation they’re going through. Carriers and mobile operators own the fixed and mobile networks that we’ve grown to depend upon, but also the enterprise customers looking for new customer engagement solutions. Looking for ways to monetize the huge investments done in 5G and fiber, many are on a path to open up their networks with Network as a Service (NaaS) propositions, and telco API standardization became a real thing this year with Project Camara (run by GSMA and Linux Foundation).

On this path from telco to techco partnerships with CPaaS Enablers are essential to address more verticals. After leaving Vonage Tony Jamous started Oyster HR, to democratize the global HR business through APIs. At Mavenir, Jean Deruelle is now working on smarter, data driven, enterprise communications. And Cisco Webex is one of the leading Collaboration platforms in large enterprises.

What’s next

Asked about the future of CPaaS, our panel is pretty clear. There are currently around 20M CPaaS users, all software developers that know their way around APIs and SDKs, and to get to the next 20M users no-code and low-code solutions will be essential in order to give marketing and business owners (think also of the huge SME market) the same power of creativity. Where the original CPaaS providers cracked the developer market, the next opportunity is providing the right tools and solutions to business users.

AI and real-time personalization will not replace but augment humans in customer engagement, which will continue to become more and more important for all brands. And there is a huge opportunity in IOT and M2M/M2H communication, especially with the new 5G networks growing in importance. Combined with the immediate business messaging, elastic voice, NaaS and 5G opportunities this explains why companies like Ericsson, Mavenir and Cisco are investing so heavily in CPaaS and programmable telecoms!

With the current headwinds in the global economy, now is the best time to start a business in this space, leveraging the latest technology and partnerships, so who knows where we’ll see these three pioneers next!

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Over the past 30 years Rob (co-)founded various tech companies, including one of the leading Dutch hosted voice providers (before hosted voice became the new normal). Today, he works with telcos/CSPs and some of the world’s leading technology providers on innovation and growth, especially in the rapidly changing world of cloud communications and CPaaS. Rob has this crazy belief that the strengths of corporates and innovators should be combined in new ecosystems to create optimal customer experience, new business models and solutions for some of today’s big problems.

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