The Bay Area: A hub of emerging telephony?

Larry Lisser · November 12, 2009 · Short URL:

As communications move to the cloud and platforms becomes open, a new community emerges.

I've been wondering.

The Bay Area is well documented as the engine of innovation for web services, social networking and more. Some might argue even too well documented. But can the same be said about it for the telephony arena?

As someone who used to live up North, Canada once felt like the world's engine for telecom development. Companies like Nortel, Mitel and others lead the way. But those were different times, when the telcos completely dominated the go-to-market landscape, entrepreneurs were not openly welcomed into the old boys club, and the word 'cloud' only conjured up visions of something in the sky you didn't want to see on a summer day.

In the last 10 years though we have seen a sea of change, perhaps best evidenced by the open development environments we now have for creating innovative voice telephony services. Telephony has attracted out-of-the box thinkers who see huge opportunities to change the way products work, how they're packaged, provisioned and distributed. A community has evolved, with many of its thought leaders congregating in Europe this week for eComm's first overseas event.

So is there a geographical hub, like there is for the Web, where telephony innovation is clustered? As an exercise, I set out to do a little research to what concentration - if any - there was of telephony-related entrepreneurs here in my home base. I kept my filters fairly limited to those in voice or collaboration services, but was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered!

20+ Early Stage/Growth Telephony Companies Discovered on First Look

Turns out there is plenty of telephony going on here. My initial pass turned up some 20 companies, all of whom can be considered as startups (early stage or early growth):

Line2, Jajah, 3Jam, Invox, RebeVox, BubbleMotion, Ooma, Ring2, Twilio, VidTel, Promptu, Phonevite, Sabse, Transerra, SipGate, RocketVox, Ditech Networks, TalkFree, Televolution, Ribbit, Vivu

The companies vary, but voice appears to be a common denominator for most. They include wholesale platform providers of applications and services; developers of customer interaction solutions; as well as a variety of small business services providers. All operate, at some level, in the cloud. (note: I left out majors like Cisco, Polycom, Skype and Shoretel by design).

I've since set out to learn more about the offerings of these local startups and about the dynamic entrepreneurs behind them - many of whom come from non-telephony backgrounds. In follow-on posts, I hope to profile some of these companies and their leaders.

In the meantime, is the Bay Area a hub for telephony innovation? Or is the hub somewhere else? Tell me what you think. And for those in the Bay Area, please let me know who I missed on the list.

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