Enterprise Mobility

Mobile Mashups

By Michael Stanford  |  November 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

Last August Skype (News - Alert) bought GroupMe, a startup based on group messaging, the clever idea of assigning a phone number through which a group of people can exchange SMS messages (text messages). Each message sent to that number is relayed to all the members of the group, to create the effect of an SMS-based chat room.

As of March 2011, when GroupMe was the hot item at the SXSW (News - Alert) conference, a blogger at thenextweb.com counted a dozen other startups based on the same idea. This abundance of competitors was because the effort involved to create an application like GroupMe is relatively trivial. The working prototype of GroupMe was coded in just 1 1/2 days at the Techcrunch Disrupt Hackathon in May of 2010. The coding was fast because the heavy lifting was done by third party back-end services. For example, the GroupMe prototype based its SMS functionality on cloud APIs hosted by a company called Twilio (News - Alert).

Twilio is just one of many service providers selling a la carte capabilities via web APIs. Others offering SMS APIs include Voxeo and Clickatell. In voice communications one of the most venerable is Tellme (News - Alert) (now part of Microsoft), which provides APIs to cloud-based automatic speech recognition and IVR call routing.

For enterprise mobility, the lesson is clear: Monolithic applications belong to the past. When you hide your legacy applications behind your own set of web APIs, you can take advantage of the new web-as-a-platform paradigm, mixing your proprietary capabilities with the best of what is available from third parties like Twilio, and you can deliver a collection of user interfaces optimized for the three main client form factors: PC/laptop, touch tablet and phone.

That's easily said, but prototyping is just the beginning. It takes considerable skill and effort to design a scalable, secure and usable application. After the prototype was running, GroupMe raised $11 million to do that.


Michael Stanford (News - Alert) (News - Alert) has been an entrepreneur and strategist in Voice-over-IP for over a decade. Visit his blog at www.wirevolution.com. To read more of Michael’s articles, please visit his columnist. Page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi