Twilio officially launches in Japan, CEO Jeff Lawson expects ‘enormous demand’



A year after initially announcing their partnership last year, Twilio and KDDI (TYO:9433) today launched Twilio for the Japanese market. The service allows developers to build voice/VoIP and SMS functionality into web programs and applications. And now as a result of this partnership, Japanese developers can go to and sign up for it.

Through the partnership with KDDI Web Communications, the website and documentation have been localized, and developers can pay in yen when they sign up for Twilio service. Leading up to today, there was a beta period of about four months where they had a number of Japanese customers using the Twilio for KWC product, who gave valuable feedback that helped them prepare for launch.

We had a chance to speak with Twilio’s CEO Jeff Lawson at the launch event today, who told us a little more about this, their first foray into Asia:

Obviously Japan is a complicated market to enter, especially for a startup, so we chose to work with a partner who knows the market very well. We expect there will be an enormous demand for Twilio here, based on the amount of software development, and the size of the economy.

jeff lawson

In addition to language localization, Twilio has established a Tokyo data center presence via Amazon Web Services.

Jeff describes the partnership with KWC as a “really good cultural match.” Interestingly, KDDI had initiated a similar project called Boundio, which was started as an API based on their observations of Twilio [1]. But as discussions between Twilio and KDDI progressed, the Japanese company decided that they should just offer Twilio rather than try to compete with it. Nonetheless, Jeff explains that the KWC’s initiative was something that really impressed him.

What we liked was that they were thinking ahead. They were movers. They made a product and got it out there, and for a carrier, that’s not easy to do since [carriers] are typically slow moving. KWC is a startup within KDDI, and we liked how their vision aligned with ours, how they feel about APIs and developers, and how they are building the ecosystem and community – really understanding what it takes to bring a product to market.

Twilio is built for software people, says Jeff. And that phrase, ‘software people’ was one that he used a lot at their Twilio Japan Summit today. APIs like Twilio, he says, are the scaffolding that software people use to build great customer experiences. And by doing so, small agile companies can challenge slower moving incumbants in billion dollar industries. Companies like Uber are using Twilio’s telephony solution to connect their passengers with the drivers of luxury cars. Another company, Babelverse, uses Twilio to enable their one-to-one language interpretation service.

Currently there are over 200,000 developers building on the Twilio platform. Back in 2010, that total stood at just 10,000, so their growth has been pretty spectacular. It will be interesting to see what kind of services spring up here in Japan atop the Twilio platform. It’s certainly encouraging to see more building blocks becoming available to Japanese developers.


  1. Boundio will be retired now that KDDI is working with Twilio.  ↩