Twilio, a company that helps developers build voice calling and SMS functionality into their apps, just hired up one of the people who helped make Skype huge. Tomorrow morning, Twilio will announce that Skype’s former Head Of Engineering, Ott Kaukver, is their new VP of Engineering.
I usually tend to stay away from all of this “X hired Y” stuff because… well, I dont care — but strategically, this one is pretty interesting.
According to Skype’s old exec bio page for Ott (which has been taken down, but is still visible here), he joined Skype when it was still a lil’ 30-man team out of Estonia. He began as their Director of Operations in 2004, then got bumped up to Head Of Engineering in 2005, first focusing on their core technology then shifting over to lead the consumer products team in 2008.
On the business side, he helped grow Skype’s engineering team from a few dozen people up to a few hundred. On the engineering side, he helped build and scale Skype’s technology into.. well, into Skype, as we know it.
Ott stayed with Skype after it was acquired by eBay in 2005 — but after finding himself with about a hundred thousand new colleagues after Skype was in turn acquired by Microsoft in 2011, he decided to move onto something new. He parted ways with the company at the end of 2012.
If nothing else, it’s an interesting move from a competitive standpoint. While Twilio isn’t a direct competitor with Skype (Skype builds a consumer facing communications product, Twilio builds APIs that let others build communications products) they’re certainly not ever going to be best friends. Twilio’s APIs let developers build telephony/VoIP stuff into their own products — and when people spend time talking on those products, it means less time spent talking on Skype. In some sense, Ott is taking on the very product he spent much of the last decade building.
With that said: Twilio has done a good job evangelizing with developers, is hiring like mad, and just raised a mountain of cash to keep things moving smoothly. At that point, the challenge becomes one of scaling — and if there’s anyone who can help scale a cloud telephony company, it’s probably the dude who already did it for Skype.