Founder: Ron Palmeri, Founder & CEO
Stage: Series A
Layer is an open communication platform that makes it easy for developers to add native communications to any app, including messaging, voice and video. Keeping customer engagement top of mind, Layer takes care of the difficult messaging backend, freeing developers to focus on UI.
About Ron Palmeri
Ron is a serial entrepreneur with a long track record of identifying early opportunities and building successful teams to launch disruptive technologies. Most recently, he founded Layer, an open communications platform; venture capital firm MkII Ventures; and Prism Skylabs, a software that transforms video cameras into merchandising and business intelligence tools. As a managing director at Minor Ventures, he launched innovative companies including Grand Central (now Google Voice), OpenDNS, Scout Labs and Swivel.com.
How do you select tools and services for Layer?
Generally, the people who are responsible for a particular department or workflow have the latitude to select the tools they think will yield the best results. From my standpoint, I’m more than happy to let them choose their own tools. When we started, I assembled a very senior and very skilled team, so they all have a good sense of what they need to scale the business.
How has this philosophy changed since you started the company?
When we first started, there were conversations about which tools to buy and which to build ourselves. Ultimately, we decided that we wanted to focus our development time on building our differentiated product. There are enough tried-and-true solutions on the market (for instance, Salesforce, Zuora, Slack, Stripe and Intercom) that have already solved well-understood operational problems, so we went ahead and purchased those. From the beginning, we wanted to have high-quality tools in place that would allow us to scale.
So you didn’t wind up building any of your own tools?
With the exception of analytics tools, we did not build our own. Instead, we’ve done a lot of work to integrate those out-of-the-box tools into a streamlined operational workflow. For instance, we integrated Slack with Salesforce, JIRA and GitHub to collect and track customer issues, funnel them into the project pipeline, resolve them and conduct in-depth postmortem reporting on them. These advanced workflows are part of what gives us such high customer service ratings.
Why did you decide to build your own BI/analytics tools?
We use only homegrown analytics solutions, and these are even becoming part of our product. We realized very early on that we needed to build highly specialized analytic tools, and we didn’t want to burden our product by also using prepackaged solutions.
Why do you focus so much effort on integrating your internal apps?
We’re very focused on areas where our customers can directly perceive the quality of service or product that we offer. Because of the amazing integrations we’ve built, we’ve been able to scale our customer experience and address issues in an extremely efficient and thorough manner. I would highly recommend this approach: You have to do the work to make sure you have your processes in place—identify your system of record, which app flows into the other, what’s the defined process. You have to determine which workflow works best for your team.
It sounds like you really try to practice what you preach when it comes to selecting tools for Layer.
Our mission is to build an in-app communication infrastructure that scales, so our pitch to customers centers around making sure you have all of your building blocks in place, which will allow you to scale. We want to embody this mission at Layer, as well. We wanted to lay a solid foundation for how we would grow internally, so we invested in the best tools from day one.
Layer is so focused on UI. How do you ensure that you are continually offering the best customer experience?
Our goal is to improve communications in all respects—both for our clients and for ourselves. We do this by striving for real-time communication and streamlining customer-facing interactions. Our customer support platform–a highly integrated platform made up of Slack, Zendesk, Intercom, JIRA and Github–is aimed at creating a conversational style real-time chat (through read receipts, delivery receipts, push notifications and badges). We offer customers a number of on-ramps to our support network, and with our advanced integrations, we can quickly isolate an issue, then escalate, resolve and evaluate it. Everything we do is integrated and data-driven, and we’re continually trying to provide our customers with a personal, high-touch experience.
What advice would you give to an entrepreneur with regard to tools and services?I always tell entrepreneurs to keep talking. You should be speaking with people who are in a similar stage as you—either investor networks or founder networks. A lot of these individuals are constantly experimenting with new tools and finding the best use case for them. We’ve gotten to where we are by continually talking with others about new tools, best practices and what we’re doing, and by getting an understanding what our peers are doing.
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