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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Communications Platform For Mobile And Web Apps And TC Disrupt Winner Layer Raises $6 Million


Communications Platform For Mobile And Web Apps And TC Disrupt Winner Layer Raises $6 Million


Just a month after winning TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, communications platform for mobile and web apps Layer has raised $6 million in seed funding, bringing the company’s total seed funding to $7.5 million. In addition to existing seed investors CrunchFund, Data Collective, and SV Angel; the round now includes AME Cloud Ventures (Jerry Yang’s investment vehicle) e.Ventures, Ash Patel, Fuel Capital, and Greycroft.
The company was founded in March by Tomaž Štolfa, founder of vox.io, and Ron Palmeri, who previously launched a number of companies as managing director of Minor Ventures, including Grand Central (now Google Voice), OpenDNS, Scout Labs and Swivel. Palmeri is also the founder of MkII Ventures, and co-founder of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2011 runner-up Prism Skylabs.
Layer is a communications platform that can be added to any mobile app by adding fewer than 10 lines of code into the mix. Once that Layer code snippet has been placed in an app via an SDK, users will be able to send text, voice, and video messages, and share files across different applications. We’ve compared the service to a Stripe for communications.
The startup also offers a set of open source components called the Layer UI kit which work with the SDK, allowing developers to quickly build out specific user interface features, like an address book or a message sorter.
Not only does Layer aim to simplify the process of adding these communications capabilities to apps, but it also wants to eliminate developer concerns surrounding infrastructure, or how to manage scaling. The grand Layer vision involves support for web apps, too, but for now the team is releasing an SDK for iOS and Android developers
Since Disrupt, Layer has received 3,000 applications from developers to use the SDK for their mobile apps. Unfortunately, Palmeri says the company is limiting the beta to around 50 developers, which include both large and small companies. In fact, yesterday, Layer announced an integration with calendaring app Sunrise to incorporate rich messaging into the app.
Gradually, Layer expects to roll out to a larger number of developers (Palmeri expects for fully open access to the SDK in Q2 of 2014). But as Layer is adopted in a more widespread manner, there could be interesting network effecrs. For example, a good number of messaging apps (e.g. Whatsapp, LINE, WeChat, Viber, MessageMe, etc.) could actually talk to each other. Users could then choose their preferred platform based on design or feature set, and not just which app had the most of their friends using it.
Layer has 18 employees right now but will eventually expand this to nearly 40 staffers in the coming year. While $7.5 million is a pretty hefty seed round, Palmeri maintains that Layer requires a good amount of additional infrastructure to power the communication services, and the new funding will be used to both power and scale this infrastructure. Additionally, Layer has expanded into a new office in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco.
So why are investors bullish on Layer? Similar to the way Stripe allows businesses to easily integrate credit card payments into app, Layer has ambitions of being able to be the go-to framework for adding text, video, voice and other services into apps with a few lines of code. Developers want simple, and ease of use but without sacrificing security and scalability. And Layer holds the potential to meet all of these needs in a few lines of code.
Disclosure: One of Layer’s seed investors is CrunchFund, a firm founded by Michael Arrington, who also founded TechCrunch. CrunchFund is not involved in selecting Battlefield participants.