Introducing the New Layer Dashboard

A powerful way to manage messaging applications across your organization

We recently announced the general release of the new Layer Dashboard to help customers better manage their usage. The Layer Dashboard is essentially your hub for working with our services and managing individual applications, critical data, users, and settings.

As you build out an ecosystem of world-class messaging in your organization, access control and authorization will become increasingly important. To fill this need, the Layer Dashboard is built with a role-based system that gives admins the power to control access to organizational data and settings.

This introductory post will give you an overview of what you can do with the Layer Dashboard. The full documentation can be found here.

Organizations vs. Applications on the Layer Dashboard

At a high level, the role-based access control within the Layer Dashboard is broken into two groups—organizations and roles.

Your organization represents a set of applications, a set of members who have access to those applications, settings for application authentication, and your overarching billing information.

There are three separate access types you can assign at the organization level:

  • Administrator: These members will have control over the organization’s settings, user invitations, and member access to individual applications. These capabilities span throughout the entire organization, regardless of the number of applications.
  • Member: These users won’t be able to see the organization as a whole. Rather, they’ll be able to view the applications they have access to, view the other members in those applications, and view authentication settings.
  • Billing Manager: Because the person responsible for paying for Layer services isn’t always a member on applications, this is a separate organizational role. These users can see a specific billing section that provides control over payment methods, plan changes, mobile authentication numbers, past invoices, and more.

Within your organization, you’ll see all of the applications you’ve created with Layer services. These applications represent sets of IDs, keys, and settings that allow users to communicate.

By breaking the organization into separate applications, you can have conversations, messages, and identities that don’t interfere with each other. This way you won’t have to worry about your different product teams mixing the wrong data. The key to this separation is access control at the member level.

Administrators at the organizational level will automatically be administrators for all applications within your organization. However, there are two other access options for members of individual applications:

  • Developer: This is the default access level for application members. It enables members to view and change most application settings. However, they can’t affect other member controls or see who has access to the application throughout the organization.
  • Observer: These members won’t be able to change anything in the applications, but they can see most settings.

Access control is an important component of security as messaging becomes a larger piece of your business. However, it’s just one aspect of managing your Layer services.

Additional Layer Dashboard Features

Outside of role-based access control, the Layer Dashboard gives you the ability to manage many other aspects of specific applications, including:

  • Basic analytics
  • Logs for messages, sent, conversations, push notifications, etc.
  • Push notifications
  • Server API access
  • Webhooks access
  • And more

The complete Layer Dashboard documentation is filled with information about how you can centrally manage your Layer services and applications. If you want to find out more about the new product, keep up with all of the latest updates here.

World Economic Forum 2017—How Microsoft and Layer Improved the Davos Experience

Amidst a headline-grabbing Inauguration Day in the United States, the World Economic Forum took place for the 46th straight year in Davos, a Swiss resort in the eastern Alps.

For years, the World Economic Forum has served as a forum for resolving international conflict and fostering global collaboration. For example, 2017 marked the first time China’s head of state was invited to (and attended) the World Economic Forum—a major step forward in advancing global discourse.

However, the World Economic Forum faces one consistent problem—language barriers. When you bring together 2,500 business, social, religious, and academic leaders from over 100 different countries, you’re bringing together many different subtleties in communication that are bound to cause misunderstandings.

Leveraging the ubiquity of the smartphone as a common denominator, the World Economic Forum used messaging technology to break down these language barriers.

How a Rich Messaging Experience Changed Communication at the 2017 World Economic Forum

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was on hand at the 2017 World Economic Forum to discuss the stagnant global GDP and how he feels artificial intelligence must play a role in solving the problem. But this wasn’t Microsoft’s only presence at the event this year.

Behind the scenes, Microsoft’s language detection technology was integrated into a Layer-powered messaging experience for the benefit of every World Economic Forum attendee.

With Microsoft’s language detection driving in-line translations, the World Economic Forum messaging experience provided seamless communication among attendees to facilitate connections, discuss important issues and make scheduling meetings easier than ever. Creating a common dialog has always been a key part of the World Economic Forum’s vision—but eliminating friction in international communication via messaging took this idea much further.

However, messaging isn’t just a common platform in the context of the World Economic Forum. In a mobile-first world, messaging is the common means of communication for your customers, too.

If you want to learn more about delivering a seamless messaging experience customized for your own company, check out our Messaging Best Practices Guide or contact us for a free demo of the Layer platform.

Announcing Early Access for Layer for Web

It’s been nine weeks and six days since we opened up the Layer platform. Our mission: communications in every app.

In this short 69 days, we’ve been inspired by the communications experiences you’ve imagined and built. You, Layer developers, are in 126 countries around the world. You’re in 1,360 cities. You’re on six of the seven continents. Communication is a fundamental human need, and developers like you everywhere around the world are working to make it better with Layer.

There are Layer-powered apps in all major app categories. Even category-leading apps in dating, sports and photo sharing. Photobucket’s Lasso, designed to scale to its 100M users, is an amazing way for loved ones to share and feel close. Onefootball, ground zero for soccer/football fans globally, enables people with a shared passion to connect in the context of the sport. There are dating apps, health and fitness apps, on-demand apps that span the spectrum.

Layer growth app developers

Sixty-nine days is not a long time. The growth we’ve seen in that period is exactly the kind of growth you want and need to see when your aim is as ambitious as ours. And we’re working every day to make it even easier for all developers to use Layer.

Since our launch, the number one feature request from developers has been support for Web applications. Many of the products and services we use have mobile and web components, so developers seeking to create rich, engaging communications experiences in those products need Layer for both. They need the communications experience they create to be seamless and cross-platform.

We can’t wait to see what you build.

Designing our growth tooling

At Layer we believe great developer relationships can be cultivated logically and respectfully alongside brilliant engineering. We recognize that our success is directly tied to our customers’ success. We’re implementing systems, tools, and processes to ensure every app creator that tries Layer has a great experience and is effectively and fully supported.

We’ve designed our growth tooling to be consistent with Layer’s values:

  • Interactions with our customers should be designed, thoughtful, respectful
  • Customer relationships should be built on a real value proposition with empathy, trust, and authentic connection
  • Products to support customer success should be as important as core product
  • Building relationships with developers should be about teaching rather than selling

The growth machine we’ve built at Layer enables us to engage, measure, and support customer relationships. We’re building a product for all app creators, from one girl in a garage to the Fortune 500.

Getting to know you

Before we can properly address a customer’s needs, we invest heavily in understanding who they are and what they’re trying to build. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of inbound interest at Layer after winning TechCrunch Disrupt. At that time the team announced an intention to open 50 slots in a beta program and more than 13,000 app creators signed up on layer.com to request access. Clearly we were onto something!

To handle this scale with a small team, we’ve needed efficient ways to collect data, understand individual needs and requirements, and engage in an authentic way — at scale. When someone indicates an interest in Layer and signs up for access on Layer.com, that information is fed first into Salesforce for tracking, reporting, and quick followup. Salesforce is flexible and easily customizable even without code or a professional admin, and we’ve found it exceptionally useful in ensuring new users get quick attention.

We’ve adapted Salesforce to meet our needs and data requirements so that we can be there for each of our users from day one. We’ve done a tremendous amount of outreach to our users, crafting personal and authentic messages, learning about, and listening to our potential customers. We knew many developers had originally been attracted by our mobile-first product, but we were eager to know what they wanted next. Throughout our beta, we used GetFeedback to run Salesforce-aware surveys, asking new users share more detail about their requirements. With a 24% response rate, consistent patterns emerged in this customer feedback that informed our product roadmap and prioritization.

One request we heard loud and clear was a desire for UI components to help developers get a high quality chat experience up and running fast. In response, we launched Atlas, a fully featured, high performance, 100% customizable UI kit. Atlas is helping thousands of Layer developers implement great communications experiences in their apps much more quickly. Detailed and meaningful feedback from our customers played a big role in the launch of Atlas and many products to come.

We have struggled with an age-old discovery challenge for all developer products — developers love to sign up with their gmail addresses and little else. The Layer signup experience is clean and quick. However, the lack of information makes it more difficult for our team to ensure we can effectively support our users’ needs and deliver the tools and value they expect. Understanding the geographical distribution of our user base has provided many insights we’ve used to up our game in serving international customers, with many more optimizations on our roadmap to address this need.

For better insight into who are users are and where they’re coming from we’ve leveraged Clearbit, a business intelligence API, to uncover helpful information about new users immediately. We access this information via Clearbit’s Salesforce plugin, enabling us to quickly understand our users without a bunch of googling. This a big win for our customers, who only need to provide minimal info at sign-up. At the same time, we’re empowered to more quickly and effectively get exactly what our users need into their hands.

Developer engagement & the feedback loop

Our team has craved deeper engagement with our developers than email can provide. Late last year we implemented Intercom for prospect and customer communication, and the results have been spectacular.

We use Intercom first to better understand customer needs and requirements. On a new user’s first login, they are greeted by a message right inside the dashboard from Alex on our Growth team, asking how we can help. When developers indicate interest in a platform we don’t yet support, they receive a message in real-time from Drew, one of our Product Managers, asking more about their use case. The insights gained through these conversations have transformed our ability to understand how customers are using Layer, and what we can do to make it even better and more useful.

We tag customers in Intercom based on feature requests, both to inform our roadmap and so that we can let them know when we ship their requested features. We segment customers in Intercom based on demographic details, but also by target segment. We also use Intercom to identify larger opportunities, and reach out to offer a more hands-on experience and support. We’ve created events tied to nearly every action on layer.com and in our dashboard, enabling great insights into user interests and requirements.

One example of the benefit we’ve seen in these interactions led to a meaningful recent change in our commercial offering. When a user checks out our pricing page, we can reach out to answer any questions they may have about pricing in real-time right in the sidebar. These interactions provided another key insight: our initial $99/month price point was prohibitive for some startups just launching and for customers in territories where this price point represents an extremely significant investment. Layer is a premium platform and service, but as a team we share the core value that it should be accessible to everyone, everywhere. To address this need we created a much more accessible Startup package at only $25/month, making the decision to get started even easier.

The white glove experience

We’re focused on providing a responsive, high-touch experience for larger customers. Our team understands that the decision to use a core building block for communications is a big decision, with major implications for our customers’ products and companies. We also understand that larger organizations need clear points of contact to manage complex provisioning processes and technical due diligence.

Our team is built to meet these needs. We offer enterprise pricing that works at scale, as Layer was designed from the ground up to be a commercial-grade distributed system for high volume communication — not just a starter platform. We bring technical resources to bear from day one, starting with our Partner Engineering team to support integration. Our Special Projects team even builds fully functional prototypes and proof-of-concepts for larger customers. And of course we offer world-class 24×7 support for large organizations around the world, leveraging Zendesk for our Standard & Enterprise Support ticketing queues.

Communication is a critical part of the high touch experience. We use Slack for internal communication, and we’ve also created external, customer-facing Slack channels so large customers can have direct access to our core team. The customer interaction that happens in Slack is much more real-time than email and less formal than a call. These channels give our customers a place to get to know Layer and ask questions they otherwise may not, helping them feel like an extended part of the Layer family, which we love. This human connection with our partners has tremendous value to both sides in facilitating communication and iterating to create high quality communications experiences on Layer.

Elegant self-onboarding

We know that many developers prefer to self-onboard, and we aim to meet this need with slick self-service tools. Developers ask us for clear and concise documentation, easy access to support, and a way to go live without having to get on the phone and talk to someone. In February, we launched a full self-service experience, enabling any developer to sign up, build out a Layer integration, subscribe to a service plan, and go live on Layer without assistance. Of course our team is always on-call for support if our customers need or want it along the way.

Another value we share at Layer is that our business model should be linked to the value we provide to our customers. Our pricing reflects this, and is built on a fee for unlimited messaging for Monthly Active Users. A fraction of a cent buys unlimited messaging for an active user — and we only charge for users that send or receive messages via Layer. Unlimited messaging for a MAU on Layer is cheaper than sending a single SMS, and it’s a better user experience, too. To support this usage-based model in a scalable way we implemented Zuora — a fully featured billing and subscriptions platform, integrated with Salesforce and our own internal tools.

Core values that drive our process

At Layer we aim to build a team that provides real value, answers developer questions with substance, advises on communications best practices from experience. We are building our integrated toolset to ensure that in addition to our full stack communications building block, we also have information to share, perspectives on the market and best practices, and lessons to teach that bring additional value to our customers. Developers are extremely busy and our goal is to help them get what they need, as quickly and directly as possible.

In partnership with our engineering and product teams, our customer-facing team is gathering valuable product feedback that informs our roadmap and decisions. Our team recognizes that our internal relationships are every bit as important as our customer relationships. Our customer-facing team advocates for our customers internally, and also works to ensure that every part of the Layer organization understands we’re seeing in market and what we’re hearing from our customers.

Layer is a communications building block, and communication is a fundamental and core service for our developers. We understand and respect that the decision to use our platform is a complex and serious one. We’re building an organization around tools that make us more accessible to our customers and tear down the barriers between companies and the people who make them work.

We’re looking forward to putting these tools and processes to work to support you in creating a great communications experience. We can’t wait to see what you’ll build!

Greylock Partners design event @ Layer HQ

Layer HQ played host to a fantastic event last night, and we’d like to take a minute to thank the organizer, Greylock Partners, for allowing us to be a part of it.

The evening brought together some of the most talented and creative designers in tech to share their recent work. The people were amazing and the content inspiring.

(Photo credit to Michael Inouye from Greylock.)

PS – we’re hiring designers. Come help us develop the new visual and interaction languages around communications.

Why I joined Layer

In the early days of PC gaming, I was the world’s first female professional video gamer. I was so passionate about gaming that I built an online life dedicated to play. I met other gamers online and made friends through ultra-simple text chat via in-game consoles. I extended those communications to IRC, forming friendships that transcended our love of the game.

We kept coming back to the content, our engagement strengthened by the friendships formed around it through chat. We built teams, competed online, and even drove across the country to play together under the same roof.

Now 20 years on, I’ve grown up with the gamer friends I met long ago. These friendships formed the basis for my career, focused on passionate communication around great content. I built on this foundation as my career progressed, moving from content consumer to content creator.

I know firsthand that building rich communication experiences is more challenging than ever. New mobile technologies, extreme scale, segmented networks, siloed contacts, and legacy platforms have created a challenging landscape for both users and developers.

Every time I join a game I go through a disjointed experience of importing contacts, trying to figure out who even wants to play with me. I love music more than most. How can I share my love of a great band with friends when a great song goes by? These are important questions and interactions that bring me joy, and they’re exactly why I joined Layer.

We’re building an open communications layer for the internet, enabling seamless connection among users centered on the content they love. We’re making it easier for users to share their passion for games, music, work, and play with each other.

Imagine requesting a ride, and not getting a call from some strange number or jumping out to SMS to coordinate logistics. Or knowing exactly which of your friends can send you that ticket to get to the next level, and asking for it without opening crazy windows into other platforms. Or even a messaging app where I can link an interesting article to a friend, and he can preview it without exiting out to a browser and then message me back to discuss — all inside the app.

This is how communication is supposed to work — unburdened by the complexity of the technologies that lie beneath. Just people connecting cleanly, simply, and immediately. At Layer we’re making this user experience insanely simple for developers to build. We are freeing up developers to dream and design, supported by scalable communications services they can have up and running in a day.

It’s all about communication and connection done right. That’s why I joined Layer.

Editor’s note: Stevie is speaking at Casual Connect today (July 23, 2014) in San Francisco.

You’re invited: open house at Layer HQ for Google I/O

Kick off Google I/O with us!

If you’ll be in San Francisco for Google I/O, you’re invited to join us the night before it starts for an open house at Layer HQ.

On behalf of co-hosts Layer, Bloomberg Beta, Homebrew, Data Collective, Fuel Capital, Morado Ventures and AME Cloud Ventures, we hope to see you there.

RSVP here.

Passing the Disrupt Cup

Last September we had the tremendous honor of winning TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco’s Startup Battlefield, joining the ranks of successes like Mint.com and Yammer.

I can’t imagine a better way to launch a technology company than TechCrunch Disrupt. Since we won:

  • We’ve had more than 6,000 requests for access to our beta from individuals and teams, all over the world, wanting to build Layer into all sorts of products.
  • We announced Andy Vyrros joined Layer as CTO. Andy previously led the teams that built FaceTime and iMessage and contributed significantly to Push Notifications at Apple.
  • We announced Sara Wood joined Layer to lead product. Sara ran product at Wikia, Flickr and headed global web development at the World Health Organization.
  • And so many other talented employees. The list goes on and on.
  • Lastly, we raised a $14.5M Series A financing from a great group of investors.

Last week a new Startup Battlefield winner was crowned. Congrats to Vurb. Count us as enthusiastic users once its ready. So with that we pass the cup. Winning has been nothing short of a fantastic experience.

Our team is growing. We’re hiring in all departments and would love to hear from you.

Join us

Layer Loves YC

Four of the companies in the Winter 2014 Y Combinator class, launching at YC Demo Day today, are also in Layer’s beta program. They’ve chosen Layer to help power rich communications in their apps and products, which span a broad spectrum from messaging apps to hardware devices, from events to healthcare, and are in both B2B and B2C markets.

Y Combinator companies such as Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, Reddit and Parse, as well as others, have all gone on to do great things, and we’re very happy to support four companies that are on stage today. Let’s hope that one of more of them makes Sam Altman’s (@sama) prediction about this batch come true:

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Best of luck to all YC presenters and we hope Layer can power a great communications experience for users in your apps, too!

Bellabeat – A smart wearable device for pregnant mothers that tracks heart rate, baby kicks and vitals for both mom and baby in-utero. Empowers women with information in between doctor appointments. Our blog post about them here.

eventjoy – An events platform that lets you create a unique app for every event. Eventjoy lets users send real-time messages and even create polls in the app. Go from creation to promotion in minutes. Free to start.

HoverChat – A very cool messaging app that enables true multitasking by allowing you to read and reply to incoming messages without ever leaving your current screen. Available for Android now.

Povio – A photo sharing app with a unique slant – send someone a ping, they reply with a photo and you have an annotated conversation inside the photo. They’re seeing crazy high retention – 55% of registered users in the US are coming back daily.

Fight back today against mass surveillance

Today is The Day We Fight Back. It’s a coming together of technology companies everywhere to show that we won’t tolerate the practice of online spying on Internet users by the US government and the NSA. Layer stands in firm support.

thedaywefightback.org

As we shared when we launched last year, trust, privacy and security are among the principles at the very core of our company. While Layer has the power to enable communications in both product experiences that exist today and those today only imagined, its developers who’ll build with Layer. We understand that developers demand absolute privacy and security for their products, and especially for the communications in their products. We take this responsibility seriously.

Today we publicly declare our commitment to doing our part. We believe we’ll be in an increasingly strong position to raise the bar and help rebuild trust in the security and privacy of communications in Internet experiences. We’re only just getting started, but this is an absolute top priority for us.

What can everyone do?

The Day We Fight Back has shared a fantastic summary of things everyone can do to help stop mass surveillance, including urging your Congressman/woman to pass two bills that represent substantial improvements to America’s laws. More here.