Technological leapfrogging—a concept born in the early ’90s when developing countries decided to skip spending vital time and resources on phone lines and jump straight to using smartphones.

In 2011, Scandinavian economist Nils Hammar decided to build an organization that would leverage the technological leap to improve people’s lives. Having already founded a successful online community, Nils joined forces with former PayPal and eBay product leader Salim Imani to create Saltside.

Their mission was simple: to create the largest, fastest, and safest online marketplace for people in emerging markets, so that everyone could make great deals.

The classifieds sites would enable those who might normally be restricted to earning a living face-to-face to tap into the rapid growth of smartphone and internet usage in their country.

Ghana, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh were among many jumping the divide. Growing in technology, literacy, and financial development, Saltside identified these countries as good fits for its digital marketplaces.

But transforming face-to-face marketplaces into digital communities wasn’t going to be easy.

The Challenge

For the marketplaces to be profitable and successful, Saltside needed two main things: returning customers and frictionless communication.

The team determined in-app messaging and push notifications were the keys to bringing customers back to the marketplace and keeping their attention.

But this left them with a build vs. buy decision to make.

The do-it-yourself version would be cost-heavy. To build the necessary components would require annual salaries’ worth of engineering talent, not to mention strategic design and direction.

And in addition to the costs associated with building an in-house team, Saltside would also face costly complications along the way when, for example, the team started integrating with existing external tools.

The build approach didn’t feel like the right decision for Saltside’s needs. Instead, they started evaluating vendors who could meet their messaging and notification needs. That’s when Hammar and Imani came across the Layer Customer Conversation Platform.

The Solution

“We had a build vs. buy decision to make. We realized with Layer we would have a much faster, more cost-effective time-to-market.”—Salim Imani

Using Layer’s toolkits, the Saltside team quickly set up the three digital marketplaces with out-of-the-box messaging and notification capabilities.

Now, their iOS, Android, and web applications provide digital marketplaces for everything from honey and birthday cakes to cars and employment. And the sites are having a big impact on developing communities.

Saltside’s Bangladeshi site,, is furthering gender equality by introducing forums and software training for female employees. Ghanaian site,, is championing the digital recruiting space and winning awards for its contribution to the nation’s economy.

Since implementing Layer, Saltside has seen success with push notifications, pulling users back into the digital marketplaces to close sales. Imani says the interactive nature of messaging has been a huge success, with 95% of customers enjoying their chat experience. Messaging usage across all three sites has increased nearly 70% since June.

Implementing the Layer Customer Conversation Platform to deliver messaging and notifications hasn’t just saved Saltside time and money. It has allowed them to achieve their goal of improving lives.

Tune in next Thursday for another Layer customer spotlight, this time from recovery platform R|Tribe.