Communications Infrastructure for Mobile and the Web: Who Doesn’t Need That?

May 13, 2014

Sometimes VC math is easy. Take an enormous, complex and lucrative problem. Add an experienced entrepreneur, top technical minds and a talented go-to-market team. Shake well. And DEFINITELY fund!

We’re excited to share Homebrew’s investment in Layer, the open communications platform for the internet. Layer’s founder, Ron Palmeri, announced the financing last week when passing the TechCrunch Disrupt Winner’s Cup to its next recipient (Layer having won it in 2013). Software and services becoming APIs is one key pillar of our Bottom Up Economy thesis, and it’s clear to us that Layer is building an incredibly valuable business in this category. Here’s why we invested in Layer:

WHO: We’ve known Ron since prior to Layer’s founding. In fact, we’re of such similar principles that we even considered sharing office space at one point last year. In all of Ron’s earlier ventures, including Grand Central Communications and OpenDNS, he’s been able to combine an intuitive sense of market opportunity and talent with an incredible work ethic to create innovative solutions to huge problems. That’s why it doesn’t surprise us that Layer has built one of the strongest technical teams in their industry. One of the most recent high profile additions is Andrew Vyrros, who led development of iMessage and FaceTime while at Apple. By the way, they’re hiring.

WHAT: Layer is building an API-based platform that allows any application developer to build voice, messaging and video into his or her product within minutes. As we’ve seen with companies such as Stripe in the transaction space, when you take previously complex, expensive and largely custom infrastructure and reduce it down to a set of reliable and flexible API calls, well, magic can happen. It’s not especially contrarian to bet that app developers will gravitate towards the best tools to power essential, but non-proprietary, aspects of their platforms. We believe communications is one of these fundamental application building blocks, enabling every mobile developer to build app:user and user:user interactions into their products.

HOW: For a company just barely over a year old, Layer has achieved many milestones: assembling a stellar team, launching with an enthusiastic group of beta users and generating an unimaginably long waiting list of people lined up to use their platform. You’ll be hearing much more from the Layer team in the near future.

WHY: Ron has been betting on foundational web technology for almost a decade, having played a founding role in OpenDNS and Grand Central. He has a fundamental believe in the power of technology to enable communication seamlessly and inexpensively for everyone, everywhere. We share his vision and have deep respect for Layer’s mission. Astute observers might note that this was a Series A financing, unusual for Homebrew as our standard operating practice is to invest pre-A. But given our longstanding relationship with Ron and our strong alignment with Layer’s mission, we knew that this was an opportunity we had to pursue. We certainly feel like there’s still tremendous upside for Layer.

It’s with great joy that we are partnering with Ron and team to build an incredible platform company. We can’t wait to see what the world’s developers create with Layer!