About seven years after he sold his previous company to Google, Jacob Bank prepares to launch its next project, this time with a focus on automating mundane, repetitive tasks.
Bank was previously the co-founder and CEO of Timeful, a smart scheduling app that helped users make better use of their time by automatically prioritizing their various obligations. After Bank sold to Google in 2015, she joined the ranks of Google and began integrating Timeful’s core technology into Gmail and Google Calendar, before moving into various positions at the tech giant, including product leader for Gmail, Calendar, Google Chat and Google Workspace.
Fast-forward to July 2021, and Bank parted ways from Google to found Relay, which has a self-proclaimed mission to “tackle collaborative workflows” with a product located somewhere at the intersection of Zapier and Asana. He also said he has managed to hire a number of product, design and engineering personnel from the Gmail and Google Calendar development team.
“From a product perspective, we aim to combine Zapier’s time-saving automations with Asana’s responsibility, but optimized for repetitive workflows,” Bank explains to australiabusinessblog.com.
Automation for the people
There is certainly no shortage of workflow automation tools, with Zapier perhaps the most important, while newcomers like Bardeen are also attracting the attention of venture capitalists. And it’s this desire to reduce tedious, repetitive tasks that Relay also wants to take advantage of, with specific scenarios in mind – use cases that are less about “automated mechanical data flows from one product to another,” as Bank puts it, and more about supporting collaborative activities that may require multiple people to work together.
For example, anything that repeats or repeats itself in business, such as general meetings, investor updates, board meetings, newsletters, planning cycles, and so on, is within Relay’s scope. Just like ‘job-specific playbooks’, such as onboarding of new employees, onboarding of customers or introduction of functions. In fact, it aims to reduce time-consuming administration of various business functions, from COO to product management and customer success.
Relay sits on top of existing productivity tools such as calendars and team collaboration software, reducing much of the manual labor associated with organizing a specific event or activity. For example, a monthly all-hands meeting might involve multiple employees from different departments, each tasked with preparing their own updates. the appropriate presentation template, who will then be prompted to add their content and then automatically create a dedicated Slack channel for that particular meeting.
For example, if these different productivity tools are used separately in their own silos, if the meeting date for everyone needs to be moved a few days at the last minute, organizers or management would normally have to update the dates and schedules in Asana manually. With Relay, every change up and down the chain is reflected.
“Perhaps the most profound difference between our product and what is out there is that we’re going after a class of use cases that haven’t been explicitly addressed before,” Bank said. “The operational workflows needed to lead a great team: all hands, lead meetings, executive updates, product reviews, company reviews, newsletters, planning processes, onboarding, project tracking, feature launch, customer updates, and much more.”
For now, Relay remains a closed early access product, with plans to move into an open beta phase before the end of the year. While it’s keeping most of its early adopters a secret for now, it did confirm that Ramp and Lumos are “design partners” while it’s poised for a wider rollout.
“We focus on organizations between 30 and 500 [workers] in size, and most of our early design partners are technology companies,” said Bank.
To take things to the next level, Relay also announced that it has raised $5 million in an initial funding round led by Khosla Ventures, which also invested in Timeful in 2014, with the participation of Neo, BoxGroup, SV Angel and a handful of of angels.
“Relay’s vision of understanding the best practices of top-performing teams and creating supporting software to make those workflows available to everyone could transform the entire way people work,” said Sandhya Venkatachalam, partner of Khosla Ventures in a declaration. “In Jacob, we have a founder we’ve supported before, with a team that has the track record, conviction and talent to tackle this incredibly daunting challenge.”