After selling his last startup to Google, this founder now wants to automate routine tasks with Relay • TechCrunch.

Seven years after selling its predecessor to Google, Jacobs Bank is gearing up to launch its next project, this time automating universal and repetitive tasks.

The bank was previously the founder and CEO of Timeful, which helps users make better use of their time and prioritize their various obligations. In the year After being sold to Google in 2015, Banks joined the ranks of Google and integrated core Timeful technology into Gmail and Google Calendar before moving on to various roles at the tech giant – including product leadership for Gmail, Calendar, Google Chat and Google Workspace.

In the year Fast forward to July 2021, and the bank has parted ways with Google to found Relay, a standalone mission to “address collaborative workflows” with a product positioned at the intersection of Zapier and Asana. He also said that he was able to hire several product, design and engineering experts from Gmail and Google Calendar development teams.

“From a product perspective, it combines Zapier’s time-saving automations with Asana’s accountability, but is optimized for repetitive workflows,” the bank explained to TechCrunch.

Relay: Automata Image credits: Riley

Automation for people

There is certainly no shortage of workflow automation tools, Zapier is perhaps the most prominent, while newcomers like Bardin are also attracting the attention of venture capitalists. And Relay is about the need to reduce laborious and repetitive tasks by taking into account specific situations — less about “automating mechanical data flows from one product to another,” as the bank says, and more about supporting collaborative activities that require many people to work together.

For example, anything that repeats or reoccurs around the business sphere, such as all-hands meetings, investor updates, board meetings, newsletters, planning cycles, and so on, are within the scope of Relay. Such as “action-oriented playbooks” such as new-employee onboarding, customer onboarding or feature launches. It basically aims to reduce the time-consuming administration of various business functions, from COO to product management and customer success.

Relay sits on top of productivity tools like calendars and team collaboration software and takes much of the manual labor out of organizing a specific event or activity. For example, a monthly cross-functional meeting might involve contributors from different departments, each charged with developing their own updates – with Relay, companies can pre-set many administrative steps, such as messaging contributors. The right presentation template, then you’ll be prompted to add their content, and automatically create a Slack channel for that specific meeting.

Relay: Workflow automation in action. Image credits: Riley

Using these various productivity tools independently, if an all-hands meeting date needs to be pushed back a few days at the deadline, this typically means that organizers or management have to manually update the dates and schedules in Asana. Any change in the relay is reflected up and down the chain.

“The most consequential difference between our product and what’s out there is that we’re pursuing use cases that weren’t clearly presented before,” the bank said. “Operational workflows needed to run a great team: all hands on, lead meetings, executive updates, product reviews, business reviews, newsletters, planning processes, onboarding, project tracking, feature launches, customer updates and more.


For now, Relay is a slow early access product with plans to move into an open beta phase before the end of the year. While it’s currently covering most of its early adopters, Ramp and Lumos have confirmed they are “design partners” as it prepares for a wider release.

“We are targeting between 30 and 500 firms. [workers] At scale, and most of our early design partners are technology companies,” the bank said.

To help take things to the next level, Relay has announced that it has raised $5 million in a seed funding round led by Khosla Ventures. Angels.

“Relay’s vision to understand the best practices of high-performing teams and create software that helps bring those workflows to everyone can change the way people work,” Khosla Ventures partner Sandhya Venkatachalam said in a statement. “In Jacob, we have a founder we’ve backed before, along with a team with the track record, confidence and talent to take on this incredibly difficult challenge.

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