Presented by Slack
In a second article in a series of conversations with Slack Fund portfolio companies, which explore their growth stories and the roles they play in creating the future of work, Jason Spinell, head of Slack Fund, sits down with Daily Co-founder Nina Kuruvilla to discuss how the startup emphasizes flexibility in everything it does — both with its products and in the way its business runs.
See the first in this series with Hopin CEO Johnny Boufarhat.
If there’s one word to emphasize Daily co-founder Nina Kuruvilla’s approach to business, it’s flexibility.
Daily makes it easy for developers to add video calls to any product, powering better user experiences for companies around the world. The platform places huge emphasis on flexibility, offering plug-and-play solutions neatly packaged in just two lines of code, as well as a range of powerful enterprise level features.
But the concept of flexibility doesn’t just live in the Daily product. It’s also evident in the way Nina leads her team and commits to building a fully remote culture that encourages every employee to work in the way that’s best for them.
The team at Daily are fresh off a year of rapid growth. The company just raised a $15 million Series A this spring to fuel further expansion. I recently caught up with Nina to reflect on the past year and talk about what’s next for Daily.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Jason Spinell: Can you tell us a little about yourself, your journey to founding Daily, and give us a brief introduction to the company?
Nina Kuruvilla: Daily is video and audio for developers. Our APIs make it easy to add video calls to any site or app — however a developer wants to build. Daily Prebuilt enables developers to embed a video call into any product, in just a couple of minutes. But developers can also create rich custom call layouts with Daily. Our goal is to support teams building incredible new things with video and audio.
My co-founder, Kwindla Hultman Kramer, has been in video for a long time. At his previous startup, he built bespoke video systems for Fortune 100 companies. He soon developed the conviction that video would be everywhere, and together we were excited about building a platform to unleash the power and creativity of video for all teams.
We started working on Daily in the early days of WebRTC — an open standard that enables real-time communication capabilities. Early on, we focused on iterating with the product to determine what provided the most value to our users.
Fast forward a few years, and we launched the Daily API in 2019. This was right around the time when remote work was taking off and people were really starting to explore the role of video in the future of work. We’ve found that whatever an organization does, having video built into the product makes life easier. Since then, we’ve been excited to work with developers from different kinds of organizations and use cases.
Jason Spinell: A lot of the work that you and Kwindla did previously is coming full circle now. You touched on this briefly, but the “Future of Work” has become this incredible buzzy soundbite in the past year.
We’ve been using that phrase since we started Slack Fund in 2015, but it didn’t initially have the meaning it does today. What does the future of work mean to you, and what role do you see software and Daily specifically playing in shaping the future of work?
Nina Kuruvilla: What we see as we work with teams is an emphasis on collaboration and flexibility. There is so much creative capital and human potential across different ecosystems. All these software tools that enable the future of work let people participate in exciting companies and ideas wherever they are, on their own terms. I think that’s really key.
We’re all really creative, think in different ways, and want to do different things. And we need different types of tools for all sorts of communication. Video is just a part of that vision, but we also believe that every tool needs video in it in some way. Our focus is on taking care of all the hard parts of video so developers can focus on their core mission.
Jason Spinell: I love that idea of flexibility and giving people choices in how they want to get their work accomplished. We’re coming out of a challenging year – what do you think are some of the longer-term impacts of the pandemic on the way that teams will work and collaborate?
Nina Kuruvilla: Work can get done in different ways. There just isn’t one way of doing work, and we need different tools to support that. Slack exemplifies that beautifully – it’s where work happens, but all the app integrations let people work in Slack in different ways.
After the pandemic, I think we’ll all be so happy to get back to real life. But at the same time, the past year has forced us to connect with people more flexibly. The team at Daily is fully distributed, and we’re always figuring out new ways to better work together.
Jason Spinell: Drawing on that thread of hybrid work, people were used to office-based environments, then suddenly had to become comfortable with being fully remote.
As we come back and potentially have this in between space, how do you think about this hybrid environment? What are some of the things companies will have to overcome, and what are some of the tools you use at Daily to manage a fully distributed team?
Nina Kuruvilla: Remote work has accelerated a lot of trends that have been in play the last few years. One challenge that nobody has figured out yet is how to make sure that information flows freely.
As wonderful as in-person work is, it can sometimes mask that knowledge gets siloed. To get better at hybrid work, we need tools that align with how we work. When the whole team is in an office, there’s a sense that everyone’s in the loop just because you can see them face to face. Last year, COVID dropped out of the sky and we were all suddenly doing remote work. But looking back, I’m not sure many companies were doing it well.
Hybrid work demands intentionality in how information gets distributed and managed, and it’s important to build processes and a culture that supports that. Remote teammates can’t be a bolt on. There has to be a new generation of tools that help organizations span the gap between online and in-person meetings.
At Daily, our culture has a real emphasis on writing. Teams don’t all have to be the same, but you have to be intentional in engaging all teammates equally. We use tools like Slack and Linear to support those values. Some of our best tools are platforms like Google Docs, Notion, or even just plain old paper. However our team wants to write thoughtfully and share, we’ll support that.
Jason Spinell: That’s awesome, it reminds me a lot of the focus on writing at companies like Amazon, and it’s interesting to hear about it from a remote perspective.
As a leader in a fully distributed organization, how else do you think about employee wellbeing and retention, and tending to that as your team grows?
Nina Kuruvilla: It has to be core to what we do. Not just because we’re only as good as our team, but because it’s really important we live up to our values.
One thing we always discuss openly with candidates is that all of our team aims to build something we can be really proud of. Sure, we want to go after the massive market opportunity, but we also want to be proud of what we build. You can only do that if all your teammates are fully engaged.
There are all sorts of platforms and tools we use to support this – Donut is one example. But to us, employee wellbeing isn’t just about a program or a list of benefits, it’s about purposely using tools that help teammates build relationships and feel respected.
Respecting each other, respecting work, being kind to each other, and emphasizing diversity – these are all key values for us.
Jason Spinell: Let’s switch gears a little and talk about the Daily product. One of the things that’s always intrigued me about Daily is that it works for the smallest startups, Fortune 100 companies, and everyone in between. What are some of the ways you’re thinking about helping all companies — big or small — to incorporate video into their tech stacks?
Nina Kuruvilla: We really emphasize developer flexibility. Different size organizations have different priorities, goals and needs. But our overriding goal is to take care of all video complexities and challenges so customers can focus on what they excel at.
One example of that: we let you add plug and play video calls with Daily Prebuilt. It’s used by organizations of all sizes; from startups focused on getting to market fast to a global beauty brand that’s using it as a core part of their customer engagement platform.
Our platform also gives developers a lot of features that enable them to deliver superior call quality experiences. We have pre-built metrics in the dashboard. We make it easy for anyone to log in to the Daily dashboard and view metrics on call volume, quality, and other data points.
We’ve also worked hard to ensure our platform is secure and compliant. Daily is SOC 2 adherent and enables HIPAA compliant calls, efficiently. That’s unusual in this market; normally HIPAA compliance takes thousands of dollars and a huge amount of work, but we’ve got it down to just four lines of code and a few minutes.
Jason Spinell: That’s awesome. You mentioned a bunch of platform features, but to the extent that you can share, what are some of the most exciting things you have on the roadmap at the moment?
Nina Kuruvilla: One thing we saw change drastically last year was the huge demand for large calls. It’s not just a case of jamming a bunch of people into a call at once, although we do support 1,000 person calls. It’s doing it in a way that’s powerful.
Other platforms might support more participants, but they don’t let participants have cameras on. We stand out because we let everyone have their cameras on. That lets our customers do things like host fitness classes or launch a music platform where a large audience can watch a performance. Our features let users really engage with each other on the platform.
Another fun example: we just released support for live streaming. Users can now take a call built on Daily and send it out to any streaming platform. That really changes what you can do with live streaming. For a lot of people, live streaming is just a solo endeavor. But now, you can broadcast conversations, yoga classes and more, with just one extra line of code. We’re passionate about adding features that expand what people can do with video.
Jason Spinell: That’s awesome, and it dovetails a lot with what you’ve already said about creating more ways for people to connect and build connections digitally. You’ve been a founder now for a number of years, what’s your most important piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Nina Kuruvilla: Startups have their challenges, and I think you have to be really passionate about the space you’re working in. My co-founder Kwindla and I are an example of committing to what you do. This is the third commercial video stack Kwindla has built out — he’s been in video for decades.
When we first started talking about video, it was clunky hardware relegated to conference rooms that nobody knew how to work — it was kind of scary. But we were passionate about it as a product and a means of bringing people together, and we’re excited about what the future holds.
Jason Spinell: Final question — and it’s a fun one. You mentioned you’re a big proponent of Slack 00 what’s your favorite emoji?
Nina Kuruvilla: The upside-down smiley face 00 it expresses everything you need to know about life ?
In the first article of this series, Jason sat down with Hopin Co-founder and CEO Johnny Boufarhat. Learn more about Hopin’s year of explosive growth here.
Slack Fund is a venture fund that invests in and collaborates with entrepreneurs creating the next great software companies building the future of work, a future in which work-life is simpler, more pleasant and more productive. To date, Slack has invested in Lattice, Guru, Notion, Mural, Hopin, and Loom, bringing them to 90+ total investments across North America and Europe. For more information, visit: https://slack.com/fund
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