One of the newest kids on the business communications block is Edify Labs. Edify’s co-founders, Cameron Weeks (CEO) and Bracken Fields (CTO) have a long history in this space, as they created their first VoIP company in 2007. Edify’s offering, which combines contact center, unified communications, collaboration, and PBX functionality, became generally available after what the company’s website describes as “the culmination of over 12 years of work together.” Edify was founded in October 2018, introduced its cloud-based service at Enterprise Connect in March 2019, and announced general availability in June 2019. For industry observers such as myself, this seems like an unbelievably short amount of time to bring this kind of platform and service to market.
To get more insights about the company, its cloud offerings, and the development process, I recently interviewed Weeks.
BP: Cameron, can you describe Edify’s offering?
CW: We fundamentally believe that customer service is not a department but a whole-company mindset, and that information lives in many more places than just in your knowledgebase. With that foundation, it became obvious to us that if you could unite your entire workforce – contact center and entire office – on a single communication platform, you would have the best potential for future success. So we built Edify Huddle.
It’s really the first platform to natively combine all forms of business communication (unified communications, contact center and full API capabilities) in a single software solution that lets users move seamlessly among channels – from social media to chat to voice to text to video and back again – within one conversation. We call Huddle a Business Communications as a Service (BCaaS) platform – which is a new term we coined I think with your help.
Huddle includes a machine learning (ML) engine called Hammond and leverages natural language understanding (NLU) to monitor interactions, and applies sentiment analysis to optimize the customer experience with bots and/or agents. Hammond can also do things like identify areas for coaching, handle multi-channel workflows with a single logic flow, deploy chat/voice bots, send omnichannel post-interaction surveys and more, all from a “no code” interface. This makes the platform simple to administer, even with integrations to third-party systems like Salesforce and Zendesk.
BP: Let me get this straight – you have a CCaaS, UCaaS, and CPaaS service, which includes omnichannel capabilities, conferencing, and video – and you built an AI engine, and you built a new voice network? And you built all of this since last October? Call me skeptical – how is that possible? How can you develop so much functionality in such a short amount of time?
CW: I think the best answer is to quote a great American president, Abraham Lincoln. He once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend four hours sharpening my axe.” Bracken (Fields, Co-founder and CTO) and I have spent 10+ years working with technology and customers alike on tackling the root issues with legacy contact center and business communication tools. Not to mention, we are customers, too. So when we decided to tackle this challenge, we went in knowing exactly what the industry needed that did not yet exist.
We hunkered down last October and began the journey that thus far has led to writing more than 4.5 million lines of code. Let’s just say we didn’t do much else, including sleep. I want to be very clear that this was not something that Bracken and I did on our own, this was by all means a tremendous team effort. We were lucky enough to not only recruit in some new people but also continue working with some of our closest peers including members of our creative team and our entire Senior Development team. This allowed us to sidestep months of growing pains, learning how to work with one another, even the smartest group of developers would have to stumble through. Finally, since it’s now public, having a significant amount of capital from some of the best funds in the Bay Area and Los Angeles was the final boost we needed to pull all of this off. It’s truly remarkable the amount of resources that become available to you once you are “on the inside” in San Francisco, it is definitely not something I had experienced before, and stands to reason why the Bay Area / LA continue to outperform the rest of the world.
For the CPaaS functionality, this is our “bread and butter” for lack of a better expression. It is the foundation of the entire Edify product offering, and the first thing we built. A lot of technology companies today talk about offering a REST API, and a few claim to be built with them. But only a very small number of solutions are actually developed on the same API structure that they offer to their customers, as it’s difficult and requires substantial planning and forethought. This is a key difference in how we were able to develop the solution so quickly. By focusing the majority of our energy and time on building and hardening the core API designed from a microservices architecture where truly every component is reduced to its smallest possible function, we increased scalability and minimized product risk. This also allowed us to hand over easy-to-understand, secure, and highly functioning API’s to our UX team. This allowed them to simply focus on building an elegant easy-to-comprehend interface, rather than attempt to figure out how to design and implement functionality.
I am fairly confident a “perfect storm” like Huddle has yet to occur in this industry. Ultimately, I’d say it’s the right people, at the right time, with intense focus and dedication to a common goal. Even we are sometimes amazed we made it happen, but we wanted it, and the industry needed it, that badly.
BP: I understand that in the U.S. Edify is licensed with the FCC. Again, how is this possible in such a short amount of time?
CW: Yes. Edify is technically classified as an “Interconnected VoIP” company. Again, I think it’s really about the knowledge and the relationships we’ve built that we were able to get it done.
BP: I’ve heard whispers that some of the intellectual property came from elsewhere. Is all of the code your own, or are you leveraging code that was written previously or by others? Are you using open source?
CW: This is my favorite question to be asked for many reasons, the biggest of which is because there is not one other vendor that comes close to our [Edify’s] level of transparency. You can literally go to http://edify.cx and create an account with nothing more than a working cell phone and email. Of course we are both leveraging and contributing to open source software. I’d be surprised, and frankly concerned, to learn of a vendor that was not leveraging open source at this point. Collaboration is the foundation of revolution. I think we can all agree we’re in desperate need of better collaboration when it comes to business communication tools.
BP: Without getting into a sales pitch, how is Edify differentiating itself from others in the market?
CW: Actually, in several ways. There’s a whole lot of noise out there, a lot of claims that all sound the same, a lot of confusion about who’s telling the truth and what certain products can and cannot do. Here are how the most critical differentiators of Edify Huddle boil down for me:
- Cloud-based is NOT cloud-native. Although most providers would like people to gloss over any differences, there are many. But suffice it to say that cloud-native technology like Edify Huddle was created and born in the cloud to leverage that cloud to its full and complete potential (maximum scalability, flexibility, uptime and cost-effectiveness) in a way cloud-based technology cannot.
- End-to-end is NOT unified. Edify Huddle was built from scratch to innately unify contact center, unified communications, and real-time communications API capabilities in a single platform.
- Multichannel is NOT omnichannel. Edify was built from scratch to be omnichannel, meaning a customer can start an interaction via chat, realize they need to send a photo and add in a text message (SMS/MMS), and ultimately speak to a live agent without ever transferring, disconnecting, or interacting with more than one agent in more than one exchange.
Plus, we’ve made it possible for anyone to go online and get five Huddle users on us – at no cost – forever. No secrets, no hidden software, no barriers – to keep us honest throughout the sales process. And we guarantee the whole platform’s uptime 100% or we’ll pay.
BP: It sounds like you haven’t gotten much sleep for quite a while. What’s next on the roadmap?
CW: I’ve always wanted to accomplish way more than what’s typically possible in a given day or even lifetime. My biggest fear is leaving a project unfinished. As for what comes next for Edify, I think we’ve given the community quite a bit to digest at this point so we will leave the next wave under wraps until maybe EC 2020.
BP: Can you talk about your target market, pricing model, and anything else organizations should know about Edify?
CW: We see the biggest need is in the mid-market (which we define as 50 to 2,000 agents) and that’s where our marketing and sales focus will be. We welcome and invite organizations of all sizes to go online and set up an account – our support and training teams are available to everyone to help them get up and running!
From a pricing standpoint, we wanted something that was fair in all aspects of the word: affordable, easy to understand, predictable and straightforward. To accomplish that, we created a usage-based model that is per user per day.
- Huddle ML is the entire cloud-native, unified omnichannel business communications platform with contact center and UC with machine learning functionality for $7 per user per day (this is our flagship offering).
- Huddle is the entire cloud-native, unified omnichannel business communications platform with contact center and UC for $6 per user per day.
- Huddle Basic is for the business users in the organization and includes all UC functionality for $10 per user per month.
- Huddle API provides real-time communications API capabilities that allow users to customize Edify Huddle and uses a usage-based pricing model.
We wholeheartedly understand the mission-critical nature of the platform we provide our customers, which is why transparency is such an important factor. It is also why we designed the first platform capable of offering 100% SLA, with a 10x financial backing.
The last thing that I want everyone to take away is that we have built a communication platform that really does change the way businesses interact with customers and employees interact with each other for the better... and we are incredibly serious about redefining every part of the business communication landscape.