Gleb Polyakov of Nylas: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help”

While there are tons of use cases, one that I am particularly proud of is that our technology is being used by multiple healthcare companies to make it easier for individuals to schedule COVID vaccine appointments. The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email […]

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While there are tons of use cases, one that I am particularly proud of is that our technology is being used by multiple healthcare companies to make it easier for individuals to schedule COVID vaccine appointments.


The telephone totally revolutionized the way we could communicate with people all over the world. But then came email and took it to the next level. And then came text messaging. And then came video calls. And so on…What’s next? What’s just around the corner?

In this interview series, called ‘The Future Of Communication Technology’ we are interviewing leaders of tech or telecom companies who are helping to develop emerging communication technologies and the next generation of how we communicate and connect with each other.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gleb Polyakov.

As Co-Founder and CEO of Nylas, Gleb Polyakov is focused on making the world more productive by empowering software developers with unified and structured data and APIs that make integration easy. Gleb has been recognized by Comparably as one of the Top 50 CEOs in North America as well as leading Nylas to its ranking on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies. Prior to Nylas, Gleb founded an IoT coffee company and studied physics at Georgia Tech.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I came to the U.S. from Russia at a young age. After studying physics at Georgia Tech, I went on to start my first company, an IoT espresso machine which provided at-home commercial-grade espresso and coffee machines. After that company was acquired I began searching for my next opportunity and was connected with Christine Spang, my now Co-Founder and CTO. She and I spoke at length about the intricacies of business communications and developer experiences and set out to create software that helps developers leverage communications data and build features that increase customer engagement, productivity, and retention.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Leading the company through a pivotal shift from a consumer-facing software to a backend API product. Despite Nylas showing signs of growth and overall positive metrics, the company was able to recognize the need for a platform that can be used to break down and decipher data. Nylas understood that companies wanted to both own their data and make the deployment process easier. Therefore, instead of focusing on a core suite of front-end applications, Nylas made the strategic decision to lean into advanced API, developing robust back-end development software for everyone from the most novice to senior level developers.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Being an entrepreneur and running a business can be extremely stressful at times, and can require significant investments of time and mental energy. I’m grateful to be surrounded by great family and friends who have been incredibly supportive of my entrepreneurial journey. They urge me to find outlets that allow me to recharge my batteries while also being there for me when I need focus on the business and my team.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As the CEO and leader of a hyper-growth company, it is important that I lead by example and truly exemplify the core values of our company. This means investing in and practicing a culture of inclusivity, diversity, and transparency, as well as championing our company and our employees to have an active voice in our communities. Nylas is a founding member of Out in Tech’s Qorporate counsel — the world’s largest community of LGBTQ+ tech professionals that seeks greater diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the technology sector.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about the cutting edge communication tech that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Nearly 3 trillion dollars is lost on repetitive tasks in the U.S. alone each year, and while there is a vast amount of data residing in user’s inboxes, calendars, and address books which can be leveraged, it is extremely difficult and time consuming to build and maintain integrations into all these systems in order to access this data. With Nylas, software developers have a unified solution to seamlessly access this data across providers in a secure, reliable, and scalable way. With structured data and modern tools, Nylas is helping developers and businesses to build products and features that meet customer and market needs faster, create competitive differentiation through powerful and customized user experiences, and generate operational ROI through more productive and intelligently automated processes and development cycles.

How do you think this might change the world?

While there are tons of use cases, one that I am particularly proud of is that our technology is being used by multiple healthcare companies to make it easier for individuals to schedule COVID vaccine appointments.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

While it is not necessarily a drawback, whenever user data is being leveraged it is important to recognize the importance and need for strong data security and protection. This is an area where developers and businesses cannot cut corners. Without proper assessments or an understanding of good security design and best practices, it becomes more likely to accidentally expose sensitive information or unintentionally open up to malicious inputs, compliance violations, and more.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Each day there are over 300 billion emails that are sent and received. While other channels such as SMS and online chat have become automated and hyper-connected, email has traditionally remained siloed. With so much interaction happening over email we quickly recognized that it was only natural for us to build tools that could easily integrate email platform data into their applications, giving businesses the well-rounded data they needed in order to truly increase productivity and efficiency.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

This technology is taking off. We are already seeing rapid adoption within countless industries and sectors. We believe that as more individuals, businesses, and countries get better access to the internet, 5G, and more, the need for this technology will only continue to rise as even more communications will be taking place within channels such as email, calendars, SMS, and more.

The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. How do you think your innovation might be able to address the new needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic?

The pandemic has forced business communications online. Email usage is on the rise and real-time intelligent scheduling at scale is becoming table stakes. Nylas’ technology is not only making it easier for businesses to leverage and structure data that lives within these key communication channels, it is also allowing developers to integrate these features into their applications with minimal code, allowing them to spend more time building other key products and features that will drive post-pandemic work and experiences.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Communication is everything — Whether you’re still in the early stages of a company, or scaling to a larger organization, being able to clearly communicate your goals and vision for the company is a must. Good communication from the top down is really the most impactful way to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — As CEO, it can sometimes be challenging to admit that you don’t have the time or the answers. That’s ok. In fact, it can be incredibly helpful to be vulnerable and ask for assistance. This can mean reaching out to members or your leadership team, employees, or even peer groups.
  3. There’s no such thing as investing too much in people and culture — Yes, having a great product or service is essential, but without the right people, you can only take it so far. The reality is, great people and a great culture is what creates great work.
  4. Maintain a healthy work-life blend — A lot is made about work-life balance, but that almost implies that we have two completely separate lives. Instead, it is important to recognize that our personal and professional lives are one in the same. Rather than pitting one against the other, find the most productive way to infuse them together.
  5. Hire experienced managers — Whether it is in sales, engineering, finance, or wherever, good managers make all the difference. The job of a good manager is much more about supporting people and being there for employees, whether that be helping to guide them through potential blockers, or advising them on career growth.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I recommend visiting our website, www.nylas.com. We have tons of great content, case studies, and more. You can even sign up for a free trial and start using Nylas today.

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

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