Thirteen years ago serial entrepreneur Richard Keith Latman made headlines around the country when Microworkz, his Seattle-based startup, was nearly crushed by an avalanche of orders for its low-priced PCs and free Internet service.
Amid mounting lawsuits and Better Business Bureau complaints, Latman found himself out of job. To support his family, he began selling cars. Working for car dealers gave him the idea that would form the basis of his next company.
In November 2003, Latman launched iCarmagic, which was later renamed iMagicLab, to provide cloud-based customer relationship management software to car dealers. iMagicLab has since grown to be one of the nation’s top five CRMs for auto dealers, used by more than 1,400 dealerships around the country, according to Latman.
Latman believes part the magic of iMagicLab is its integrated use of telephony. “The big problem car dealers have is getting somebody who is supposed to make a call to make a call,” Latman said. With iMagicLab, salespeople make calls directly from the CRM. Both the calls and the recording are automatically logged, making it easy for sales managers to stay on top of their teams’ performance. “This is a great value proposition for dealers, and we’re the only ones who do it,” Latman said.
But when Latman first launched the feature, there were problems. All the telephony providers iMagicLab tried had reliability issues. “You’d be surprised how unreliable most systems in the country are at simply connecting calls and doing the basics. We were losing 12 to 13 percent of calls, which is an enormous percentage,” Latman said. “It really discouraged people from using the feature.”
That’s when Latman signed up for the Twilio API. He had heard Twilio had rock solid infrastructure, and he quickly verified that was true. Within days, the number of lost calls dropped to zero. “I don’t think anyone in the industry can touch Twilio in terms of reliability,” Latman said. Twilio also gave iMagicLab the ability to take the service to the next level by making it really easy for Latman’s developers to create additional features like click-to-call, multiring and staggered distribution.
“Twilio has a better product than anyone else,” Latman said. “We just love the fact that when we hit your servers they respond and the calls get made and the connections happen and the quality of the calls are good.”
Latman has plans to expand iMagicLab into other verticals, and he’s about to release a new product built for tablets.
Professionally, Latman has come a long way from Microworkz. But it hasn’t been easy. “The past 12 years there probably hasn’t been a day where I didn’t think, reminisce or wince at the legacy I created,” he said.
Next month, he plans to publish a book, “The Good Fail,” which will be part life story and part entrepreneur’s reference guide. Latman refers to it as “his novel.” He’s looking forward to its release. Once it’s out there, he said, it will finally be the end of the Microworkz story for him. And the start of a brand new chapter.