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Sprints, Scala, Scale & Serendipity: Blue Sky Thinking and Washing the Pots on the Road to Success at a Technology Startup
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Sprints, Scala, Scale & Serendipity: Blue Sky Thinking and Washing the Pots on the Road to Success at a Technology Startup


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Video and slides synchronized, mp3 and slide download available at URL …

Video and slides synchronized, mp3 and slide download available at URL

Ian Brookes and Rob Strange recount the journey and relationship of a Tech start-up and its software development partner, with the milestones and millstones along the way. Filmed at

Ian Brookes started his career with Price Waterhouse, subsequent to which he founded his own management consulting firm specializing in corporate finance for SMEs. Rob Strange is the CTO of Sphonic and has been focused on delivering a market leading solution focus on anti fraud market.

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  • 1. Sprints, Scala, Scale & Serendipity:blue sky thinking and washing the potson the road to success at a technology start up
  • 2. News & Community Site• 750,000 unique visitors/month• Published in 4 languages (English, Chinese, Japanese and BrazilianPortuguese)• Post content from our QCon conferences• News 15-20 / week• Articles 3-4 / week• Presentations (videos) 12-15 / week• Interviews 2-3 / week• Books 1 / monthWatch the video with slidesynchronization on!
  • 3. Presented at QCon Londonwww.qconlondon.comPurpose of QCon- to empower software development by facilitating the spread ofknowledge and innovationStrategy- practitioner-driven conference designed for YOU: influencers ofchange and innovation in your teams- speakers and topics driving the evolution and innovation- connecting and catalyzing the influencers and innovatorsHighlights- attended by more than 12,000 delegates since 2007- held in 9 cities worldwide
  • 4. • Ian Brookes, director, Cake Solutions• Spent 25 years in professional services, the IT sector and dabbling with start-ups• Director with Cake for three years• Responsibility for Cake Invest• Rob Strange, CTO,• Early career in the Army• Experience in IT consultancy• Now CTO Sphonic.comEngineering PracticesWho are we?
  • 5. overview• Business introductions• The technology trigger• Roadmaps• MVP• Pivots & customers• PAYG• Going Forward to 2.0
  • 6. • Cake Solutions is an enterprise software development business• We live in Manchester & Oxford, team of 25 outstanding thinkers & doers• Focus on Java, Scala, agile, functional programming & cool technology• Good habits & thought leadership – founders & editors of the OSJ• Partners to Typesafe/VM Ware – direct access to the companies whodesign the technology we specialise in• Not just technology innovators, but also technology venturing - CakeInvest Model & The Catalyst processIntroduction
  • 7. IntroductionFocused on Driving Fraud Down toprotect the Bottom LineUsing Data intelligently to ensuregreater acceptance throughmapping of “significant events”Balancing Fraud & Customer Acceptance• Sphonic• Formed Jan 2012 after market analysis out of consultancy• Initial round friends and family• Started build of current project July 2012• Market• Fraud cost the UK approximately £73bn in 2012• Regulation• Losing considerably currently due to low risk profiles
  • 8. Workflow Manager• Concept Designed over a period of months• Needed to be sure it solved a problem• Needed Vendors on board before build started• Scoping
  • 9. Technology• Initially looked at getting V.1 built in MS– Cheap– Overseas devs– Stable technology– Build and throw away– Waste of money• Moved for initial release used tech we wantedgoing forward– Concurrent– Scalable– Cheap to deliver and easy to scale
  • 10. Technology• Language– Scala– Akka• Databases– Mongo DB– Cassandra (currently 1.2, evaluating DSE 3.0)• Hosting– AWS currently reviewing other options• Other– Jenkins– Chef
  • 11. • High volume transactions – 10,000/sec• Reliable, scalable robust system to handle concurrent operations• Design software to deal with failure• Typesafe stack – Scala & Akka framework• Agile methodology mirrors the business/product strategy• Ideas rich, technical elegance, cash restrictionsTechnology
  • 12. UsageComputeTimeAverageInactivityPeriod“On and Off” “ComputeTime“Unpredictable Bursting“AverageUsageAverageUsageComputeTime“Growing Fast“ComputeTimeAverageUsage“Predictable Bursting“Workload patterns - relevant for Sphonic.comTechnology
  • 13. Roadmap• Had been built before, significant costsproprietary software/hardware• Knew we could do it better– Technology reviews– Designed with scale initially• Takes off not going to have time for rewrite– Security Very important– SASS model
  • 14. Roadmap
  • 15. Cake Invest mindsetT-2-R transaction to relationshipDestination P-2-S Product to ServiceOrganisation L-2-C Linear to CircularGo to Market E-2-E Evaluation to ExperienceRoadmap
  • 16. • Three stage process• Assessment – this is what we know, this is what we think• MVP – you want how many features? just give it a go!• 1.0 – serendipity of technical & business vision• Living in the product backlog• Share the technology & financial risk – PAYG• Symbiotic co-existence of living, breathing, learning & eating togetherRoadmap - Catalyst process
  • 17. • Risk – manage the technical and business (financial) risk• Economics – optimisation of capital investment• Agility – implementing change faster & greater flexibility• Creativity & innovation – support for new, emerging requirements• Simplicity – ability to scale, overcome failures• Trust – address the issues of developer-client relationshipRoadmap - Catalyst process
  • 18. ValueEffortIdeal RealisticCopyright 2005 Scott W. AmblerJust BarelyGood EnoughMVP
  • 19. MVP
  • 20. MVP
  • 21. OptimismPessimismTimeScepticalEnthusiasmBrass bands and fireworksThis is taking timeMVPDon’t see the blood from the first cut…
  • 22. OptimismPessimismTimeResults aren’t visibleIs it worth it?Existing business is sufferingMVPIt’s a scar, now just one more sprint…
  • 23. OptimismPessimismTimeMaybe not a bad ideaIt worksStart to see pay-offsMVPStone the crows…it works!
  • 24. MVP• What did we need for V1.• Work done initially during consultancy– Able to discuss opportunity with clients directly• What vendors could be onboard– Minimum for market acceptance• Pricing models
  • 25. MVP• Able to show original idea to clients– Loved it needed it now• Could have done it better• Too much “minimum functionality”• Cash is king – get it coming in– It will take at least 6 months longer than youimagine, as a B2B business to get cash in
  • 26. Pivots 1• Demos in front of customers– Screen shots– Demos– Working demos– All provide feedback to design• Careful of function creep to please potentialcustomers
  • 27. Pivots 2• Time will kill you• Need to make hard decisions• Ship– Get people using it – User testing– with caveats• Need some resource in house• Keep control or you could be held hostage
  • 28. Customers• Need to be flexible• Try not to get sucked up 80/20 avoid in earlymonths• Validate them– Time– Costs– Likely hood
  • 29. Customers• Keep your promises• Get your foot in the door– Consulting– Conferences – choose carefully• Be honest about delivery timelines• Expect delays at their end
  • 30. • The purpose of a business is to get customers - Drucker• ‘We need all these features’…‘Just give it a go’• The business has to know how the product works• Fail fast, fail quick, fail at least cost (product & business)• Know when you will fail - test to make it break, damage to the limits• Trust nothing, make no assumptions• You have to believe in failure: things go wrong, so what’s next?Customers
  • 31. It is better to be roughly right, than precisely wrongJohn Maynard KeynesTo be uncertain is to be uncomfortable,but to be certain is ridiculousChinese proverbAn accountant is a man who watches the battle from thesafety of the hills and then comes down to bayonet the woundedStephen Frystartup project budgetingPAYG
  • 32. PAYG
  • 33. 0.25x0.5x1x2x4xCone of uncertaintyProject budgetingInitialDefinitionAcceptedSoftwarePAYG
  • 34. 0.25x0.5x1x2x4xChop the cone in twoFix Point“Please takesome initial risk”“I am confidentenough to take risksnow”InitialDefinitionAcceptedSoftwareProject budgetingReduce uncertainty before committing!PAYG
  • 35. PAYG• Pot of first round funding insufficient for full v1.0 development• Cake Catalyst process provided technical & financial risk duediligence for both parties to work together• Cake Invest received PAYG reward:– On commencement of project– In two further performance related tranches• Cake Invest model shares the technology & financial risk instartups – the ultimate PAYG partnership model• is now billing customers funding v2.0 development
  • 36. Transparency on everythingcreatesTrust on everything
  • 37. PAYG• Allowed us to get where we are without givingtoo much away• Able for Cake to assess product development• Helps to manage costs• Pros– Quick– Manage costs• Cons– Lose some control– Can’t go on for ever!
  • 38. Going forward to v2.0Engineering Practices
  • 39. Going forward• Move some in house– Split the workflows• Day to Day• Upgraded functionality• Lots of lessons learned– Engineering /Devops in house early• Great relationship going forward• Keep control– Releases– Testing
  • 40. Going forward• If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster• It’s not just an IT thing, it’s about business advantage• Measure (and pay for) outcomes not activity (work done) –‘working software is the primary measure of value delivered’• Business value = revenue, cost savings, cashflow, market share,customer relations, reputation• Cake is now exclusive development partner to
  • 41. 359791We are hiring!Engineering Practices