Cover for Fountain

For many engineers, deploying a web application with git push heroku master is somewhat of a guilty pleasure. One might think that it is OK to use Heroku for taking pet projects and proofs-of-concept live, but once your product is ready for prime time, it is a job of a dedicated developer operations team to manage infrastructure: whether self-hosted or in the cloud. Deployment then becomes a sacred (and expensive) ritual, only accessible to the chosen few.

Meet Fountain, an industry leading hiring platform for hourly workers, used by Uber, Deliveroo, and Airbnb, among others. For Keith Ryu (Forbes’ “30 under 30”) and Jeremy Cai who co-founded the startup in 2015 under the name OnboardIQ and put it through the Y Combinator’s summer 2015 funding cycle, Heroku was an obvious choice.

Without the need to manage infrastructure, a small product team could focus all their energy into building features and attracting first customers to a live product.

Evil Martians’ mission was to turn the early version of OnboardIQ (now Fountain), bootstrapped by a co-founder Keith Ryu himself, into a stable platform with clean, performant and maintainable code that is ready to handle the ever-growing demand of modern sharing economy for hourly workers.

The pain that Fountain’s founders have discovered—an average 50% no-show rate of job applicants to interviews and the fact that many hired workers move on after their first month—needed remedy fast, and sticking with Heroku was a calculated bet that paid off. More than 300,000 hourly workers were hired and onboarded through Fountain’s software in the third quarter of 2018 alone, bringing the number of successful hires made through the platform over 1.6 million (with a total of 12.3 million job applications processed).

As a team who helped Fountain to see their Heroku-hosted application through all stages of growth, we are ready to share our observations on scaling a successful startup by relying on what is made available by a popular Platform as a Service and the ecosystem around it. Read on to see which obstacles to expect, and how to overcome them.

Keep your tabs early

A web application, once deployed, is a living, breathing organism. So the first thing you need to do while welcoming your first thousands of users—make sure that you always have your hand on the application’s pulse and you are ready to react to changing trends in your users’ behavior.

That means taking control of two things: application logs and runtime metrics.

Logs and metrics are not only the source of truth about the health of your systems but a powerful business instrument for analyzing user behavior and observing real-world trends to either confirm your predictions or form new ones. It is also the only way to understand the impact of new product features truly.

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A product development consultancy that works with startups and established businesses, while also creating open source-based products and services