Prepping a civic tech platform for massive scale

Prepping a civic tech platform for massive scale

The return on investment was amazing. It was perfect. I couldn't imagine a better company for the job.

Gray Bike set us up for long-term success. We’ve filled in the gaps and are prepared for the ultimate scale in 2020.

They were reliable, detail-oriented, communicative, and made sure we hit all of our deliverables.

Naseem Makiya, Founder

How We Helped

Services
  • CTO & Technical Consulting
  • Front End
  • Back End
Languages
  • JavaScript & React
  • Rails

Challenges

  • Anticipating fast, massive growth
  • Under-resourced
  • Short timeframe
  • Unknown gaps
  • Lack of expertise

Value Created

  • Scalability
  • Improved infrastructure
  • Enhanced stability and performance
  • Code consistency
  • Eliminated potential risks

Solutions

  • CTO and technical consulting services
  • Custom software development
  • Maintenance and iteration

Founded in 2018, Outvote is a mobile app that empowers grassroots campaigning through technology and community organizing. Whether it’s amplifying the national discussion on important issues, mobilizing for policy fights, or getting their favorite candidates elected, users are empowered to move the needle of social progress, both on- and off-line. With remote locations throughout the United States, Outvote works with a wide range of organizations, such as nonprofits and labor unions, and helps facilitate electoral and non-electoral organizing.

Challenge

Outvote’s founder, Naseem Makiya, a Harvard-educated software engineer, is passionate about leveraging technology to encourage political activism and advocacy. His app helps users reach out to people they know and trust through digital messaging. Over the past two years, Outvote has experienced great success through its modern and highly effective approach to attracting organizations such as Planned Parenthood, The Democratic Congressional Campaign, and several presidential primary candidates.

With the 2020 election looming, Naseem and his team shifted their focus from driving sales to seamless execution and scalability. “A presidential election can drastically spike traffic by 10x or more, and it was essential to scale up quickly,” said Naseem. “With hundreds of thousands of people and millions of messages going through our system, we needed to shine the spotlight on app performance to determine if we had any gaps.”

But time was short. Naseem didn’t have the luxury of conducting a lengthy search for full-time engineers to add to his small team. He had to move quickly, so he began to evaluate existing contractors, potential vendors, and freelancers for additional support.

Naseem selected Pavan Trikutam, the founder of Gray Bike, a digital product studio. Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, Gray Bike has a seasoned team of software engineers and designers that helps companies build and improve their software. Naseem had first-hand experience with Pavan’s expertise and quality of work as the two founders had worked together in the past.

Solution / Results

“After exploring literally every possible option, I decided to go with someone who had successfully handled a massive scaling problem—the spike of major traffic on a specific day—for a leading online retailer,” explained Naseem. “During Black Friday, the retailer’s desktop website crashed, but because of his work on their mobile website, it saved the day for the company and processed more revenue than the desktop version.”

Setting the Stage for Success

Gray Bike’s first step was to take a high-level strategic approach, and they began architecting the system to ensure a stable, scalable product. This included improvements to Outvote’s mobile app, web interface, and existing integration with Twilio, a robust messaging platform.

“They looked at our current system, what we’re doing now, the kind of volume we’re anticipating, our bottlenecks, and where we expected to have issues,” said Naseem. “We needed their expertise to create a thesis and then build out a system that was fail-safe.”

Gray Bike understood the problems that Outvote was facing. “They asked all of the right questions, and in no time, they were contributing code, which meant they knew exactly what they were doing,” continued Naseem. “They were reliable, detail-oriented, communicative, and made sure we hit all of our deliverables.”

Improved Mobile App, Upload Speed Creates Competitive Advantage

With election day looming and the anticipation of massive amounts of traffic on the horizon, stakes were high. Gray Bike’s engineers made significant improvements to the mobile app and web interface. They reviewed the code base, resolved issues, enhanced processes, and implemented best practices. The result was increased agility and speed, and the ability to quickly roll out new features.

Outvote is effortlessly sending a million messages a week with plans to send 100 million per day. “Our product is very competitive and user-friendly. We’re beating out products in the market that have been around longer and have gone through presidential cycles,” said Naseem. “From a technical standpoint, Gray Bike set us up for that success.”

Outvote’s customers have also experienced a marked improvement in file upload speed. “In the past, when our clients uploaded CSV files of voters they wanted to reach, it took between one and two hours to process a list of 100,000 people,” Naseem said, “Today, it takes that same time to process a list of a million people.”

A Big Win—Performance and Scalability

Since it was critical for the message delivery infrastructure to perform without fail, Gray Bike’s engineering team worked tirelessly to ensure the technical framework would meet performance and functionality objectives. They revamped the platform and made backend enhancements to shore up any gaps such as improper throttling, bugs in the code, or messages being dropped or marked as spam. In addition, by improving monitoring capabilities and establishing logging procedures, message delivery issues could be easily identified and resolved.

The updates increased stability and scalability by ensuring the messaging system would perform flawlessly in unusually high traffic situations. Although Outvote hasn’t been tried and tested through a presidential cycle yet, they are now able to scale up to 100x their current volume without concern for performance issues or security risks.

“It would be a major disaster to go down on election day,” noted Naseem. “Gray Bike helped solve a potential critical business problem by preparing us for massive scale.”

Hidden Outcomes for Tech Founder

One of the hidden outcomes of working with Gray Bike was the opportunity for Naseem to step away from the codebase. As a technical founder, he was often involved in managing the engineering components and solving technical problems. Now that the app is ready for prime time, he can focus his energies on other projects.

“In the past, I had trouble letting go of the product because I wanted to be involved in everything. And, it’s not easy to find folks that you can trust to run with something and have it turn out really well,” said Naseem. “With Gray Bike, I have complete confidence that when I hand over a problem it will be solved.”

Amazing ROI, Remarkable Engineers

“The return on investment was amazing. It was perfect,” said Naseem. “I couldn’t imagine a better company for the job. That would be crazy, especially given the amount of time we gave them.”

Naseem recalled a comment made by his CTO, which was that Gray Bike had several “unicorn engineers” on their team. This referred to having a rare combination of being mind-blowingly knowledgeable, remarkably talented, and easy to work with.

“Gray Bike clearly understood our goals and the challenges we would be facing. They were proactive, thought through each edge case scenario, and skillfully executed the right solution for our unique needs.” said Naseem. “From an engineering standpoint, and given our deadline, this was a huge accomplishment to have someone come in, ask the right questions, and create a roadmap based on past achievements.”

Poised for the Future

The project was completed in just two and a half months and is now transitioning to a secondary phase. Naseem is eager to see the results of their efforts in November and concluded, “Gray Bike set us up for long-term success. We’ve filled in the gaps and are prepared for the ultimate scale in 2020.”

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