Meet our new DevOps chief, David Nye

One of the biggest challenges for a fast growing startup is keeping everything running while dealing with an ever-increasing load from a an ever-increasing number of users. Here at WePay, that’s a challenge we’re happy to have — We’re tracking to more than double payment volume this year, and looking to double again the year after that.

That’s why we’re excited to have David Nye onboard as our Director of DevOps and IT, working to make our system even more robust to meet the needs of our partners as we grow. I caught up with David to hear a little more about DevOps and what he’s working on here at WePay.

 

Tell me a bit about your background

My background goes all the way back 30 years in the computer industry, coming out of college. One of the first things I learned was punch cards in college, to reel-to-reel tapes and disk packs. I worked for Digital Equipment on what would be considered Big Iron. Those old two story kind of data centers with disk drives that were as big as this room. Then I ended up working at a called Bolt Barenek Newman. We were the lead DARPA contractor for what we now know as the Internet — you know, the sort of pre-commercial, research-only pre-internet. I worked on that for about 5 years.

I worked at Bay Networks, which was the big competitor to Cisco at the time. I worked at a number of other places — I’ve worked for Intel and Verizon, I’ve worked in the entertainment industry, I built server clusters for render farms. So I’ve really done a lot of different things over the course of my career.

So you’re Director of DevOps. What does that mean for the non-technical folks?

DevOps is a thing where there’s a lot of different definitions or meanings for it. It’s probably best termed as a methodology that development and operations folks use throughout the process to operationalize the product they’re dealing with. DevOps means always thinking about how the code you’re writing will be managed at scale. It’s thinking about metrics.

So the DevOps teams that are usually designed to handle this are usually evangelists — they’re working with the developers the Q/A teams, the operations teams. Sometimes they’re the active participants in those groups, sometimes they’re the support.

And what we’re trying to do here is sort of institutionalize that methodology across those groups, so we can give management the telemetry into what we’re doing on a daily basis.

So what are some concrete steps you’re taking to do that?

Well one of the first things I came in to do was stabilize what we currently have. There was some technical debt that had developed over several months that needed to be looked at. So we added some services, added some servers, created some redundancy, and we’re beginning to add metrics so we can get a better look at what’s happening on our network.

We’ve added a lot of redundancy to the maintenance of the server. We added redundancy there so that if one server goes down there’s a back-up server to go to . Basically, we’ve been systematically locating and eliminating single points of failure across our system. Those always occur, of course. But your ability to stay up during maintenance or during other events depends on hunting out those points of failure and eradicating them at all costs.

How do you define success?

Success for us is 100 percent availability, 100 percent up-time for our partners, combined with a very low latency on that availability. Because those have to work together – you can have 100 percent uptime but if the latency is high, it doesn’t really matter. And we’re getting closer to that goal. 

What is one bit of advice you’d give companies that are looking to improve how they implement DevOps?

The big thing is metrics. If you can’t measure it, you don’t know if it happened or not. That’s an old saying, but it’s true. You have to be able to measure — actually the thing that DevOps is known for, our methodology, is metrics. So my advice is work on that first — you will have no idea what’s really wrong until you establish good metrics, and if you don’t know what’s wrong you can’t fix it.

Most companies don’t measure enough. I mean, there’s a tradeoff, you don’t want to log everything because it causes latency. But what I try to tell everyone is that they need to develop with measurement layers available that I can turn on when I need them. If it’s 3 a.m. and there’s a problem, if I can flip a switch and be logging heavily for 5 to 10 minutes I can probably find out what’s happening. Then I can turn it off. But if it’s not available in the code, that switch that lets me do that, everything is so much harder. So you have to build with that in mind.

WePay turns 6!

Today is a big day for WePay! It was exactly 6 years ago today that our founders, Bill and Rich, left their jobs with nothing but an idea for a group payments service, an idea that became WePay.

And while there have definitely been some twists and turns along the way (You can read a little more about some of the things that happened and the lessons we learned in this blog from Bill) we’re excited to be where we are now: in position as the payments company to power the next wave of innovative e-commerce platforms online. 

So thanks for 6 great years, and here’s to many more! 

Our CEO’s Advice to YC Grads

Today Y Combinator is hosting a demo day for its graduating batch of startups at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. Eighty-five companies will present on stage hoping to convince investors to fund their ideas.
Our CEO & Co-founder, Bill Clerico knows exactly what those founders are feeling today, because he and his co-founder Rich Aberman were in the exact same position five years ago, as part of YC’s 2009 class. 
 
Bill shared his perspective today on his personal blog.
 
Good luck to all participating!

WePay takes the Ice Bucket Challenge

If you’ve been on social media lately, you’ve probably encountered the Ice Bucket Challenge, a viral awareness and fundraising campaign started by Boston College athlete Pete Frates aimed at fighting Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The rules are simple: once the challenge is received, you have 24 hours to either post a video of yourself dumping a bucket of ice water on your head or to donate to ALS research, and then once that’s done, you challenge someone else to do the same. Everyone from pro athletes to movie stars to prominent political families is taking the challenge.

And now, there’s at least one tech company. Here’s WePay accepting the challenge:

In addition to braving the bucket, we’re making a $500 donation to the Pete Frates fund, and a separate $500 donation to the ALS Association, a national non-profit organization that conducts research, care services, public education, and public policy aimed at putting an end to ALS.

We’ve challenged David Hornik at August Capital, Paul Purcell at Continental Investors, Chris Howard at Ignition Partners and our partners at GoFundMe to take the challenge themselves. ALS research is an eminently worthy cause, and it would be great to see the tech community step up and help put a stop to this terrible disease.

You have 24 hours to respond!



Choosing the payments processor that’s right for your business

Once a company decides that it needs to have payment processing as a part of its product offerings, there are a number of ways to go about doing that. One of the easiest ways is to work with a payments services provider (PSP) like WePay. That lets you harness a payments infrastructure that’s already been built out instead of recreating the wheel by building your own, and depending on which PSP you go with, you might also get help with things like regulatory compliance and customer support.

But PSPs aren’t the only game in town. We’re a fairly recent innovation in an industry that in some regards hasn’t changed much since the 1970s, and as you might well imagine, there’s a lot of different legacy players offering a range of different services.

It goes without saying that we here at WePay have built the best possible payments solution for specific types of businesses —  online platforms like crowdfunding sites, small business software providers and marketplaces that provide value by linking payers with payees without controlling one side of the transaction the way a traditional merchant might. Nobody else in the industry offers the same blend of flexibility, regulatory compliance and 100 percent safety from losses due to fraud.

Yet payments is an area where there really doesn’t exist a one size fits all solution, despite what PayPal might like you to think. Depending on the nature of your business and what your goals are, a different type of payments processor might be right for you. Here’s some of the different types of payments partners along with their pros and cons.

Gateways

Gateway companies are the OGs of the payments world, providing a technology layer that enables a company to interface with an acquiring bank to process transactions. If you are looking to build your own payment solution from scratch, then you will probably need to work with a gateway. Gateways are not interoperable — every acquiring bank has different gateways that they work with. Some, particularly those that are wholly owned subsidiaries of an acquirer like Vantiv, only work with a single bank. Gateways offer flexibility and a lower per-transaction fee at the expense of significant upfront and ongoing costs associated with creating and running a payments system.

Examples: Chase Paymentech, First Data, Cybersource

Pros: 

  • Extremely flexible with regard to the flow of funds, user experience, etc
  • Large, reliable companies that have been around for decades
  • Typically, lower per-transaction fees as middlemen are cut out

Cons:

  • Geared toward larger companies
  • Developer tools are often outdated and hard to work with
  • Contract negotiations take a long time and can be taxing
  • The need to build comprehensive risk, compliance, and security teams and systems in-house at great expense
  • Pricing is complicated — most work on a cost plus model with upfront costs, monthly minimums, exclusive contracts and termination penalties
  • Not interoperable — going international will likely mean using a different gateway to interact with a different acquirer in each market, meaning a huge development load for every new expansion

Independent Sales Organizations (ISOs)

Independent Sales Organizations, or ISOs, are the value added retailers of the payments world. Their primary purpose is to market and sell merchant accounts to businesses on behalf of an acquiring bank. Most ISOs have a single acquirer they work with, but some of the larger ones work with several. It’s hard to generalize too much about ISOs, as it is a diverse industry — on the small end they may be little more than a sales office peddling merchant accounts to local brick-and-mortar businesses, while larger ISOs often offer a greater degree of technology, service, and support to their customers. ISOs are generally unsuited for platform payments, as their primary use case is providing merchant accounts for an end retailer.

Examples: Too many to list. Here’s Visa’s list of registered ISOs.

Pros:

  • Makes it much easier to acquire a merchant account from an acquiring bank
  • Generally you have a single point of contact at an ISO which may lead to a higher level of support
  • May offer a way for merchants in riskier industries to get an account, as some ISOs are willing to underwrite some of the risk in exchange for higher fees

Cons:

  • Platform payments are not a core competency, best for traditional e-commerce sites
  • Setup may be technically difficult
  • The need for platforms and larger e-commerce sites to build comprehensive risk, compliance, and security teams and systems in house at great expense
  • Smaller ISOs may offer little in the way of additional services beyond a basic merchant account

Payment Service Providers (PSP)

Payment Service Providers, also called PSPs and payment facilitators are a newer class of payments companies that bundle an acquirer, processor, gateway and support for alternate payment methods into a complete payments solution. PSPs are very developer-focused, providing modern tools like APIs and SDKs as well as a complete technology stack for payments processing. The downside is that the most regulatory compliant of them will impose their own checkout flow on a transaction, which can hurt brand building and the user experience, while some that are more flexible offer less in the way of fraud mitigation and regulatory compliance.

Examples: WePay, Braintree, Stripe, Balanced, PayPal

Pros:

  • Modern developer tools and pre-built technology stacks that make it much easier to onboard new users and start accepting payments fast
  • Lower upfront costs and better implementation support.
  • Better adapted to the needs of platform companies
  • (WePay specific) Handles 100 percent of regulatory compliance and risk management issues, as well as mitigating losses due to chargebacks

Cons:

  • Higher transaction fees
  • Often co-branded, diluting the platform’s brand
  • Often impose their own checkout flow, which can hurt conversions

To Sum Up

There are a lot of players in the payments space, all of them with slightly different product offerings geared to different types of businesses. A large multinational company is going to want to work with different partners than a mom-and-pop retailer, and a platform company is going to have different needs than a company that’s an end merchant. The key is finding the right kind of payments provider that meet your specific needs. If you’re a platform looking for an easy and simple payment API, WePay can help. Contact our API team at API@WePay.com to hear about how we make processing payments simple, safe, and profitable.