MAAS GLOBAL — Bootstrapping the Platform for a Billion Dollar Business Opportunity
“Whim” – the mobile application by MaaS Global, has been titled as the “Spotify of transportation”. Whim offers a wealth of options from getting place A to B by public transport, taxi and even rental car – all in a digital subscription service.
There are no common standards and few business practices on how to order buses, taxis, rental cars on behalf of the end customers. MaaS had to create its own models, and adapt their model to fit to the varying practices and IT systems of its partners.
Instead of creating its own maps, geodata or routing systems, MaaS aimed to tap into the existing systems in the field. The technical challenge is making them play together reliably with potentially millions of concurrent users.
We constructed the technical backbone of this system, so that it could be proven to the investors and partners.
We constructed a micro-services architecture consisting of a few dozen adapters and its own data storage for order handling. The system was founded on AWS services, consisting of a REST API using Serverless framework and Postgres data storage. With the exception of managed database services, the whole solution was based on a serverless architecture pattern with Lambda and API Gateway, which theoretically scale infinitely out-of-the-box.
Because the technical mash-up of external map, geocoding, routing and booking services can fail if any of the third party services fail, some practices to increase fault tolerance were taken into account. A continuous integration system was built using GitHub and Travis, so that new development could happen without exhaustive manual integration and testing work.
The first end-to-end version, consisting with the full flow of finding a route into getting a Taxi order was demoed to investors in four months from the start of the project. Since then, the platform has had a beta launch in Helsinki area with paying end customers, and it is currently expanding internationally to UK.
The serverless backend permitted developers to focus on building application logic instead of operating the infrastructure. This is the same reason why companies like Zalando are operating their stack in cloud.
The Whim app, powered by the SC5 bootstrapped backend has won several awards, including Helsinki Smart City Action Award and Nordic Smart Cities Award. Whim has been featured in the international press, including the Economist, the Guardian, Wired and Helsingin Sanomat.
Eight months from the start of the project, the new development is still standing on the same foundations set in the bootstrapping phase. MaaS has successfully passed all planned steps of funding, ongoing a public beta phase in capital Helsinki area, and currently expanding to the first locations outside Finland.
SC5 was our choice for this project because of their expertise in cloud solutions and serverless micro services. We needed Whim-app to be extendable and scale arbitrarily straight from the start. The whole process was really fast-paced and results spectacular; first online routing demo with a test site was up overnight, surprising everyone in the industry and even our board, making the CTO look good in the process!
Sami Pippuri, CTO of MaaS Global
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