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Venmo Pitches in with Friends of Rockaway

· by Katie Mulligan, People Team

The team at Venmo recently had the humbling opportunity to volunteer with Friends of Rockaway, a non-profit dedicated to rebuilding homes for displaced Hurricane Sandy survivors. We put in a hard day’s work, but this time around it was with power drills and paint rollers instead of laptops and headphones.

Friends of Rockaway has helped rebuild over 122 homes since Hurricane Sandy devastated the area three years ago, and has cleaned out and repaired over 600 more. We were invited to help out on Mrs. Stevens’ home. Site managers Sarah and Emily explained to us that Mrs. Steven’s entire first floor flooded during the storm, and she had been living on the second story of her house for a few years before the non-profit came in to help her clean out the mold, muck and gut the first floor, and begin renovations.

The Venmo volunteers spent the morning bopping around on ladders, sanding the newly-installed drywall, getting covered in dust, laughing at each other, and rocking out to Sarah’s catchy playlist. After lunch, we took turns sharing some of our favorite Venmo memories while replacing old hardware on the outdoor porch and giving it a good coat of fresh paint. Despite sore muscles, we had a joyful trip home, knowing that we worked hard and made a difference.Thanks to Friends of Rockaway and their amazing volunteers, Mrs. Stevens should be able to occupy the first floor of her home by the end of December. Visit friendsofrockaway.org to learn more about how to help their cause.

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Introducing Camellia George (kah-MEEL-ya), Head of Product Development

· by Michael Vaughan, Venmo GM

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Give us a brief description of what you do here at Venmo. I oversee and guide the three teams that define and design our products: User Research, Product Design and Product Management. Together we synthesize learnings from our Strategy, Operations and Engineering teams, our customers and competitors into new ideas for Venmo. Sometimes these are simple extensions to help make existing parts of Venmo more usable or delightful for our customers. And, sometimes these are ideas for new products or services that don’t exist at all within Venmo.

Our team is responsible for defining the business logic and requirements, designing the user experience, and managing the creation and release of these features and products into the wild.

What do you enjoy most about your current position? I love getting to work every day with a mix of people on the Product team, Engineering teams, and Strategy team at Venmo. I deeply believe that great products are the result of fantastic relationships and the chemistry between people with a shared mission.

But something that's unique to being at Venmo is that this product has been on my personal "bucket list." Seven years ago, as part of Intel Research's Personal Digital Money initiative, I took part in experience definition of intersection of social networks, mobile devices and personal finance. Future-casting for the computing giant was amazing, but ever since I have been looking for an opportunity to put those learnings and vision into real products in the market. I couldn't be more excited to be a part of such an exciting product and team.

How do you spend your free time? What free time? Just kidding. I have a six year old son, so most of my free time these days is spent building Legos—usually various forms of speeder bikes for an extended Star Wars universe—and playing soccer at the park. But when I sneak away for some quiet time by myself I like to read about science (especially epidemiology), watch sci-fi television, and fritter away time on Etsy, which I like to think of as a crowd-sourced 3D printer.

What are you listening to these days? I'm obsessed with Steven A Clark's "Bounty" (you can thank me later) and some other cuts from the same album, I love the HBR Ideacast and Freakonomics podcasts.

Where would you like to go on your dream vacation? I love, love, love Santa Fe, New Mexico, especially in the fall or early spring while it's still chilly at night and crisp during the day. It's my go-to day dream. I'm also really hoping to visit Copenhagen sometime soon!

What would be the title of your autobiography? "The Future is Fabulous" or "For a Short Story, That Sure Went on for a While."

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? As a kid, I was 100% sure I was going to be a pediatrician.

Go-to karaoke song? "Edge of Seventeen" or anything off Rumors by Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks is my hero, hands down.

If you had a superpower, what would it be and why? Time-freezing. Obviously. So I could get more things done and sneak in a nap.

What's your favorite joke? A: Knock knock. B: Who's there? A: Control freak...Now you say, "Control freak who?"

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A marketing analytics summer internship at Venmo

· by Tom Vladeck, MBA Intern

Me

Hi, my name is Thomas Vladeck. I’m in the middle of getting my MBA from Wharton and this summer I had a marketing analytics summer internship at Venmo. Prior to Wharton I did a variety of things related to climate policy, so although I majored in math a long time ago, this is a bit of a new thing for me. I loved the three classes I took in marketing and market research I took in my first year, and since Wharton is heavily quantitative, I felt ready to take on a new challenge.

Picking my project

My first step was to pick my project. I was hired with the understanding that (a) I’d do some sort of technical market research project and (b) I’d mostly manage myself. During my interview process I put together a process I’d follow for defining the project, performing the analysis, and distributing my findings. My first task was to get acquainted with the team and figure out what everyone wanted to know - and what would be the highest-value projects I could work on.

Eventually we settled on trying to understand what types of people were not getting value out of Venmo and churning out. This would happen in two stages: first, I’d figure out which users were no longer using Venmo, and second, I’d correlate that with other things we could observe about those users to come up with a general finding.

A diversion into product survey data

But first! I got sidetracked. While getting acquainted with the data we stored in various places, I started looking into the surveys we send our users. Like most companies, we keep track of our Net Promoter Score. We also ask a bunch of follow-up questions about how our product is performing, such as “Do you find it easy to find the right person to pay on Venmo?”. I noticed that we were sending three different versions of the survey out, with different sets of questions. Our PMs had a lot of questions, and no good way to sort out which they should be asking.

Ta Da!! I had just learned a tool to do this, and wasn’t going to let the opportunity go to waste. A tool called factor analysis can help marketers interpret the information they are getting from their surveys, and redesign them to ask fewer questions.

Factor analysis works on the following principle: we can observe only how our users answer the questions we ask them, but we can’t directly observe the “factors” that are important to them. The process uses fancy math to infer what factors are driving different answers to questions.

As it turned out, we were asking a lot of redundant questions; for example, we were asking five questions that began “I feel that it is easy…”. The graphs below are one output of the factor analysis (called a scree plot), and show how much variation in survey responses is accounted for by each factor - and clearly some factors are far more important than others. This meant that we could reduce the number of questions we ask and get the same amount of information.

Based on the factor analysis, we were able to reduce the number of questions we ask from 23 to just 8, and combine our three regular product feedback surveys into just one.

Back to customer analytics

With that little mini-project out of the way, I turned back to the task of thinking about retention and churn at Venmo.  Apps like Venmo have a much tougher time calculating churn than do subscription services like Dropbox or cable TV. In “contractual” settings, you can observe churn directly when people cancel their subscription; by contrast, if someone doesn’t use Venmo for a while, there’s a chance they just haven’t been in the right place or mood and will come back.

I had planned to dive right into this sexy stochastic model that would put a probability on each user being “alive” but I was urged by our GM, Mike Vaughan, to start simpler. The sexy stochastic model would come later.

The first thing he suggested doing was creating a “transition matrix.” Like most every other tech company, we measure our “monthly actives” - the number of users that show up in a given month. But we weren’t measuring how much “turnover” there was in our active user base. Were active users staying active? Were inactive users becoming active and vice versa? There was no way to tell.

 A transition matrix has every user fitting into one of these cells:

This can give more detail on what our retention looks like. Given a monthly active number, more turnover is better, as it means that more users overall are still using Venmo.

With Mike Cohen - my strategy mentor - I wrote some R code that combed through our database to track individual users to fill out this matrix. Sure enough, in addition to high retention, we also had high turnover. Since it was worth keeping track of, I worked with JT Glaze - data engineer impresario - to sketch out the Python code that will ultimately feed into a Looker dashboard for the company to keep track of. 

The sexy stochastic model

With our transition matrix presented to the team, I turned my attention back to the modeling our user base. It turns out that many of the good folks back at Wharton have spent a lot of time thinking about churn rates in a non-contractual setting, and have developed some models and R code to work it out.

The model that seemed to apply best is called the Pareto/NBD model. Roughly speaking, it assumes that every Venmo user, while they’re alive, has a constant probability of using the app on any given day - but those probabilities are different for every user, and they vary according to a prior distribution. Similarly, the model assumes that users have a constant probability of churning out each day, and again, these probabilities are different for each user, and vary according to a prior distribution.

The beauty of this model is that it only needs a few pieces of information for each user (how long they’ve used Venmo, when they last used it, and how frequently they use it), and there is a really useful R package that will do most of the heavy lifting (although we did have to patch some functions).

With tons of data and a state-of-the-art model at our disposal, we plugged and chugged, and… bummer:

As you can see here, the model is substantially underpredicting our holdout data. We scratched our heads, and we ended up finding the culprit: clumpiness! (No, really, that’s the term). It basically means that our users don’t have a constant probability of using the app every day. Some weeks you’re with friends sharing payments left and right, other weeks you’re heads down at the library studying for finals and barely going out.

Can we measure clumpiness? Of course we can! Some more good folks at Wharton have come up with a measure based on the familiar notion of entropy. When we calculated it for our users, we found that a huge number of our users were “clumpy.”

So, basically, our users are binge-users of Venmo. This jibed well with the data that our user base was turning over significantly. It also meant that a critical assumption of the Pareto/NBD model was violated. On the bright side, we learned something new about our users.

Segmentation

With the stochastic modeling route closed off until someone (or we) make inroads into extending customer lifetime value calculations to customers with hidden states (in a way that’s computationally feasible), we turned to segmenting our user base, including clumpiness as a segmenting variable.

You may be wondering, “what is segmentation”? Basically, it’s an attempt to classify your users into different types. You may know of “soccer moms” and “nascar dads” from the political arena. Same thing. For example, some people on Venmo are in college and use it when they go out with their friends; others are older and use it only for rent. We found these archetypal users by using a technique called model-based clustering.

Conclusion

In addition to working in R, I really enjoyed a few other things about this summer. The first is pairing. Venmo has a ton of pairing rooms where you can sit next to a teammate and work off the same computer. My mentor Mike and I spent countless hours working together on problems - sometimes as simple as going through an academic paper or writing an email - and we were at least five times as productive as we would have been individually.

The other thing I really enjoyed about Venmo are demo days. Every other Friday the various Product, Engineering, and Design teams will demo what they’ve been working on. Over the summer I demoed a few times. At first I was a bit hesitant that people would be interested in this quant-heavy marketing stuff, but was very pleasantly surprised to find people really enjoyed it.

Finally, Venmo was just a plain fun place to work at. I mean, I was so into playing dodgeball that I basically threw my arm out:

I had such a great summer that I even wrangled my way into continuing to work on projects during the school year! Although I’ll miss being in the office everyday, I’m excited that I’ll get the opportunity to continue scratching my statistical-modeling itches. 

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Hack Week at Venmo

· by Katie Mulligan, People Team

A company-wide hackathon is a great opportunity for folks to team up with people from different departments and tackle a project that isn’t currently on the roadmap. And, working with new team members on interesting projects cultivates creativity and innovation. At Venmo, Hack Week also means bringing remote employees to our NYC headquarters, peppering the week with activities that encourage cross-team socialization, and making sure to end on a high note– our annual summer party. The result was an incredibly fun week that left us reeling with Venmo pride.

Since everyone was diligently hacking away on ambitious projects, we made sure to sneak in a couple breaks. One afternoon, we pushed our cafeteria tables aside for a fun and re-energizing Michael Jackson dance class. We also offered relaxing meditation sessions every day and a chance for individual teams to go out to dinner together. The most popular activity was Venmo’s first ever “Lunch Roulette.” We split everyone into groups varied by team and office location, and sent them out to lunch together. Lunch Roulette successfully got folks out of the office and sharing a meal with people they don’t necessarily interact with day to day.

At the end of the week, the entire company got together to watch the presentations from our fourteen different Hack Week teams. Among the winners, a group who designed an internal Bot that allows our team to give each other positive feedback via Venmo payments, and a proposed feature that would send your friends a musical greeting through Venmo on their birthdays. The coveted People’s Choice prize went to a group that choreographed a lip dub video around the Venmo office.

The best part of Hack Week was that we got to take all that positivity and inspiration with us to a huge Venmo summer celebration at the end of the week. We boarded a boat for a dinner cruise on the Hudson River, followed by a full evening of dancing and karaoke. Venmo parties are always a blast, but we were celebrating so much more this time around– the amazingly talented group of people that we’re so lucky to come to work with everyday.

Interested in being part of the Venmo crew? Check out our jobs page.

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Venmo Paints the Town

· by Katie Mulligan, People Team

A few weeks ago, we sent some Venmo volunteers to help local artist Ellie Balk and the students at Brooklyn’s Green School finish up their annual mural. This isn’t just any old neighborhood beautification project: every year Ellie works together with the staff and students to design a mural based on the school’s math curriculum. This year’s project, Visualize Pi: Perspective, uses blocks of varying height and color to represent Pi.

Visualize Pi is an extraordinary program for Green School. It allows students to understand complex math concepts through design and feel ownership over a project that adds value to their neighborhood.

The Venmo volunteers jumped in towards the end of the painting week to help with some straight lines, ladder climbing, and detail work. We had a blast rolling up our sleeves, getting paint on our faces, and spending time outside in the sun. When we were painting with Ellie and the students, we really felt like we were making a direct impact in the community. People kept walking by to chat with us and thank us for adding a colorful flair to the neighborhood. It was an incredible feeling to step back at the end of the day and check out the beautiful result of everyone’s hard work.

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A Note to Our Venmo Community

· by Michael Vaughan, Venmo GM

Recently, there’s been some commentary about the security of Venmo’s service and our responsiveness to our customers. It’s really important to everyone at Venmo that we address this with you directly. Our most important job at Venmo is to protect your money and provide you with a secure and easy way to make and share payments. This involves building an amazing product experience, but it also includes the teams of people behind the scenes who work tirelessly and are dedicated to protecting and supporting you - our fraud prevention, customer support and operations teams. We are all part of the community and we are grateful for those of you who have posed questions and provided feedback.

First things first, I want you to know a lot of what we do to protect you is happening behind the scenes. We focus on your safety and overall experience as a whole. We don’t build for features just for features’ sake. We’re processing billions of dollars of your payments every year and we maintain fraud rates favorable to industry standards and that is why we are comfortable guaranteeing your money if you are the victim of unauthorized transactions.

So….. here are the things we do to help keep you secure:

• We have fraud protection algorithms and systems that are always on. As much as I’d love to share more here, I don’t want to tip our hand to would-be fraudsters, but we back it up by guaranteeing your money from unauthorized transactions.

• We encrypt your sensitive financial information, including your bank account details. That data is never stored on your device. It’s not even visible to you. Ha. Take that. So, even if your crazy uncle got your password and logged into your account without you knowing, your bank account information is not visible. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about all those checks you’re writing that have your full routing number and account number at the bottom. But that’s a story for another day.

• We are PCI-compliant and your debit/credit card info is encrypted and secure. You’re probably wondering “What is PCI-compliant?” Answer: it’s a credit card industry standard to make sure we’re doing our job to protect you. It’s kind of like putting on suspenders after you have a belt on, and then having your mom check your belt and snap your suspenders to make sure they’re both working.

• We set payment limits to protect against unauthorized transactions and only verified accounts have higher limits.

• We log you out of a web session after a certain period of inactivity.

And if that’s not enough, here are some things you can do for yourself to make you feel more comfortable when using Venmo:

• Set a passcode lock on the Venmo app (in addition to your phone lock) that’s required each time you open it. If you have an iPhone, you can use TouchID instead of a four-digit PIN to use fingerprint authentication for your Venmo lock.

• Disable any device and remotely log out of a session from your web settings if you have any concerns to prevent unauthorized transactions.

• Set options to receive text messages, push notifications or emails for payment transactions and a wide range of app activities so that you can monitor your account.

And, as with any online service: use a password that is strong and unique to your Venmo account. Venmo can’t guarantee the security of your other apps and services and sharing a password across many services can make your account vulnerable - as with any online service.

I want to assure you we are continuously improving product and security measures. We have a bunch of things we’ve been working on and we’ll share more of those with you soon. While we know that we measure up favorably against the industry standards for fraud prevention, we aren’t sitting back.

Another concern we’ve heard is some frustration in delays in getting help from us when you need it. We never want you to be disappointed and we’re sorry if that’s been the case. Our support team is the lifeblood of Venmo and we aim to be the biggest advocates for you. As we grow rapidly, we are working diligently to keep the level of service you should expect, and we’re hiring more people to work in support (if you are interested in joining us). We’re also looking at other areas where we can offer additional help more quickly including chat support and taking a new approach to support that will enable us to better interact with our users.

Venmo doesn’t exist without you, our users, and our job is to do right by you. We work to earn your trust every day. We take that responsibility seriously and we will do our best to be as transparent as possible with you as we continue on this journey. As part of that relationship, we value your feedback and we welcome it continuously to help make Venmo better. We’re all standing by to listen to your comments – please email us at support@venmo.com and we will answer every single question you have as quickly as we can.

Thanks for being a part of the Venmo family.

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Venmo Developer Spotlight: Joel Bixby

· by Cassidy Williams

By Cassidy Williams and Joel Bixby

This is the third in a series of Venmo Developer Spotlights, where you can get insights on what life at Venmo is really like. If these posts tickle your fancy, head over to our job board and join us!

Joel is a solid backend engineer at Venmo. Joel grew up in Iowa believing his dream job was on the West Coast. After graduating at Iowa State University with a degree in Computer Science, he went the East Coast. In his free time, he enjoys testing new web frameworks and going outside for some fresh air!

How long have you been with Venmo? What do you work on?

I have worked at Venmo for seven months. I am currently on the Scaling team, which helps Venmo’s code keep working as we grow with our user base. I have worked on projects that setup Celery for queue processing, migrated data from MySQL to Redis for extremely fast reads and writes, and also work in Puppet, our infastructure manager for deploying and managing our services.

What is your favorite programming language?

I enjoy many programming languages, but I can’t seem to pick just one. Python and Javascript would definitely be in my favorite programming languages. Both are very informal and have many ways of doing the same thing. I believe this freedom gives them a personality. A personality made of common practices, clever tricks, and some ugly stuff too.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I try to stay active and go to the gym as much as I can. In the Fall, a group of coworkers and I participated in ZogSports dodgeball, which was extremely fun! I definitely plan to join another season of it soon! When I’m at home, I like to investigate new programming languages, frameworks, and software for my own projects.

Are you working on any side projects right now?

I am currently working on a mobile app for skydivers. Skydivers are required to do a lot of jump logging in order to become licensed and it requires a lot of manual labors. With new technology in cell phones, almost all data can be collected automatically.

What is a fun fact about you that you don’t usually get to talk about?

When I was little I took dance classes with my sisters. I took lead roles in many nursery rhymes as a cowboy, a mouse, and a spider.

What advice do you have for aspiring developers?

Learn as much as you can! There are unlimited applications of software development and you can decide how you want to apply it. Pick something that interests you and learn that front to back. The more you know, the more experience you will have to make an educated decision.

Got more questions? Email us at blog@venmo.com!

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Venmo Developer Spotlight: Edmund Yan

· by Cassidy Williams

By Cassidy Williams and Edmund Yan

This is the second in a series of Venmo Developer Spotlights, where you can get insights on what life at Venmo is really like. If these posts tickle your fancy, head over to our job board and join us!

Edmund is a great backend engineer at Venmo. A recent Computer Science graduate from UC Davis, he is very excited to put his years of studying to use at Venmo. His life revolves around food, so expect to catch him trying out a new restaurant or cooking his ol' classic of steak and potatoes at home.

How long have you been with Venmo? What do you work on?

Venmo is my first job out of college, and I've been here a little over four months. I'm a platform engineer on the Money team, which owns the systems that deal with handling, you guessed it, money! This includes things like adding and verifying your bank account and the delicate process of actually moving money around Venmo.

What is your favorite programming language?

I'm a big Python fan these days, but I still have a huge place in my heart for C/C++. I did a lot of CUDA in school and although immensely frustrating, I loved the hours spent in the computer lab trying to squeeze out extra FLOPs out of my GPU.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I probably have an unhealthy obsession with Esports, where I log many more hours watching other people play video games than playing the game myself. While some people spend the weekend marathoning Netflix, I'm spending it marathoning a weekend LoL, CS:GO, or SC2 tournament.

Are you working on any side projects right now?

Now that I finally have my own apartment, I've been spending the past month "pimping" it out to be my little tech-oasis I call home. Organizing the miles of wires throughout the room, setting up the HTPC, automatically downloading the latest TV shows/magazines, wirelessly syncing all of it to my phone/tablet, etc. It's been a ton of fun incrementally building the system out and finding places I can write scripts to automate the process.

What is a fun fact about you that you don’t usually get to talk about?

In the 8th grade, I wrote a 70-page report on Jedi in the Stars Wars universe. This went into detail about their history, bios of influential Jedi, descriptions of force powers, lightsaber designs, and even an interview with a random guy I found on a Star Wars forum. I'm cringing but also laughing hysterically remembering it now.

What advice do you have for aspiring developers?

If you're having trouble finding inspiration to do programming on the side, find things in your life (no matter how small) and optimize it! My very first program was an auto-clicking script that pressed two keys over and over again so that I could get a high score in a Flash game on Neopets.
Looking back, some of the most fun and rewarding coding I've done were just small scripts I made to automate and make my mundane life a little easier. Things like auto-clicking video game bots, Excel macros, and web page parsers were just me thinking "hey, a computer can do this way better!"

Got more questions? Email us at blog@venmo.com!

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Venmo Developer Spotlight: Amanda Li

· by Cassidy Williams

By Cassidy Williams and Amanda Li

This is the first in a series of Venmo Developer Spotlights, where you can get insights on what life at Venmo is really like. If these posts tickle your fancy, head over to our job board and join us!

Amanda is an awesome backend engineer at Venmo. She has worked in a wide range of places, including government, investment banks, and startups. She graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Information Science. In her spare time, she loves to dragonboat (ask her what that is), cook, eat, and drink wine - preferably in that order.

How long have you been with Venmo? What do you work on?

I've been at Venmo for over a year and have spent that time working on the Data & Internal Tools team. They're like my family, but just the incredibly funny ones. At Venmo, I develop applications used by our internal teams to help them do great things like detect fraud and assist our users.

What is your favorite programming language?

My current favorite programming language is Python. Ruby is a close second.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I like to stay active. Whether it be paddling on the water, playing dodgeball with coworkers, or hitting the gym, it feels good to work up a sweat.

Are you working on any side projects right now?

My side projects include building websites for non-profit organizations, one of which is a Breast Cancer Survivor Dragonboat Team. They're all written in Ruby on Rails, using Bootstrap themes, and hosted on Heroku. Nothing flashy, just simple and straightforward.

What is a fun fact about you that you don’t usually get to talk about?

I recently made the preliminary roster for the 2015 USDBF Team USA Premier Women's Dragonboat Team. It's the equivalent of qualifying for the US Olympic Team, if Dragonboating was an Olympic sport.

What advice do you have for aspiring developers?

My advice to aspiring developers is to prepare yourself on how to deal with failure. There will be many times where you will hit a proverbial wall in your learning process. Maybe it's a concept you just can't figure out, or your code won't compile. Life. Will. Suck. You have to be stubborn and believe that you can figure it out - it's just a matter of time. Step back, look at the bigger picture, reach out to others for advice, or try a completely new approach. You've got this.

Got more questions? Email us at blog@venmo.com!

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Thoughts from F8: Move Fast, But Don’t Break Things

· by Ayaka Nonaka

Last Wednesday, our mobile engineering team at Venmo attended F8, Facebook’s developer conference.

At some point during the kick-off, Mark Zuckerberg stood on stage with the famous phrase “Move Fast And Break Things” projected in the background. Many cameras went up to capture this iconic moment. Moments later, a new phrase was projected: “Move Fast With Stable Infra[structure].” Zuckerberg sheepishly admitted that this isn’t as catchy sounding as their previous phrase, but it was a much needed change. I always thought the right phrase was “Move Fast, But Don’t Break Things” so this was a very welcome announcement that made me excited for the following sessions.

move_fast_and_break_things
move_fast_with_stable_infra

There were four separate tracks that an attendee could follow during the conference: Build, Grow, Monetize, and Hacker Way. Although you could switch tracks at any point during the conference, I ended up staying on the Hacker Way track for the entire day.

At first, I was hesitant to register for all of the “hacker” sessions, because I was there to learn about engineering best practices; not how to “hack” things together and break things. But after reading the descriptions for each of the sessions, it sounded like this track was the right one. As a cynic of the “#shipit” culture, I thought this was a little ironic.

The sessions, as promised, took us through Facebook’s engineering process—everything from UI prototyping to continuous integration, and even performance optimization using subtree pre-compositing. For UI prototyping, they use Origami, a tool that they built in-house. To speed up testing, they built xctool for iOS, and Buck for Android. To achieve the level of seamlessness in Paper’s gestures and animations, they built Pop. These tools are available to everyone. The best part? They’re all open-source, with active contribution from developers all over the world.

Facebook’s developers showed us all the processes and tools that work for them to “Move Fast” while shipping stable, quality software (i.e. not “Break Things”).

In hindsight, the name “Hacker Way” isn’t actually ironic. Facebook seems to be redefining the “hacker” culture. “Hacker” doesn’t mean the too common definition of “one who breaks into computers” or the slightly newer definition of “one who ships stuff quickly (and probably with bad code).” To be a hacker is to build and ship quality products while knowing what tools and processes can help do this faster. Afterall, good software engineering practices like using proper design patterns and testing were invented not to slow you down, but to enable you to move fast and not worry that you might have broken something.

Overall, we really enjoyed F8. Not only did Facebook announce cool new products like Anonymous Login and App Links (which we’re super excited to be integrating in the coming weeks), but they took it one step further and offered sessions that enable hackers (in the newest sense of the word) to go out and build the best products to delight their users.

Thank you for having us there, Facebook!

P.S. You can go here to watch all of the sessions from F8. The videos with the blue backdrop are the ones from Hacker Way.

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GiveDirectly on Venmo

· by Andrew Kortina

GiveDirectly on Venmo

Our mission at Venmo is to connect the world and empower people through payments.  We love to see users connect when they add personal notes to each payment and share with friends, and in 2014 we hope to better serve the empowerment part of our mission.

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Simon Weber is at Venmo

· by Venmo

Simon Weber is at Venmo

Simon hails from the sweetest place on earth: Hershey, Pennsylvania. After graduating from the University of Rochester last spring, he spent the summer at Hacker School.

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Thomas Boyt is at Venmo

· by Venmo

Thomas Boyt is at Venmo

Thomas is a Hacker School (Winter 2013) alum. He's a contributor to Ember.js and various other open source JavaScript projects. He cares deeply about build tools and foundations for creating web applications, and believes that a solid front-end is just as important for an app as a solid back-end.

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How I Lost 20lbs Working at Venmo

· by Dan Garfinkel

How I Lost 20lbs Working at Venmo

In the summer of 2011 I joined Venmo and weighed 190 pounds. I wasn’t noticeably overweight and had what most would consider a pretty healthy lifestyle. Now, a year and a half later, I’m 20 pounds less, and haven’t made any dramatic changes to my overall lifestyle. Over the past few weeks, I have been coordinating the build out and move into our new office, and realized some of the cool things about our culture that have not only helped me lose weight, but also improved my health and fitness level.

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What are people paying for?

· by Venmo

What are people paying for?

Here at Venmo, part of paying your friends and family back through our app is sharing the experience through payment notes. We decided to take a look at these notes across our user base and see what people are up to.

So what does this all mean?

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Venmo's Head of Culture Talks Employee One-on-Ones

· by Venmo

At Venmo, we’ve been working hard to find the best people to join our team. Dan Garfinkel, our head of culture and community, is in charge of maintaining the Venmo vibe as the team grows.  “We are now 24 people strong… and we’re all responsible for setting the tone for Venmo as we continue to grow,” Dan said in a company-wide meeting on culture and community building initiatives.

To help make sure every person on the team gets to know their co-workers, Dan introduced company one-on-ones. Each week, every Venmo employee is paired with another member of our team to spend a little one-on-one time outside of the office. 

Team members agree on an activity for their outing, pay for it and are reimbursed with a simple charge to the Venmo employee expense account. Sometimes we just grab lunch, a beer, or a coffee, but some people in the office like to be a bit more creative. Engineer Alan and designer Christine used their Venmo spending cash to play a friendly game of poker. One engineer, Julian, was considering handing out flowers at the high line park for his next one-on-one.  “It’s choose your own destiny, once a week,” said marketing manager, Cora.

In true Venmo fashion, after Dan announced the one-on-ones our engineers started arguing over how the pairs should be selected. To help sort through the different programming solutions our engineers offered, Dan held a company-wide competition to see who could write the most efficient program. We won’t mention any names, but the winner earned serious dough from his congratulations via Venmo.

No matter how many people come onboard in the future, Venmo plans to make sure the company always feels friendly, vibrant and close-knit. As Dan said, “Happy team members work hard for the team.”

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Columbia Student Organization Uses Venmo for Dues and Dining

· by Venmo

Ron Shapiro, Columbia University student and Venmo intern, talks about how Venmo provides his student organization with an easier way to collect dues.

Ron, long accustomed to using Venmo for coffee runs during exam week and splitting bar tabs with his friends, has found an innovative way of to Venmo to improve his extracurricular activities. He established a Venmo Club account for his Hillel group to collect dues, making it much easier to plan big events. 

Ron’s group plans a dinner for 250 people. Collecting money from all of those people was cumbersome and a little socially awkward. “Asking people for cash can be really nerve-wracking and kind of a pain,” he explained. Adding, “when dues can’t be collected, group leaders end up funding events from their project budget.” 

With Venmo, Ron just charges group members directly from the app on his phone. “It makes our lives infinitely easier,” Ron added. Now he can even monitor the dues he’s collected and view them on the web. 

Fraternities, sororities, acapella groups and countless other student-run organizations all plan group events and rely on dues collected from their members. Ron’s even been encouraging his friend, the treasurer of a Columbia fraternity, to start collecting dues with Venmo next year. He’s hopeful more and more student groups at Columbia will bypass the hassle of collecting cash and start using Venmo: “Everyone agrees it’s the future.”

Thanks, Ron!

Got a story about how you use Venmo on your college campus? Email us at press@venmo.com. Select submissions will be featured on our blog.

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It doesn’t hurt to work at Venmo on your birthday!

· by Venmo

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Woah, I just bought my dad an iPhone

· by Venmo

Andrew Staub here, Venmo Growth Engineer, with a story that captures why I think Venmo is awesome.

My father turned 60 in May.  Three weeks ago, he gave in to child pressure and switched from AOL to Gmail and ditched his 8 year-old palm pilot and 3 year-old flip phone in favor of the iPhone 3GS.  I had repeatedly encouraged him that these new products were designed so well that he would have no problem picking them up.  

And then reality hit.  He was calling me three times a day with questions and having trouble making a simple phone call.  Most likely, no matter your age, you have experienced a similar situation.  You encourage your parents to adopt a new technology and their enormous fear of change causes a great deal of stress.

A few weeks ago, while at a Venmo team dinner, I received the following text message:

It’s hard to describe how excited I was.  After my father experienced so much trouble in the first few days, he was able to figure out the maps application on his own, was excited that he was able to do it, and could finally see the value that his new phone will be to him.  

I immediately told the entire Venmo team.  Everyone was just as excited as I was.   Iqram suggested that I Venmo my dad.  Now, I’ll admit that I had a few beers and some sake in me, but I decided Yes! I am going to Venmo him.  I am going to buy him the iPhone.  I immediately sent him the following Venmo (captured by Shreyans):

Everyone was ecstatic.  Kortina and Matt chipped in for the phone by paying me! (I promptly paid them back because this one was on me).  Never in my life have I been so excited to give someone money. Never before has a payment I made immediately brought so much happiness to a group of people.  This is the essence of Venmo.  We are changing the way people feel while they exchange money.  We are making it simple and enjoyable.  I hope you can experience something like this soon.

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This Made My Day

· by Venmo

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