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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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Introducing Nearby Payments

· by Chris Maddern

Introducing Nearby Payments

We're really excited to launch nearby payments for Venmo today. Nearby payments let you do exactly what it sounds like -- pay other Venmo users who are close to you.

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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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Introducing the Recents Drawer for iOS

· by Chris Maddern

Introducing the Recents Drawer for iOS

As part of our iOS 7 redesign release, we added some new features, made lots of changes and removed a few features that we weren't totally convinced about too.

One feature that we removed, was the 'Recents Friends Bar', which allowed users to pay some of their friends with one tap from the main feed.

User Feedback
We received a lot of feedback about removing this.

I really liked my "favorites" at the bottom. Now it seems I have to search for the few people I pay every day? Am I missing something?
-Venmo User

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Designing the Drawer

· by Ayaka Nonaka

Designing the Drawer

This week, we launched an update to Venmo for iOS, introducing a drawer-based navigation pattern. You can download it from the App Store here.

Recently, side-drawer designs have been going out of vogue. Most notably Facebook, who spent a lot of effort educating the broad user population about the side-drawer metaphor, moved to using a tab bar based design citing increased engagement.

We spent a lot of time (and user testing) investigating if the side-drawer was right design for Venmo for iOS. We landed on a solid 'yes'.

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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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Introducing Our Status Page

· by James Turnbull

Introducing Our Status Page

Green lights make engineers (and users!) happy. Unfortunately failure is always lurking, especially when your user base grows at the exciting (and sometimes frightening!) rate Venmo’s does. During our outages in the past, we lacked a public facing way to inform our users about potential issues on the platform. In short, we lacked a status page. We're sorry for holding off on shipping one for so long, but the good news is, we finally have one in place.

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Redesigning Venmo for iOS 7

· by Chris Maddern

Redesigning Venmo for iOS 7

We’ve launched a new version of Venmo, totally redesigned for iOS 7. You can download it on the App Store.

Yesterday welcomed iOS 7 onto our iPhones and brought with it a radically new flat-styled UI. The Apple design guidelines for the new OS emphasize consistency & clarity while deferring to content.

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Venmo + Splitwise

· by Matthew Hamilton

Venmo + Splitwise

Paying your friends back just got even easier. Splitwise now lets you pay with Venmo to settle up with your friends, right from the Splitwise app. Share expenses with friends and pay with Venmo… we like the sound of that!

You can check out the details on their blog.

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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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Venmo Payouts API

· by Venmo

Venmo Payouts API

We’ve released a private beta of a new product called Venmo Payouts API.  The Venmo Payouts API is designed to make it easy for developers to send money to service providers, among other uses.

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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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Introducing Venmo Touch

· by Venmo

Introducing Venmo Touch

At Venmo, we have focused for the past three years on building a product that transforms the awkward chore of paying a friend into an experience our users have described as the “Greatest thing to happen to currency since…Currency” and “One of those life-changing apps.”  Very early on, as we grew to love the convenience of using Venmo to pay friends, family, babysitters, piano teachers, and others, we realized we wanted Venmo to be more—we wanted it to be the best way to pay for *anything* on a phone.  To make that vision a reality, six months ago we teamed up with Braintree, the payment infrastructure behind the most popular mobile apps—Uber, Airbnb, HotelTonight, Fab, LevelUp, LivingSocial, TaskRabbit, Wrapp, etc—and today, together, we are announcing a new product that embodies our shared vision:  Venmo Touch.

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Venmo Joins Braintree

· by Venmo

On 16 Aug 2012, Venmo was acquired by Braintree. Venmo will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary; our service will remain unaffected, and we will continue to work on providing you with the best way to make and share payments with friends.

We are thrilled. This partnership gives Venmo more resources and we’re going to be able to work with Braintree on creating even more amazing ways to use Venmo (like integrating Venmo as a payment method with awesome Braintree merchants like Github, HotelTonight, Uber, Airbnb, Fab, LevelUp, and many others). For all developers that have been asking for a Venmo API, we’ll have some great tools for you soon!  Stay informed here.

Thank you for being an amazing and supportive community of users, and for helping us get here.  

-Team Venmo

P.S. We’re hiring!  If you believe in what we’re doing, please email jobs@venmo.com.

VP of Engineering.  
You must be able to lead and scale a large engineering team, and design a system that is fast, simple, and secure.

Design Leader.  
Design our entire payment experience, and work with engineers and product managers.

Engineers.
Deliver the best payment experience to our consumers and developers.

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Introducing the New Venmo App for iPhone and Android

· by Venmo

We’re so proud and excited to release brand new iPhone and Android apps. The incredible feedback, tremendous support, and creative posts inspired us to release a new version of our app that makes it even more fun and simple to pay your friends back.

The New Venmo is More Social and Easier to Use
Venmo was built as an easy way to settle up with friends. As more people started Venmo-ing, we noticed that people were using the payment note as a place to interact, josh, and joke. Our users were transforming Venmo into a fun way for friends to engage. Payments between friends were telling a story of shared memories, birthday dinners, weekend outings, drinks and laughs. We loved watching this develop and wanted to support this use of our product as much as possible.

Home screen News Feed
In order to support and celebrate the way our users embraced the social aspect of Venmo, we decided to feature the payment feed to the home screen. Now it’s easier to browse friends’ activity, leave comments, and engage in the fun experiences that friends have shared.

Public Payment Feed
In addition to featuring the payment feed more prominently, we’ve also made it possible to share payments beyond your Venmo friends to everyone else on Venmo. This feature helps Venmoers engage across the country and shows newcomers how they can use the app. To turn this feature off and share payments with just your Venmo friends, simply turn off public sharing in your settings. The choice is yours.  

Compose a Payment Like a Text or Tweet
With the new app, you can compose a payment as easily as you would a text or tweet. We did this because we wanted make paying a friend feel fun, frictionless, and easy just like sending a text.  

User Profiles
One of the biggest requests was the ability to view a friend’s profile easily from your phone. With the new app, you can see your friend’s shared payments, your past transactions with them, and brief bios.

Finding Friends
With the new app, you can easily search for your contacts, Facebook friends, and anyone who’s currently on Venmo. You can also friend them right from your phone.

Control Your Privacy and How You Share
Users have complete control over their privacy and can adjust sharing preferences at any time. Choose to make a payment private, shared with your Venmo friends only, public to all Venmoers, or share it on other networks (Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare).

Hit Us Up
Download the app today and let us know what you think! Contact us at support@venmo.com with your feedback.

Thank You!
We’re super excited to reveal what we’ve been cooking up at Venmo. Keep in touch to learn about more awesome features coming soon!

Happy Venmo-ing!

Love,
Team Venmo

 

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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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We’re Coming Out of Beta: Social Payments for Everyone!

· by Venmo

Today, we are finally opening up Venmo to the general public. Thanks so much to all of our beta users for all of your feedback and support— we couldn’t have built Venmo without you!

About two years ago, two former college roommates built Venmo because they found that paying friends was an inconvenient, awkward and frustrating experience. They wanted to create an service that made paying your friends simple, fast, fun and easy.

At Venmo, we want to make the payment experience so enjoyable that our users tell their friends about it. Even though we’ve been invite-only up to this point, Venmo is growing tremendously and currently processes $10MM in social payments per month. Our users Venmo each other for dinners, rent, concert tickets, birthday drinks, and sometimes just for laughs.

For us, the most exciting part of creating Venmo is seeing other people use the product the way we do — not simply as a payment service but as a way of expressing, capturing and sharing all of the fun things friends do together. We have been thrilled to see that our users love sharing payment notes with friends, leaving comments, and browsing through their payment histories to relive time spent with friends. With Venmo, every payment tells a story of friendship and shared memories.

To help us make Venmo even better, we have assembled a team of amazing people who are obsessed with building a product that people love. And now, with the support of all of our loyal beta users, a dedicated team, and some great partners (Accel, RRE, Greycroft, and Lerer Ventures) that we brought on last year, we are ready to open up Venmo for everyone to use.

Thanks everyone, and keep sharing the payment love!

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Let Siri Carry Your Wallet: Payments at the Speed of Conversation

· by Venmo

We have released integration with the iPhone’s personal assistant Siri.  Simply ask her to pay and charge your friends.  Here are some examples of how it works:

“Tell Venmo to charge Alan O’Donnell four dollars and fifty cents for an iced latte from Starbucks”

“Tell Venmo to send Andrew Staub five dollars for a beer.  Thanks for building talk to pay.  This is sick!”

Here is your payment grammar lesson and how it works:

“Tell Venmo” + {send or charge} +  {the full name of the person you are paying} + {the amount of the payment} + {what you are paying for}

Siri will draft a text message for you to review and send to Venmo.  We’ll double check your grammar and make sure you are paying or charging one of your Venmo friends.  If everything looks good, we’ll pay or charge your friend and send you and Siri a confirmation message.

Requirements

- Make sure you have our number (646-863-9557) saved as “Venmo” in your phone’s address book.

- Make sure to use your friend’s full name.

- Register for Venmo by downloading our iPhone or Android app.

Protips

- You can use “pay” instead of “send” but Siri often has trouble with this word. For some reason Apple decided to optimize for the word “hey” in text messages :).

- If you want to make a payment that includes cents, use the words dollars and cents.  For example, say “ten dollars and fifty cents for a burger” and not “ten fifty for a burger”.   Siri will interpret “ten fifty” as $1050 and you will be eating some expensive meat.

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