Bootstrapping the platform for a billion-dollar business opportunity
MaaS Global (Mobility as a Service) is a startup that aims to change personal transportation. Supported by the megatrends of urbanization and buying everything as a service, we travel more, but we do not always want to own a car.
“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 developments 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 the UK.
The serverless back-end 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 Nordcloud Solutions bootstrapped back-end 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.
About the Company.
MaaS Global (Mobility as a Service) is a startup that aims to change personal transportation. Supported by the megatrends of urbanization and buying everything as a service, we travel more, but we do not wish to own a car.
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