How Chipper Cash cut release times in half with Runway.

company
Chipper Cash is a cross-border payments app used by over five million people throughout Africa and its diaspora.
headquarters
San Francisco, USA
industry
Fintech
Mobile Team Size
10+
Platforms
iOS + Android (React Native)
Release Frequency
Biweekly
Integrations
GitHub, Jira, Bugsnag

Chipper Cash is a financial technology company that helps its 5+ million users transfer funds across African countries, plus the US and UK, in a trusted and accessible way. The company was founded in 2018 by Ham Serunjogi (a Ugandan) and Maijid Moujaled (a Ghanaian) when they were studying together in the US. Their ambition, to help people on their home continent transfer money cross-border and abroad, was inspired by firsthand experience with the challenges of sending and receiving funds across borders and between currencies.

Chipper’s first few years were characterized by exponential growth as they expanded operations into US and UK markets to allow customers to more easily send money home to Africa. The product has also grown far beyond their primary offering of money transfers, now also including a virtual card, as well as crypto and stock investment options for their customers.

Chipper Cash is one of only a handful of African startups with unicorn status, and mobile has played a key role in that success. The Android and iOS apps are the only way Chipper’s customers interact with their products, so mobile is the driver of user engagement and revenue. As a result, the Chipper Cash mobile team has a high bar to meet, and they’re laser-focused on creating a first-class app experience and on providing the services and features their users truly need.

Challenge

Bottlenecks, a need for better visibility, and training for new release captains all jeopardized scaling

When the company entered its rapid scaling phase and the number of different projects – and products – multiplied, the mobile team had to keep up with the increasingly demanding pace. In a relatively short time span, Chipper mobile went from a small, centralized team to a complex, multi-vertical mobile organization. And with that, releases became an ever more complex, collaborative undertaking.

“Somehow, releases had ‘just worked’ for us before. But we started to have problems around visibility and communication during release cycles.”

Mitch Clay
Director of Engineering

Even though some automation was taken care of with solid CI/CD in place, overall release efficiency still left much to be desired, with lots of coordination overhead and knowledge gaps or silos. Visibility – or lack thereof – became a new and growing problem. Despite efforts to improve things, including the formation of a dedicated mobile platform team to focus on the problem area, Chipper mobile really began to feel the impact of tedious, time-consuming tasks and opaque processes that came along with the increased complexity of the product and the growing size of the team.

One particular bottleneck formed around Chipper’s rotation of release managers, or “captains”, which spread the release workload by having everyone take turns running releases. The system worked well, but it meant that every new person who joined the team needed to learn all the ins and outs of Chipper’s process and tooling – not to mention existing team members who needed to relearn things, since everyone’s turn as release captain became more infrequent the bigger the team (and rotation) became.

“Everything started in my own head, so I had to work with everyone else to train them on how to run releases, what to consider during rollouts, who to speak to for testing, how to communicate to the wider organization about what's going on, and so many other bits.”

Mitch Clay
Director of Engineering

Responsibility for release-related knowledge transfer usually fell on one person’s plate: whoever was most familiar with the process, sometimes a particular individual who alone had some crucial bit of specific info, and in all cases often a senior member of the team who was already stretched thin. That person had to devote extra time explaining everything, from what to consider during rollouts, where to find checklists and other release docs, to how to communicate the details of the release to the rest of the organization. Not only was this incredibly time-consuming, but it also meant that developers – both those doing the teaching and those learning from them – had to abandon work they enjoyed and instead focus on something they didn’t: the dull details of how to wrangle and run releases.

Solution

A single tool to automatically orchestrate releases and empower release captains

“We wished we could take away the pain of having to orchestrate releases ourselves, a button we could press that would just do it all for us.”

Mitch Clay
Director of Engineering

Under increasing pressure to find a solution to the release bottlenecks and inefficiencies that held the team back as they continued to grow, it became clear that Chipper mobile needed a reliable, streamlined system that would allow them to refocus and devote all their time to more critical engineering and product work. Mitch Clay, Chipper’s Director of Engineering, found out about Runway by chance and early signals coming off a demo were promising – besides saving the entire team time, it looked like Runway could do a lot to tackle the overhead around Chipper’s release captain rotation.

“At a previous company, I spent a lot of time building out release automation and dashboards in-house — and I knew I didn’t want to do that again! Runway was exciting because it addressed all those release pain points and allowed us to concentrate on building features instead.”

Nadia Dillon
Senior Engineering Manager

The team wasted no time in putting the platform to the test. Since Runway seamlessly integrated with their existing tools (Jira, GitHub, Bugsnag, etc.), it didn’t take the Chipper team long to get past initial setup and they started seeing visible results right away. With no extra effort, Runway’s dashboard became Chipper Cash’s single source of truth for mobile, displaying crucial information pulled in from all their tools. With a bird’s-eye view in one browser tab instead of a dozen, Runway was already eliminating hours' worth of time previously spent context-switching. 

Runway was also immediately easing the team’s issues around overhead and locked-in knowledge. Now, anyone on the team could drive the entire release process with minimal effort, and without needing to lean on others for help or input along the way. There was an overall shift in responsibility from the collective team to Runway, which made releases a much lighter-weight experience from start to finish and increased the team’s confidence in the process.

Results

Hours saved per release, increased transparency and accountability, and an improved Mobile DevOps practice overall

“With Runway, we save a day and a half of developer time each release, and release cycles are 50% shorter.”

Nadia Dillon
Senior Engineering Manager

Building on the early wins Chipper Cash was seeing with Runway, the platform has continued to deliver wide-ranging value to their team — both engineering tangibles, like the hours of developer time saved, and more human intangibles, like the improved accountability and peace of mind. Runway’s automations and its clear, collaborative framework are helping Chipper level up their Mobile DevOps practice on all fronts.

“Runway’s value to us is far more than just time savings. The whole team sleeps better at night knowing our release trains will keep running smoothly, thanks to the improved accountability and seamless orchestration Runway provides.”

Mitch Clay
Director of Engineering

One of the biggest positive results the Chipper Cash team continues to enjoy is Runway’s empowering team members to take on the release captain role. Not only does the platform lighten the load on release captains themselves, making the role less daunting, but it also benefits the wider team by limiting the need for other folks to be pulled in to assist. And even if they’re not directly involved, everyone else stays in the loop with the added visibility into progress and blockers that Runway provides. Throughout the process, Runway’s Slack integration streamlines communication across Chipper’s internationally distributed team.

“The burden — and risk — of handing off responsibility to newly trained release captains is now a thing of the past.”

Mitch Clay
Director of Engineering

On a macro level, the Chipper Cash team now operates as a Mobile DevOps high-performer thanks to the transparency, efficiency, and accountability Runway delivers. Colleagues are collaborating more effectively across disciplines and teams, tooling is better integrated, and toil and wasted time are kept to a bare minimum. Today, the Chipper team can spend the vast majority of their time building new features and delivering the best possible user experience to their millions of customers, with full confidence that Runway will ensure releases keep ticking along smoothly and securely.

Release better with Runway.

Runway integrates with all the tools you’re already using to level-up your release coordination and automation, from kickoff to release to rollout. No more cat-herding, spreadsheets, or steady drip of manual busywork.