Faire was launched in 2017 to help small businesses compete with huge players like Walmart and Amazon. Through Faire’s digital wholesale marketplace, local shops can connect with independent artisans and brands from around the world, to offer their customers curated apparel, kitchenware, beauty supplies, home décor, jewelry, and more — giving the little guys (‘little’ but still representing a $2T market in North America and Europe alone) a way to hold their own against the big-box stores.
While Faire has already raised $1.1B to date, their mobile presence is expected to be the source of their most explosive growth yet. Small businesses love ease and simplicity, and with the Faire app they can discover new brands, purchase and return products online, manage financing, and connect with new and existing customers — all through an intuitive mobile experience, built natively in Swift for iOS, and Kotlin for Android. Unsurprisingly, Faire has seen that their mobile customers are their most engaged, and they’ve accordingly committed to tripling the size of their mobile team by the end of the year in order to keep pace.
As more and more companies are discovering, developing a mobile app into a flagship platform has huge benefits, but doing that properly requires organization-wide buy-in. To this end, Faire has spun up dedicated mobile pods as well as embedded mobile resources across all their product teams — to both support feature parity between web and mobile, and bring a ‘mobile first’ ethos to their feature roadmap for upcoming work.
"As the team is growing, we want to make sure that we maintain accountability and ownership, and whenever possible to follow the same approach across both iOS and Android."
Senior Engineering Manager
As Faire committed to making their app a first-class citizen and growing the mobile team, they found themselves starting to struggle with a mobile release process that was, at the time, completely manual. Approaching each release, a rotating release captain would be tasked with manually logging and verifying each instance of recent code work that was slated to be shipped. At the same time, engineers were often scrambling to diligently fit in more work before the release cut. Combined, these dynamics led to even more coordination overhead and a lack of ownership across the team. Ultimately, the difficult job of validating releases and catching issues ended up falling on a single person’s plate, and often at the last minute.
"We started using Runway before we hit our breaking point. With the team rapidly growing, coordinating and running releases was beginning to become a huge problem for whoever was the release captain that week."
Staff Android Developer
Early on, when Faire mobile was just a handful of people, this imperfect process was “good enough”. But as more mobile resources were added to the team the inefficiencies and problem areas scaled up in kind, to the point of being unsustainable. One industrious contributor on the iOS team attempted to stave off the crisis by building out a collection of scripts that helped with some of the repetitive manual tasks. But despite the short term win, the scripting unavoidably introduced another point of failure. Scripts would sometimes fail and someone on the team (usually the engineer who built the system in the first place) would need to abandon their feature work, and instead scramble to fix the automation and unblock the release in progress.
Faire’s exploration of Runway began on the Android side. Knowing that the burden on their release captains was getting worse and worse, Nicole, a senior Android engineer, was convinced to try out Runway to see if it might be the answer to the team’s collaboration bottlenecks.
"Runway was really easy to set up and use — I was able to figure things out myself."
Staff Android Developer
It became clear very quickly that Runway would help solve Faire’s release coordination and verification roadblocks, with “Feature Readiness” and “Approvals” features in particular moving the team towards a more repeatable and scalable process, with team-wide responsibility built in. Seeing a complete and up-to-date overview of work shipping with (or expected to ship with!) each release saved release captains from the arduous task of gathering all that data by hand, and keeping it up to date as unexpected or late-arriving work surfaced. And now, with a consolidated framework for contributors to eyeball and sign off on their own work, the process became more democratized and transparent.
Now confident that Runway was up to the challenge on their big pain points, Nicole and the team began to realize how many additional annoyances Runway might also be able to solve. Beside saving them yet another manual task, Runway’s scheduled, automated branch cuts would also help avoid some of the bargaining and delays that came with late-arriving work. And Runway’s automatic version bumps would prevent those occasional hiccups when a release captain would forget to increment the version, someone else would then discover that halfway through the release process, and an annoying retracing of steps would have to follow.
As the Faire team got more and more spun up, the list of surprise Runway wins grew: timely Slack notifications throughout the release cycle that could help replace their release captains’ needing to chase people down; automated release tagging and changelogs; Play Console and App Store Connect automations covering all aspects of the submission process, avoiding the need for everyone to have access to those sensitive tools; and much more.
"When I was working on the iOS team, I was envious of Android using Runway because we weren’t yet… our dev and release cycles were a lot harder!"
Shortly after Faire’s Android team got up and running in Runway, they introduced it to their iOS counterparts, and soon both mobile platforms at Faire were running their releases through Runway. Even the engineer who had created Faire’s iOS release scripting in-house noted that, in addition to providing similar functionality and more, Runway was a clear win just by virtue of the team’s not needing to maintain a solution internally anymore.
"Runway has had a very large impact on our mobile team as we continue to grow and scale. New hires are all amazed at how automated the process is!"
Staff Android Developer
Nicole initially found that, at Faire Android’s scale at the time, switching to Runway was already going to save them two hours of engineer time per week. Add iOS to the mix, and almost 6x growth in team size overall, and the math now makes even more sense to her and the team. Nicole is unsure she can even estimate how much time just the old process of manual review and validation of release work would now take — setting aside its general infeasibility at their current scale.
Since integrating Runway, Faire has been able to release their apps more consistently and with less risk. Runway’s scheduling and automation features provide the team the structure it found itself needing to ensure updates got out on time, without burying a rotating release captain with manual tasks each and every sprint.
And, today, all aspects of the app submission process in Play Console and App Store Connect are now run completely through Runway, and much of that is automated. As a result, the Faire team has found they no longer need to set foot in those platforms week in week out, which is a big win in and of itself! Also, access is now simpler and more tightly scoped, given they no longer have to manage and distribute Google and Apple credentials to various, far-flung team members.
"This is a big improvement from the scripting we had in the past — it covers more of the process, and almost every step is automated."
Runway has finally empowered the Faire mobile teams to stop thinking about releases and get back to their core mission — building the most critical platform for the best digital wholesale marketplace in the world. A single engineer, Wilson, now comfortably oversees releases for both iOS and Android on behalf of a mobile team of 30+ and growing. He’s able to do this because Runway provides him transparency into all parts of the process, an overview of the massive body of work being contributed across the team (with easy access for all of those contributors to also weigh in themselves, where needed), and automations that eliminate manual tasks at each step along the way.
"The feedback I got from everyone on the team was 'Runway is exactly what we wanted.'"
Staff Android Developer