Kickstarter launched in 2009 as a global crowdfunding platform designed to “help bring creative projects to life.” It was named one of the "Best Inventions of 2010" by Time, and quickly mainstreamed the concepts of funder rewards, project milestones, stretch goals, and collaborative communication between creators and community. It remains one of the most popular platforms of its kind in the world with over 20 million people having helped fund Kickstarter projects to date.
Kickstarter’s iOS app launched in 2013, and Android followed in 2016. The mobile native platforms became an ideal way for backers to discover new projects and easily follow their progress, and for creators to engage and update the community. Another 2016 milestone was the open sourcing of the codebases for both apps—part of Kickstarter’s company-wide mission as a Public Benefit Corporation to measure themselves by their impact on society, not just on shareholders. Today, the apps play an integral role in Kickstarter’s overall platform, accounting for around 40% of traffic and 50% of revenue.
As a smallish team that often had to punch above their weight to maintain and iterate on such popular and global apps, Kickstarter mobile recognized that shipping regularly and efficiently was critical. But, despite their best intentions, they found it hard to streamline coordination and collaboration around a release process that seemed unavoidably fragmented and weighed down by lots of manual tasks.
A typical release cycle involved noise on Slack as everyone tried to get on the same page, constantly updating various planning and tracking spreadsheets, and too many regular meetings to sync up on release progress and status. Often, reflecting on these inefficiencies, they'd eventually just blame their own communication practices.
"We used to have go/no‑go meetings every day leading up to a release, just for people to surface all the moving pieces and blockers scattered around, to decide whether or not we could in fact release."
Staff Software Engineer
As experienced native mobile engineers, the Kickstarter team had also come to accept that the gauntlet of clicking around in various tools was just the price of admission. One common culprit was App Store Connect, where they often found themselves checking, and double-checking, that individual settings were correct. Is this a phased release? Is the right build selected?
In adopting Runway, the Kickstarter team was testing the hypothesis that in fact it wasn’t their communication chops or anything else specific to the team that was to blame—rather, they just needed a better framework and a true source of truth. Sure enough, they quickly noticed their releases improving as those scattered, ad hoc bits of information and tasks that needed to be captured and wrangled finally all lived in one place. This helped streamline things not just within the immediate team, but also with other stakeholders who were keeping tabs on releases.
“Now, releasing with Runway, we actually don’t have to go into App Store Connect to do anything. That sort of efficiency is just good for teams; it's a very healthy upgrade to an old process."
Senior iOS Engineer
Planning and tracking spreadsheets became much less of a focus, as people now relied on Runway for their bird’s-eye view. And, with Runway automating much of the manual work, there were fewer moving pieces to check in on and less time was spent clicking around in different tools. For example, the Kickstarter team found that they rarely had to log into App Store Connect anymore.
"I can confidently say that things are easier now. It's nice to have all of our team members looking at the same thing, all the time. There's no subjective opinion of what's happening."
Senior iOS Engineer
Releases are less of an event now for the Kickstarter team. Because Runway provides them greater confidence and visibility around the process, less time is spent in sync meetings and retros. Instead of micromanaging releases, Kickstarter's mobile teams get to spend more of their days building.
There have been other consistent wins along the way, often in quite tangible form: Runway has helped flag and correct issues like errant code missing from a release branch, mislabeled tickets in Jira, and old builds mistakenly selected for submission in App Store Connect.
"The things we used to spend a lot of time talking about in retros, we’re talking about much less now because of Runway. I think of Runway as unit tests for your release process: preventing common failure modes and making sure everything is in the right state along the way."
Staff Software Engineer