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How NTWRK uses Runway to stay focused on the next big thing.

company
NTWRK offers live shoppable shows featuring the best brands and biggest names in pop culture.
headquarters
Los Angeles, USA
industry
E-Commerce / Media and Entertainment

NTWRK has reimagined shopping for a mobile-first generation. World-class creators, the biggest names in pop culture, and top brands alike leverage the live video shopping platform to curate a streaming experience for their fashion-forward fans unlike any other. NTWRK’s huge audience visits frequently to check out collabs with personalities like Billie Eilish, Juice WRLD, DJ Khaled, Alexander Wang, and Doja Cat, and drops of exclusive and limited-edition apparel and collectibles from brands like Adidas, Levi's, Nike, Funko and Beats by Dr. Dre.

The NTWRK team knew from the start that their audience lives first and foremost on their phones, so there was never any doubt that the experience they needed to deliver was only possible with a native mobile app. Of course, living on the bleeding edge for a mobile-first audience that demands a nonstop feed of hype-worthy content asks a lot of your product, and team. To call the app critical might be an understatement — it represents 100% of the company’s revenue. Maintaining a performant live-streaming experience is as important to NTWRK's brand as a fresh shade of white is to a sneakerhead. To add to the pressure, not only does the app serve the entire consumer side, but it’s the main touchpoint for creators and sellers on the platform as well.

As critical as native mobile experiences are becoming to so many businesses, NTWRK is truly defined by their app — both in terms of its disruptive innovation, and by how core it is to all aspects of the experience.

Challenge

With the stakes this high, NTWRK needed a reliable, repeatable development and release cycle — and one which would leave little chance for unforeseen bugs or panic hotfixes before the biggest streaming episode of the week goes live. Yet, for much of the app's existence, the team had lived with an opaque, ill-defined release process which was partly strung together with hastily-assembled CI scripts and which was very often placed in the hands of a single, overburdened engineering manager.

Things were already in a state where growing the mobile team to keep up with the platform's explosive popularity was going to be difficult, given the process roadblocks. And then their key EM left for another opportunity, and the fragility of the situation really started to reveal itself.

"When our EM left, we had them document everything about our release process. It was 45 minutes of video recordings clicking through everything in App Store Connect and Google Play Console, walking through the ins and outs of our scripting—and even all of that wasn't comprehensive enough. Every time we had to release, we'd forget a handful of steps, go back to the 'documentation', diff it against what we were doing, figure out if UI or flows in each tool had changed. It was HOURS of work every two weeks."

Nick Alekhine
Senior Software Engineer

Although the relative messiness and level of risk didn't ultimately translate into too many fatal bugs or catastrophes — a testament to the quality of the team — releases were still consistently slow and frustrating. So much so that it disincentivized the team from shipping updates as regularly as they otherwise might have. It was obvious that the team was being held back from fully delivering on product and business objectives, and they weren’t set up well for the explosive growth they were experiencing.

Solution

The NTWRK team considered devoting money and time to the problem, contemplating a mix of expanded human resources and spaghetti scripting that they knew was only an approximation of what they needed. Then the team learned about Runway and realized that truly solidifying their process and enabling effortless, turnkey releases was not just possible, but easily within reach. Runway's automations reduced release cycles to a few button clicks, and built-in scheduling and release pilot rotations meant that the overhead of managing a regular release cadence and the risks of siloed release management duties were no longer an issue.

"Runway has not only made releases faster, but mental stress around releases is something we don't have to worry about anymore. We used to be hesitant to release as often as we would have liked. Now, we know it's going to go smoothly, and we know it's going to require minimal effort."

Dave Cowart
Senior Software Engineer

For the first time, NTWRK felt able to grow the team confidently, and with the knowledge that anyone could now step in and run a release. There was no more bottleneck or single point of failure. They were also finally able to adopt a true release train process, comfortably releasing every two weeks without worrying about the overhead of each release. Runway was saving hours of time previously wasted on clicking around in various tools, manually stepping through rote tasks, and waiting for statuses to change and unblock the next step in the process.

"After integrating with Runway, we were able to scale up, have any number of different people manage releases, and maintain a very transparent workflow.  Runway’s nice UI, automations, and scheduling functionality have made releases a turnkey process."

Nick Alekhine
Senior Software Engineer

Results

"Anyone working on the app should be able to deploy, without shipping mistakes, and with transparency for the team at large. That didn't exist before Runway, and now it does."

Nick Alekhine
Senior Software Engineer

Today, NTWRK's mobile team spends the majority of their sprints focusing on improvements and new features, and they rely on Runway to handle the release management and coordination side of things. Where once they would have struggled to track what was happening with each release across various tools, they now leverage Runway's release history and Slack notifications to provide a birds-eye view to the immediate team and the wider organization as well. Runway has also improved collaboration with those team members a step beyond the development team, providing an aggregated list of features in each release to share with copywriters, and automatically tagging tickets that need to be on QA's radar.

"From a product perspective, seeing all of our releases and entire release history within Runway is amazing. And the Slack integration that tells us 'this update was submitted, now it's in review, now it's approved', is super helpful for us and really the entire organization."

Nick Kaimakis
Product Manager

The release train process that Runway has enabled has been especially empowering for the NTWRK team. Once they realized that each release was now going to be relatively painless, they stopped worrying about building up a critical mass of features for each app update, handed the scheduling and coordination reins over to Runway, and focused instead on making consistent progress against product and business goals. This, in turn, has given the team the confidence and foundation they needed to more than double their headcount since getting started with Runway.

"When we first integrated Runway, we were a team of eight. We've probably doubled since then, to almost 20 engineers. Runway put us in a place where we could do that, and it's becoming even more valuable as we continue to scale up."

Nick Alekhine
Senior Software Engineer