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How Runway helped Vori graduate from founder-led releases to a more collaborative and transparent process.

company
Vori is an online wholesale marketplace connecting local retailers with local distributors and direct brands.
headquarters
East Palo Alto, USA
industry
Grocery

Imagine the gleaming, colorful aisles of the last grocery store you walked into, and the thousands of items on display. One would assume there's some smart tracking system managing those aisles and sending restocking alerts behind the scenes. But if you're not one of the huge chains, it’s more likely being handled by an employee with a clipboard and pen making the rounds every few hours — the same way it's been done forever.

Vori was founded in 2019 to bring digital supply chain management and automation to a grocery industry that has been firmly stuck in the past. They’re building “a modern operating system for the global food supply chain,” and mobile sits at the very center of that OS. Store owners and workers make ordering and replenishment decisions on the floor, on their feet, so Vori’s mobile app has been their flagship product since the beginning. It accounts for over 90% of their traffic.

Challenge

Today, Vori connects 1,000 retailers to thousands of vendors. Despite this reach, the mobile team is small and operating at max capacity to iterate quickly and at a high level — so that store owners have the confidence to ditch their paper tracking systems for good. To deliver on this promise, the mobile team has to work closely with the operations team in the field. Feature requests and bugs are often called in as customers' morning orders are placed, and releasing quickly and transparently in response to feedback is critical. The bar for communication around releases is especially high given that Vori’s end users are often less technologically savvy and more sensitive to even the smallest product changes.

"Before Runway, our releases were less transparent and the process was not well-documented. Sometimes, new changes would go out and our operations team would be blindsided. It was really important for us to try to improve that collaboration."

Tre Kirkman
CPO

Vori found themselves lacking the framework and transparency they needed to effectively bridge the gap between the mobile and ops teams. It was hard to coordinate and communicate frequent product changes with the team in the field, who then ran the risk of not being able to support and provide answers to customers when needed. The ops team was often caught by surprise when new features or fixes came down the pipeline.

Complicating things further was the fact that, for much of Vori’s early days, mobile product and releases were founder-led. Critical mobile domain knowledge, customer intuition and business logic was locked up in a single founder’s head, and the app’s codebase and release management was largely in their hands alone. This quickly became a bottleneck, and a single point of failure. Vori was ready to grow their mobile team to meet growing product needs and customer demands, but they were constrained by the fact that their release process wasn’t democratized and knowledge wasn’t well distributed across the team.

"I kept asking myself, how do we transition out of a state where I know everything about the app and how to release? How do we transfer that knowledge effectively and rapidly? It was difficult to hand releases off to someone else, even just one time."

Tre Kirkman
CPO

Solution

Like most small, fast-moving startups who find themselves juggling too many things at once, the Vori team often solved problems as they arose, “just in time.” Fortunately, they discovered Runway as their releases pain point was really coming to a head, and just days before their first dedicated iOS engineer joined the team.

The team was surprised by how quickly and flexibly they were able to “download” ephemeral founder knowledge and transfer scattered pieces of existing process into Runway. Everything was soon captured within the platform, and the daunting task of handing off responsibility to their newly arrived engineer became a breeze. Runway provided the necessary framework and guardrails to render hand-holding unnecessary.

"Getting up to speed in Runway was very self-explanatory and easy. It took less than a day to get comfortable with it and understand how it works."

Alejandro Artavia
Senior iOS Engineer

Runway’s easy-to-read dashboard and timely, contextual Slack notifications helped Vori instantly improve their transparency around releases. The ops team was now looped in earlier and more reliably with no extra lift on the part of the mobile team, and fewer product changes or bugs snuck under the radar and out to customers. The feedback loop was tighter, and customers were better supported in turn.

"Having come from different companies doing mobile releases many different ways, it was very refreshing to finally use a solution like Runway."

Alejandro Artavia
Senior iOS Engineer

Results

For Vori’s founders, the impact of Runway was felt immediately, and viscerally. Shortly after setting up Runway, Tre Kirkman, CPO and de facto mobile lead, took his first vacation since founding the company. He was, understandably, nervous. Sure enough, per Murphy’s Law, he landed and turned his phone back on to a barrage of Slack messages about a critical bug that had surfaced in production. A mobile release was necessary, and he mentally prepared himself to switch back out of vacation mode and help the team ship a hotfix.

As it turned out, the release was already in flight. With Runway’s help, the team had set things in motion and before long, a new version was cut, tested, and submitted to Apple. And all the while, the rest of the team (ops included!) was kept up to date with no founder quarterbacking required. Tre was still able to follow along passively, thanks to Runway’s Slack notifications, but without needing to worry about the nuts and bolts of the release. It was a huge relief, and it was the moment Vori knew they were in good hands with Runway.

"I definitely expect the impact will scale with our team size, but Runway has already been a no-brainer win for us. Spending less founder time and thought on releases has been extremely high leverage."

Tre Kirkman
CPO