in Business

Enterprise Nation StartUp 2016

We had the privilege of being a part of Enterprise Nation StartUp 2016 in London on Saturday 9th January... and it was an absolute blast!

The doors opened at 9am, and it took very little time for the rooms and corridors of the Canary Wharf venue to fill up with ticket holders. More than 3,000 entrepreneurs attended the show, each looking to learn as much as they can in the pursuit of getting their startup businesses off the ground.

Set across multiple floors, the event offered a wide variety of talks, panel discussions, workshops, and more. The aim was ensuring that the budding entrepreneurs attending the show would receive a plethora of advice to help them succeed in their journeys.

Our own hub of activity was positioned nicely amongst the other sponsors of the event. Our stand, which was run by a number of volunteers from across the GoCardless team, was glittered with limited edition GoCardless merchandise that would become increasingly famous as the day wore on.

Startup 2016 Event StartUp 2016 Event

Inspiring keynotes from the main stage

The day kicked off with a warm introduction from Enterprise Nation’s very own Emma Jones. Shortly after, Oliver Sewell took centre stage to begin the day’s masterclasses with an insightful talk on boosting your business through Facebook.

This led onto one of our highlights of the day, “Make or break: How I’ve built my start-up”. This was chaired by Gary Turner from Xero, one of our accounting software partners. The consensus amongst the three panelists was that managing your company finances digitally is key for keeping on top of your business as it grows. Cloud-based accountancy platforms will become vital as your company grows and their key advice in this regard was to start using one from day one. Not only will all your financial records be in one place (making it far easier when the taxman comes knocking), you’ll also be in a good position to scale to the next level.

By noon time, the event was in full swing and each and every floor was buzzing with activity. A large crowd had gathered in preparation for Nicola, our VP of Marketing, and her panel discussion with Andy Stephenson and Oliver Bridge, the founders of Weekend Box Club and Cornerstone. Their panel discussion was on “how to build a subscription business” with both entrepreneurs sharing their advice on launching and growing a subscription business on a small budget. They also discussed some of their key challenges along the way.

This discussion paved the way for our highlight of the day, where our founder Hiroki Takeuchi took to the main stage alongside Mark Preason, founder of MyVoucherCodes and Amber Atherton, founder of My Flash Trash. The three of them had an open discussion on what they had learnt building a million dollar startup.

Startup 2016 Keynote StartUp 2016 Keynote

Speaking to entrepreneurs at the GoCardless stand

Spending a day speaking to entrepreneurs and business owners at the GoCardless stand was an absolute joy. At StartUp 2016, we were demoing the new GoCardless dashboard and showing visitors how they could transform the normally painstaking task of collecting payments into a simple, automated process. After answering all the questions fired at us like there was no tomorrow, I could have sworn we transformed into Jedis... well, Direct Debit Jedis anyway.

Not wanting to miss any opportunities, we made the most of the brief periods we were free by convincing the other sponsors across the floor to model our merchandise for a quick photo (a few of which may have been casually leaked to Twitter). ¯\(ツ)

The occasional [read frequent] fluttering of eyelids in the direction of the Direct Line stand opposite may have also occurred – we couldn’t resist… they had a popcorn machine!

Startup 2016 Stand StartUp 2016 Stand

Keeping an eye on your finances

As the day drew to a close, some of us made our way back down to the ground floor for the final keynote panel discussion of the day – “How to keep financially fit and protected throughout the year”.

What shone through in this final discussion is that staying on top of your finances from the start is absolutely crucial if you want to see your startup to reach long-term success. Too many startups founded only on great ideas have fallen by the wayside as a result of poor finances or not keeping an eye on their cash flow.

Turning great ideas into successful long-term businesses

One of the goals of Enterprise Nation and StartUp 2016 is making sure budding entrepreneurs have the knowledge and tools they require to ensure a great idea comes to fruition in the market.

GoCardless has always been proud to support start-up businesses and we can all agree unequivocally that we felt proud to support StartUp 2016 (it definitely more than made up for the 7am alarm on Saturday morning). We finished the day feeling incredibly inspired by the people we met, the talks we attended and the general spirit of innovation and creativity.

Thank you to everyone who attended and best of luck to each and every one of you taking the plunge into startup life in 2016. From the whole team at GoCardless, we wish you every success in your new venture!

in Engineering

Update on the GoCardless service outage

Summary

On Thursday, we experienced an outage of 1 hour and 40 minutes that affected all our services. During that time you may have seen brief service recovery but for the most part our service was unavailable.

What happened

On Tuesday 19th, at 22:00 UTC, we received a notification from our infrastructure provider scheduling emergency maintenance in one of their Amsterdam datacentres on the next day at 23:00 UTC.

They were hoping to fix a recurring issue with one of the routers by performing a reboot of the chassis pair. As part of this maintenance they also planned to perform firmware upgrades, for an estimated total downtime of approximately 20 minutes.

Since our outage in July 2015 we have been working on getting each component of our infrastructure to span multiple data centres so that we can gracefully handle this kind of datacentre-wide failure. All the infrastructure on the critical path for our service was, as of January 21st, available in multiple locations, except for our database.

On Wednesday 20th, in the morning, the Platform Engineering team gathered and put together a plan to migrate the database to a new datacentre before the start of the maintenance.

On Wednesday 20th, at 22:00 UTC, we decided that the plan was not viable to complete before the maintenance. During the day several complications prevented us properly testing the plan in our staging environment. We made the call to take the full 20 minutes of downtime rather than cause more disruption by executing a plan that we could not fully prepare.

On Thursday 21st, at 00:25 UTC, our provider performed the reboot of the chassis, which instantly caused the GoCardless API and Pro API to be unavailable.

At 00:49 UTC, they announced that the maintenance was over. Our services started slowly recovering.

At 00:50 UTC, our monitoring system alerted us that some of our services were still unavailable. We immediately started troubleshooting.

At 01:00 UTC, a scheduled email announcing the end of the maintenance window was sent incorrectly.

At 02:00 UTC, we discovered the issue. Our database cluster is setup in such away that any write to the database, for example, creating a payment, needs to be recorded on two servers before we say it’s successful. Unfortunately during the maintenance, the link between our primary and our standby server broke. That meant that no write transactions could go through until that link was restored. Also, since the writes were blocking, we quickly exhausted our connection slots and read requests started failing too. After a few seconds the writes would time out and we would start having successful read requests again. That explains why we were sporadically up during that time. Once we brought our cluster back together, requests started flowing through again.

By 02:05 UTC, all services were fully operational.

Final words

We are following up with our infrastructure provider to figure out why they had to perform maintenance in that datacentre at such short notice.

We have now provisioned a standby cluster in another datacentre so that we are able to migrate to a new datacentre with very little downtime in case this happens again. Long term, as we said in our last blog post, we have plans for how we can further minimise disruption in the case of datacentre-wide failure. This project is the main focus of the Platform Engineering team for the next six months.

in Business

The highlights of 2015 from Team GoCardless

As 2015 draws to a close, we wanted to look back at some of the most memorable moments this year at GoCardless.

We started by thinking about all the milestones we reached this year - reaching $1bn of processing volume, expanding into Europe, being listed in the FinTech50 and growing our team to 60 people.

Then we thought about all the litres of coffee consumed, the number of office pizzas ordered and the number of late nights spent working on the product.

We even considered creating a lovely infographic to share all this info with you.

Then we sat back for a moment of reflection and thought... nah.

The best thing we could do is to hand over the spotlight to our amazing team: the ones who have made everything possible over the past year. We wanted to give them the opportunity to tell you, in their own words, what they loved most about 2015.

So, without further ado, here are the 2015 highlights from Team GoCardless.

Launching GoCardless in Europe

Jutta

"My highlight of 2015 was launching GoCardless in two new countries. We started with France in April and have already seen some explosive growth there. In September, we launched in Germany, the largest Direct Debit market in Europe. I won't forget our launch in Munich, surrounded by Lederhosen and pretzels, and the preceding press roadtrip to Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg.”

Jutta, Global

Launch of GoCardless in Europe Launch of GoCardless in Germany

Paving the way for the new version of GoCardless

James

“My highlight of the year has to be the steps we’ve taken in preparation for the launch of an exciting new version of our product.

Being part of the support team, I get to hear first hand of any difficulties our merchants face when using the current product. Also, I hear all the request for features that we don’t currently offer but would prove useful to our merchants. It’s been hugely exciting to work alongside our design and engineering teams and to be able to bring these new features and improvements to fruition.

Complementing this has been our work on improving internal processes to make sure GoCardless is as simple and stress-free to use as possible. It’s meant more late nights working on the product in recent months and we’ve still got some work to do to reach our ambitious targets. However, once all the improvements have rolled out in 2016, there’s no doubt they will prove hugely beneficial to the GoCardless user experience. This will help us to cement our position as one of the leading FinTech companies in 2016.”

James, Support

New GoCardless

Cycling to Bath with the GoCardless Team

Grey

“Arriving in Bath after two beautiful days of cycling was amazing. A huge credit to Corinne, who organised the whole trip, including months of early morning training rides to whip us into shape!”

Grey, Engineering

Cycle trip to Bath Arriving in Bath

Winning ‘The Great GoCardless Bake Off’!

Laura

“At the start of December, the GoCardless office was transformed into Bake Off HQ as part of Local Giving’s #GiveMe5 campaign. Our very own Mary and Paul had their work cut out with the judging as all of the entries were fantastic! But the zingy lime and mint mojito cupcakes came out on top to have me crowned as GC’s Queen Baker. Overall, we raised £170 which has been donated to Voluntary Action Islington.”

Laura, Support

Cupcakes Judging the Bake Off

Kicking off Customer Success

Michael

“In June, we kicked off Customer Success at GoCardless. It has been great working with people across a host of our existing and newer merchants, getting to know each other’s businesses, goals and challenges much better. Together we’ve made countless improvements, and the odd mistake, learning a huge amount along the way. It’s been a joy working with so many smart, friendly and positive people, both clients and colleagues. Here’s to an even more successful 2016!”

Michael, Customer Success

Kitesurfing with the team in Sussex

Jess

“The highlight of my year was when a group of us headed down to Camber Sands in Sussex for an introduction to kitesurfing. I’ve been doing it for a few years and it was awesome to be able to share this with some of the team. The wind even managed to play ball as well so we were able to get out onto the water!"

Jess, People

Kitesurfing in Sussex Kitesurfing in Sussex

Our design team trip to New York

Sam

“My 2015 highlight was the trip to New York for the design conference ‘Brooklyn Point-Oh’. The talks were brilliant and touring the city was alright too!”

Sam, Design

Making it easier for new merchants to join GoCardless

Dave

“In 2015, we made the on-boarding process for GoCardless Pro and global sign-ups much more simple. We did this by working with our partners to automate as much of the process as possible.

In the new version of GoCardless, the signup process now only takes 2 minutes. We’ve been able to immensely simplify the process and you’ll no longer need to provide as many details. When you’re ready to complete verification checks, you’ll be guided through the process in our new redesigned interface. This is much more efficient and saves our merchants a lot of time when getting started with GoCardless.”

Dave, Support

Adding Swedish Direct Debit to GoCardless

Jenna

“Adding support for Swedish Direct Debit (Bg Autogiro) is my highlight of the year. After SEPA Direct Debit, Autogiro was the next scheme to be supported by GoCardless. After 4 years of digging into the details of Bacs and SEPA Direct Debit, it was a great validation to see this expertise pay off for Sweden. It enabled us to add Swedish Autogiro in record time. The Engineering team played a huge part in this, taking an incredibly complex integration and a whole new set of payment rules and adding it to our API in a way that gives existing Bacs and SEPA merchants a seamless way to start collecting Swedish Krona!”

Jenna, Global

Bg Autogiro Payment Pages in GoCardless

Modelling the Lederhosen at our launch in Germany

We decided to add this one on Hiroki (our CEO)’s behalf, simply because he clearly loved his day in those Lederhosen!

Hiroki and Jutta in Germany

On behalf of everyone at GoCardless, a happy new year! We wish you all the best for 2016!

Interested in joining the GoCardless team?
We're hiring
in Announcements, Business

Bacs Processing Calendar 2016

Bacs have provided the Bacs Processing Calendar 2016 so you can check on which dates they will be processing Direct Debit submissions through the year. It also shows you which days payments won't be processed on, so you can plan ahead around bank holidays and weekends.

Bacs Processing Calendar 2016 Preview

As usual, if you're using GoCardless, it isn't necessary to plan your submission with the Bacs processing calendar. We take care of submission dates for you and will automatically submit your payments to Bacs on the relevant day. This means you simply choose on which dates your customers will be charged, and our system does all of the hard work to figure out the right day to submit.

Feel free to get in touch with us at [email protected] if you have any questions about the timing and scheduling of payments, or if there's anything else we can help with. The support team are available 9am - 6pm on working days (weekdays excluding bank holidays).

Looking to automate Direct Debit collection timings?
Find out more
in Business, Hiring

How we nurture an environment of gender diversity at GoCardless

GoCardless is a fast growing FinTech startup based in London. Within the last 12 months, we’ve grown the number of women working at GoCardless from 8 to 18. They now make up for a quarter of our company and work across all departments. In comparison: the number of female entrepreneurs in FinTech has reached about 17%.

Building diverse teams is core to our business culture and this is communicated clearly both in our recruitment and hiring policy as well as internally. While everyone is in favour of actively supporting this, we are aware that the difference lies in the details and making a continual conscious effort to remove any bias.

We can make a difference by eliminating unconscious bias

I recently moderated a Gender in Tech panel in Berlin where we talked about how we can ensure we create an unbiased environment in our tech companies to attract more women employees. The 18 women at GoCardless took this as inspiration to organise an audit to review our office environment to make sure it’s attractive to both male and female employees. Whilst the specific details may appear minor, they can play an important part in creating the right workspace for women to feel welcome and comfortable.

Generally we feel that GoCardless is performing well. Many of our new employees applied to GoCardless due to our support and participation with specific groups and organisations such as Code First: Girls. The office has good facilities for men and women with well equipped bathrooms and showers, a stocked kitchen with a diverse range of food and drink and sports and leisure activities from basketball and bowling to cycling and yoga. We regularly host events in the office supporting all departments and encourage meetups and get togethers with similar teams in other organisations across the startup space. We’ve also recently updated our HR policies benchmarking against other businesses to offer extremely competitive employee benefits.

There is still room for us to improve…

Firstly, we realised all of our branded clothing is in male sizes and styles. This is an easy one to fix - we have now ordered womens sizes and styles so all employees feel comfortable supporting our brand at events and meetups.

We also realised that in departments where we have a higher percentage of male employees such as sales and engineering, a candidate may only meet male employees during the interview process. We have now updated our interview funnel to ensure that all candidates will meet with at least one female employee during the process. This is key for all potential employees as it demonstrates that diversity is critical to the culture at GoCardless.

Finally, we found that much of our external communication was driven by the men in our company. 8 out of the 10 most recent blog posts were written by male employees. We agreed to increase the number of blog posts written by women and already have the first writers lined up (watch this space).

Get the ball rolling

We have been inspired and encouraged to do this audit by many great individuals in this space. A special thanks goes to the panelists from Berlin: Inga Höltmann, Maxi Knust, Lisa Lang and Jana Scharfschwerdt, as well as some key individuals advocating women in tech in London: Phoebe Lebrecht and Leah Templeman.

We believe that having an environment where female employees feel happy, accepted, welcome and supported is key to encourage more women to take the step into working in the tech industry. We would love for other companies to do the same and nominate our FinTech friends in and outside of London to do a similar audit of their office. We need to plant the seeds to grow a sustainable female-friendly environment within the FinTech scene.

You're interested in joining GoCardless?
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