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PolicyGenius: Providing a World-Class Development Team Expansion for a FinTech Rising Star

PolicyGenius is a Brooklyn-based startup that allows its users to compare the prices of a wide range of insurance products. The platform – built in Ruby on Rails – collects the data from insurance vendors and provides an intuitive tool for simplifying the buying decision process. PolicyGenius chose Netguru for development, and since then, the two companies have done several projects together.

In autumn 2015, PolicyGenius asked Netguru for help once again. This time, they needed to build an additional module that would provide advice on pet insurance. Netguru’s engineers were responsible for the backend and frontend of the web application (Ruby on Rails and React). The project started in November and went online end of February, 2016.

Challenge

The software behind PolicyGenius platform incorporates clean and well-tested code. The application is large, which makes it challenging for an external team to come in, build an additional functionality, and hand it over quickly.

  1. Competing in the New York FinTech market. Startups in the financial services market need to deliver the highest quality of software. Unfortunately, the development community in New York is expensive, and the amount of available talent is an issue.
  1. Adjusting software development to the dynamic environment. Users, customers, investors, media, marketing opportunities – these are all factors that make app development so challenging these days. Netguru’s developers needed to be very flexible.
  2. Meeting the world's highest performance standards. Like other successful FinTech apps, PolicyGenius must scale up very quickly. This is why its infrastructure had to be ready for high traffic.
  3. Delivering projects in short sprints. In the financial sector, time is extremely valuable – new functionalities need to be built quickly and efficiently.
  4. Coordinating work in different time zones (the difference between CET and EST is 6 hours). Netguru’s employees are used to working as part of remote teams in different time zones. However, short deadlines can make the six-hour time difference quite challenging. If the teams are not disciplined enough, even minor communication lags can introduce a full-day delay that can disrupt a project.

Solution

Because of a long-term relationship, Netguru’s developers are already familiar with PolicyGenius software, its team, and its culture, and they had no problem joining the workflow immediately. Netguru’s developers go beyond mere completing tasks they are given, coding and committing changes. They feel fully responsible for the final result and empowered to suggest their own solutions.

  1. Adding new talent to PolicyGenius's development process. Netguru provides PolicyGenius with access to a pool of experienced Ruby on Rails and React programmers – the size of the team responsible for a project can be adjusted as necessary.
  2. Direct communication between each member of both teams. Everyday communication between New York and Poland based teams is done via dedicated Slack channels and Pivotal Tracker. This helps speed up the development and improve code quality. What also helps are the mutual respect and the good chemistry between the two teams. Although the Netguru team acts as a temporary backup, our suggestions for changes and our solutions have been highly regarded and often implemented. Transparency helps avoid potential conflicts when faced with meeting a challenging deadline.
  3. Dedicated dev team leader with perfect knowledge of the product. Leadership stability is one more advantage of the long-term cooperation with Netguru. PolicyGenius knows Netguru’s dev team leader very well, whereas the team leader knows PolicyGenius’s culture and code perfectly. On each project, PolicyGenius works with the same developer team leader, who has over 4 years of experience in RoR and React. This connection builds trust and helps introduce new programmers to the project. This is why Netguru can join a new project so quickly.
  4. Easy team expansion on demand. If you are a company operating from one of the biggest startup ecosystems in the world (such as Silicon Valley, London, or New York), you will most likely find it very difficult to hire quality developers, even on short-term contracts, which makes working with remote teams is so beneficial. PolicyGenius know they can double or triple the number of engineers working on their platform with the help of Netguru. This helps deliver big projects in short time.

Key Benefits

Netguru has built some of the key features of PolicyGenius platform. Each new functionality is handed to PolicyGenius's internal dev team complete and on time, helping them to keep up with the pace of the company's rapid business growth.

  1. Successfully competing in a market worth billions of dollars. Founded in 2014, PolicyGenius had over 800,000 registered users by the end of 2015.
  2. Attracting 21.5 mln USD in funding. At the beginning of 2016, PolicyGenius raised additional $15m in funding and is considered to be one of the most interesting new financial services startups.
  3. Complex projects completed fast. For the third time, Netguru successfully delivered a challenging project for PolicyGenius. This strengthened Netguru’s reputation of being able to work efficiently with world-class development teams and embed themselves in the process of building a product in a very competitive fintech market. Each time Netguru delivered a project, the PolicyGenius dev team took over the code without problems.
  4. Access to a qualified and scalable talent pool can prove to be very valuable. The PolicyGenius development team was able to keep up with the fast pace of the company's business growth and build a qualified remote backup team that can scale up or down according to the company's needs, keeping costs under control. With each successful project, Netguru becomes more familiar with PolicyGenius's technology and culture, which means every next project is going to be easier, safer and less expensive.

The Team

Our responsibilities in this project were split between the backend and frontend. Two Ruby on Rails developers were responsible for building dynamic integrations with a number of external APIs that provide insurance data. On the frontend side of things, a developer worked on the projects provided by PolicyGenius designer.

What proved to be crucial was the role that Netguru’s developers played in the project. They were not limited just to performing given tasks, and their suggestions were taken into consideration when proposing solutions. Netguru’s assistance to PolicyGenius even went as far as working outside normal business hours to ensure successful project completion. This was against Netguru's internal rule of keeping the working time strictly limited to office hours. The rule was suspended several times during this urgent project, with the approval and even at the request of Netguru's devs, who wanted to join the Brooklyn colleagues in an effort to get it done on time.

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