This is the first blog in a new series celebrating the companies that use Braintree to power the payments behind their businesses. First up is WillCall. We love live music here at Braintree and are happy to share that WillCall, a social logistics company for live music is using Braintree to handle payments. We sat down with Julian Tescher, co-founder and engineering lead at WillCall to learn more about the company and their vision to reshape the music industry.
Why did you start WillCall?
I’ve always been really excited by the intersection of music and technology. I was working on a totally different project with my co-founders, Patrick Tescher (who also happens to be my brother) and Donnie Dinch, in Seattle at the time. One day we were listening to the radio station KEXP-FM, and were shocked to find that this band we all really liked, the Shout Out Louds, were playing an in-studio set. We realized that it was incredibly difficult to keep track of when our favorite bands were in town and recognized this must be a challenge for the industry as a whole. We started WillCall to make it simple for people to find and go to more live shows, but ultimately our goal is to make every interaction and transaction within the live music experience easier.
How are you changing the way people engage with commerce for live events?
Concerts are an inherently social experience. We try to bring as much relevant information about which of your friends are interested in going to events as possible so you can buy them tickets or meet up with them at the show. We found that people are much more interested in which of their friends are going to a show than the price at the door.
How are you changing the music industry? What’s your vision for the future (the next 5 years)?
Our goal is to make going to shows as casual as meeting someone for coffee. Most people go to shows about once a year and we think the way to change this is by removing the friction associated with attending a concert, and making the entire process more personal and social. We do this by incorporating friends into the decision to buy tickets which allows people to make music a bigger part of their lives. We firmly believe that this is the direction the industry needs to be headed.
What milestones have you hit since launching in early 2012?
The WillCall iOS app was our first product. We purposefully kept a very narrow and mobile-first strategy which has allowed us to move quickly and evolve our idea of how transactions should be made. In July, we launched our Android app and brought the experience to a wider audience, and we are currently testing web purchases for desktop browsers.
What are the payment challenges you faced when you were getting started?
We didn’t want to maintain PCI-compliant servers so the first iteration of WillCall used a completely outsourced payment option that was frustrating to say the least. We did a lot of work trying to overcome the limitations of having very little control over the payments process but eventually decided that we needed another solution.
Why did you decide to work with Braintree?
The services that Braintree provides are exactly what we needed to build a product with a highly controlled and optimized checkout flow. Both the mobile client and server-side integration are simple and easy to use.
How is Braintree integrated into the WillCall app?
Braintree is the backbone of our commerce platform. The simplicity we can provide to our customers is largely supported by the user only needing to enter the system one time. Their credit cards are stored with Braintree and accessible via their phones so they can use the app for all of the purchases they make related to the event. They can do everything with WillCall, from tipping the band to buying merchandise. Our manager app also uses the Braintree API to keep track of payments and make adjustments where necessary.
What role does Braintree play in helping your business grow?
Having a payments platform that is international and mobile-focused allows us to grow without worrying about the specifics of localizing or scaling our credit card processing. We have never had issues with downtime, and the pricing structure is competitive.
What code/language(s) do you develop on?
I try to strike a balance between the need for clean, uniform systems that all our engineers can understand and immediately be productive in, and the most ideally matched technology. I enjoy the productivity and rapid prototyping that I get out of Ruby, so most of WillCall’s infrastructure was initially composed of Rails web services. Once these services have stabilized they are sometimes refactored to Node.js or other languages/platforms depending on the needs of the system.
What other tools/APIs have you found helpful to building WillCall?
We have automated a lot of our accounting using the Xero API. All Braintree payments that we process are journaled automatically and available for our accountants to review. We have also been very happy with Amazon Web Services for building our infrastructure and services like New Relic, Skylight, and StatsD for analyzing performance and server metrics.
Which developers and/or companies inspire you?
I am continually impressed and inspired by developers like Yehuda Katz, Aaron Patterson, Steve Klabnik, and others who do amazing open source work as well as educating and inspiring others in the Ruby community. Open source projects and contributors allow small companies to quickly bring great products to market. I also have great respect for companies like Github and Heroku for providing resources, conferences, meetups, and training to developers everywhere.