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How Droppe uses AWS and CircleCI for fast, flexible iteration

Droppe offers a two-sided marketplace to help small and mid-sized B2B buyers purchase medical supplies from local and global suppliers. To date, Droppe has helped over 300 B2B customers in several countries obtain much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE). As an early-stage startup with a small development team, Droppe relies on AWS and CircleCI to manage a significant influx of data from buyers and purchasers and to rapidly develop features for multiple personas.

Henrik Helenius
“CircleCI and AWS have helped us automate and scale our platform. The support we received has inspired us to continue building out our platform, gain more insights from our data, and serve more customers.”

Henrik Helenius
Co-founder at Droppe

With a range of buyer and supplier personas, Droppe gains the flexibility to customize the experience

In early 2020, Henrik Helenius and Johannes Salmisaari were stuck in the United States during the pandemic quarantine, unable to travel back to their native Finland after working on startup companies in the San Francisco area. As they watched organizations struggle to obtain PPE, like hand sanitizer and face shields, to help staff guard against COVID-19 transmission, they hit on an idea: Why not spend their downtime developing a platform that would connect medical buyers to suppliers?

The light-bulb moment led to the launch of Droppe. “We wanted a solution that would allow quick reactions to the changing situation” of the pandemic, Helenius says. “Droppe was made possible by implementing and leveraging modern technology as a tool for helping those affected by the crisis.”

The challenge for Helenius and Salmisaari, Droppe’s co-founders, was building the platform in ways that would inspire trust among buyers, given concerns about the quality of PPE equipment. “The idea was to use technology to sort of do load-balancing with different regions at different points in time,” Helenius says. That way, healthcare organizations could find where to buy regional goods and supplies at the exact time they needed PPE – and in a way that would bring transparency to the process of choosing critical safety equipment from trusted suppliers.

To build out this platform, the founders needed scale and team size – but initially, they didn’t have either. The technology team was just two people as Droppe went into development.

“You don’t want to cut corners right at the start, especially when you know you have a concrete use case,” Helenius says. “We didn’t want to build up too much technical debt on the DevOps side by reworking the solution.” Keeping the development team small was also important, he adds, to save time and keep development agile.

Scaling out an early-stage company

The co-founders had used AWS on their previous startup projects, so they opted to continue with AWS for the new venture. “The free credits early on helped,” Helenius says. “Then you can optimize your use case and focus your cloud spend on the services you use. That is very crucial for a startup in its early stages – you want to deploy and run on the right equipment that will be scalable for the first couple of years.”

Soon after, Droppe’s dev team realized they needed to rapidly iterate on platform features to meet the needs of multiple personas. Within buyer and supplier groups, there many different types of personas – some used to more traditional platforms, Helenius explains, like hospital procurement managers. “We couldn’t fit everyone into the same mold, and say, ‘This is what your feature set will be like,” he says. “We have feedback from users, and we want to use that feedback to bring them the experience they need.”

Harnessing the power of data

The combination of AWS and CircleCI has helped Droppe not only keep its small DevOps team lean but also automate time-consuming manual processes for gathering and analyzing data. “We need the ability to check all relevant data from suppliers so we can identify them as trusted sellers,” Helenius says. “So every workflow we can automate has been automated.”

The ability to automate workflows and rapidly iterate on features also gives developers the confidence to keep building out the Droppe platform. “Everything we do is containerized, and we’re using Amazon ECS, ECR, and EC2,” Helenius explains. “With CircleCI and AWS, we’re inspired to encourage even non-technical people to use these tools to build on top of what we’ve already done.”

Benefits of CircleCI and AWS

  • Cost-effectively scale growth of the platform
  • Build confidence in development to inspire engineers and product managers to add even more feature
  • Automate manual workflows to gather and analyze data from many sources
  • Rapidly iterate on features for multiple personas

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