Developer Spotlight: Robert Harris, CTO at Clutch!
Clutch! is a gameday parking marketplace
In the last few months we’ve been interviewing developers around the world that are using Square APIs. Businesses that vary in size and operate in diverse markets are working with us in many different ways. We’ve learned a lot and have been super inspired by their stories, so we’ve decided to showcase them in our Developer Spotlight interviews. You’ll get an inside look and some inspiration for how you can work with Square.
So to start this off we sat down with Robert Harris, CTO at Clutch!, a mobile app using Square Reader SDK, that connects fans with sellers offering parking spaces near stadiums and other event venues.
Bobbilee: So, tell me about Clutch!
Robert: Rather than standing outside for hours holding a cardboard sign, students and local residents can now sell spots through the Clutch! app, and fans can reserve available gameday parking spaces in advance. Payments are handled through the app, eliminating the need for either buyer or seller to keep cash on hand.
Before our official launch we handled a limited number of reservations in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama market in 2017 via our MVP. In the summer of 2018 we received an initial funding round and officially launched the Clutch! app in multiple markets. We started partnering directly with teams, venues, and universities this year.
The Clutch! app Square Reader SDK integration launched in early 2019 to handle in-person payments in advance of official partnerships with the Birmingham Legion FC, Stockton Ports, and Delmarva Shorebirds. This allowed us to expand our offering for professional teams to support season passes, single game advance reservations, and in-person credit card payments at lot entrances.
Bobbilee: Do you plan to expand to more cities/markets or attract more sellers and fans in the existing city(s) you're already in?
Robert: The short answer is both. We plan to grow in our existing college football markets this fall, those being University of Alabama, Auburn University, and University of Tennessee-Knoxville. We will launch at the University of Florida, Texas A&M University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia this fall. We also plan to partner directly with more teams and venues across the Southeast this year, with the long-term goal of being available nationwide.
Bobbilee: What technologies do you use to build your app?
Robert: Clutch! is available as an iOS and Android app. The Clutch! app is built with Ionic allowing our lean engineering team to get features out to users on all platforms quickly. Most of our back-end codebase is built around Node.js, PostgreSQL, and Redis. The majority of our backend infrastructure runs on Heroku where we take full advantage of Heroku Pipelines for continuous delivery and automated testing.
The Square Reader SDK is used to allow professional sports organizations and smaller sellers to accept in person credit card payments via the Clutch! iOS app at their lot entrances. We use several other reputable platform services (for authentication, push notifications, etc.) to allow our team to move quickly and to make our platform as reliable and secure as possible for our users.
Bobbilee: What’s on the horizon for your team this year?
Robert: We have big plans for this year on the feature front. On a broad level, we are focusing on adding features to make gameday easier for fans and sellers. We are revamping our fan check-in process to offer options that are simpler for fans and sellers than using traditional barcode scanning. We plan to automate day to day tasks to minimize customer support time spent on routine tasks, provide a more accurate and complete view of available lots (attributes, detailed ratings, pictures, etc.), and make performance improvements to support large increases in traffic through extensive load testing. Finally, we are improving the advanced features of our products that are used by professional and collegiate teams to manage all of their parking operations.
Also, our engineering team is committed to taking the continuous delivery of our platform to the next level this year. We hope to reach nearly full automation of our deployment pipeline across all of our applications - we have made a lot of headway on this in 2019. As part of this push, we are working to bring our entire codebase up to our coding standards and working towards 100% test coverage. We are really excited about the benefits that these changes will bring to our team.
In the short term, be on the lookout for UX updates coming to our apps in the coming weeks as we bring in on-brand styling to liven things up!
Bobbilee: What made you choose Square?
Robert: Square has great point of sale hardware and the Square Reader SDK makes integrating with their card readers a breeze compared to the other publicly available options out there. From our research, there was not another comparable product available that provided the same level of functionality and developer tooling. Square’s reputation in the point of sale world and broad availability of their hardware is a great fit for launching our platform with sports organizations across the US.
Bobbilee: What was the implementation like for adding Square into your app?
Robert: We started by ordering Square readers and experimenting with the Square Reader SDK on iOS. Getting setup was very easy due to the easy sign up process and simple documentation. We were able to quickly build a proof of concept showing that we could move forward with integrating the SDK in our app. We immediately proceeded with building in person payment functionality into our consumer facing app in order to allow sellers to accept payment from drive-up fans who didn’t make a reservation in advance via the Clutch! app. Due to our use of Ionic, we did have to write a Cordova plugin to wrap the Reader SDK which added a little time to our implementation. Our entire development cycle for integrating the SDK into the app was a matter of weeks - without the Reader SDK this would have been a much more painful process.
We didn’t run into any major issues during development, but when we did have a couple of hiccups we quickly found a resolution via a Square Development Support Engineer on the Square Slack instance. It has been great to have this quick and personal feedback loop that I haven’t experienced with other platforms that we use.
Bobbilee: Do you plan to use more Square APIS in your ecosystem?
Robert: We currently use other payment processors for our in-app payments and seller payouts. Over time, we may transition these parts of our app to Square because we have had a great experience with Square so far and using a single payment processor would simplify our operations. We will most likely stay put with our current providers for now though due to our lean engineering team and lots of awesome features we have on the roadmap!
Bobbilee: Anything else you want to share?
Robert: Here are some videos to learn more about us