On the cutting edge: How 3 Seattle startups are using new tech on big projects

April 30, 2019

Digital technology is evolving at such an incredible speed that even the newest startups and most successful tech giants must always keep an eye on the latest trends and theories. Amid the engineering chatter online and general noise of tech media, there’s always the chance that new technology may suddenly make a techie’s life easier — or flip their whole business model upside down.

To learn how they stay on top of it all, we spoke with technical leaders at three Seattle tech companies — ranging from nimble startups to established industry leaders — about the new technologies they’re incorporating into their tech stack and what they’re building with it.

 

remitly seattle tech startup big 2019 projects
photo via remitly

Where traditional international money wiring services take a percentage of each transaction, Remitly takes a simple flat rate — or, in some cases, doesn’t take a fee at all. The service is designed to support immigrants sending remittances back to family and friends in their country of origin, and last year expanded to support people who wanted to send money back from Europe, as well as the United States.

Chief Product Officer Karim Meghji said his team has big plans to test and implement a number of new ingredients to the company’s tech stack.

 

How do you stay ahead of the curve? What new technologies are you excited about or eyeing for future projects?

Overall, Remitly stays ahead of the curve by encouraging and giving engineers the autonomy to try new languages, technologies and approaches, and to experiment with non-obvious directions with the goal of improving our service for customers. We encourage this through a number of development-centric mini-meetups each month, where technologies and new directions are discussed and experiences shared.

We leverage a number of exciting and powerful new technologies today and are looking forward to trying a number in the future, including everything powered by AWS on the back end (using EC2, S3, SQS, Elasticache, DynamoDB, Elasticsearch, Neptune, Aurora, Lambda, Kinesis, Redshift and so on); a company-wide microservice management system powering over 100 services built on top of EC2 (soon to backed by Kubernetes/Docker); Prometheus/Grafana for real-time powerful monitoring and alerts; Jaeger/OpenTracing for distributed tracing insights across our entire stack; Swagger/OAS for API documentation and discovery; and a powerful suite of integrated third-party tools for simple operational support including Papertrail, BugSnag, NewRelic APM, PagerDuty, Go, Kotlin, TypeScript, React and React Native.
 

We have a number of interesting and meaty tech projects ahead of us this year.”

 

What are the biggest tech projects your team is working on this year?

We have a number of interesting and meaty tech projects ahead of us this year, including the addition of new tools and APIs that enable us to onboard disbursement partners even faster; finishing up our migration from an older monolithic architecture to a more nimble, microservice architecture; moving our microservice management system, which currently runs over 200 deployments daily, to be powered by Kubernetes; improving our customer’s experience through a smarter and more dynamic disbursement network; using low latency machine learning models to continuously detect and mitigate fraud risk; continuing to rollout React and React Native across all of our client platforms; upgrading our core transaction workflow system that is moving $6 billion annually (and rapidly growing); and building new financial products and services beyond remittances.

 

transparent path cto discusses big projects for 2019
photo via transparent systems

Transparent Systems is working on the cutting edge of fintech, distributed systems and cryptography. The company is building a platform that it says will transform financial settlements through secure and so-called “frictionless” payments, leveraging distributed cryptographic systems. The product will have applications in everything from remittances and international transfers to B2B payments and money management for financial institutions.

Co-founder and CTO Jeff Kramer says he relies on several tech publications and his engineering team to stay abreast of the latest industry trends.

 

How do you stay ahead of the curve? What new technologies are you excited about or eyeing for future projects?

I’m a devoted “Hacker News” reader, as well as “The Information.” I tend to spend time with a lot of papers — arXiv is a boon, as is the IACR e-print archive. Even then, that’s not enough to synthesize the wide variety of information on technology — I also lean on great conversations with our engineering team, especially around fields I’m weak in. I’m always excited to enable our team to make the call for the organization.

We’re excited to be working with Rust in all our new code — we find it helps with both eliminating entire classes of errors, while simultaneously driving everyone to write better code. As far as new technologies, we’re right on the forefront of distributed systems and cryptography, so we’re looking forward to improving Rust cryptography libraries and new work in optimistic BFT systems, coded computing and zero-knowledge proofs.  
 

One of the best parts of being involved in this project is the ability to go really broad on a very specific problem.”

 

What are the biggest tech projects your team is working on this year?

While our focus is definitely on building out our platform — working on distributed systems, zero-knowledge, tooling and integration — we’re also excited to be pushing on a few other projects.  We are proponents of open digital banking, so we're looking to contribute to making that a reality, as well as working with a wide variety of open source blockchain protocols. One of the best parts of being involved in this project is the ability to go really broad on a very specific problem. We touch many different fields — from hard cryptographic algorithms to the psychology of payments — yet we are always in the service of moving money forward.

 

tempered networks seattle tech startup
photo via tempered networks

With its infrastructure software, Tempered Networks seeks to fill the gap between industrial IoT devices and networked services that monitor and manage them, thereby boosting security across the entire system. The company’s product, dubbed “HIPswitch,” segments, connects and manages devices to reduce a network’s “attack surface” by up to 97 percent. The platform has been used to protect everything from cloud workloads to medical devices.

This year, VP of Product Development Bryan Skene expects to significantly broaden the capabilities of Tempered Networks’ already extensive products and services.  

 

How do you stay ahead of the curve? What new technologies are you excited about or eyeing for future projects?

We are usually called in to segment different types of data on the network into zones and ensure that the different zones don’t cross. This means that unwanted things can’t get on your network, and things that are on your network only have authorized communication with the outside world, or each other. We do this in a peer-to-peer fashion, instead of trying to bring all your data into a central or cloud environment — which have security and performance concerns of their own.

The key technology challenges we face may come as a surprise: it’s not the strength of data encryption, nor is it the volume or speed of data — we’ve solved those. It’s that our products need to interact with lots of old, legacy networking protocols and equipment that make up today’s networks. Adding to the challenge, our customers’ networks have grown organically over time into something hard — and risky — to change. And, in the case of transportation, the networks are mobile and cross-carrier boundaries.

We make heavy use of modern web application technology, the HIP protocol and scalable network orchestration. The frontier for us, though, is measuring, visualizing and understanding the existing networks of our customers so that we can offer concrete steps to deploy our product. Asking someone to rebuild their network from scratch is a complete non-starter. We have yet to find a suitable tool that baselines an existing network — most are geared toward investigating too much heavy use of the network, or why a particular connection isn’t happening. So, we are building something to directly solve the problem.
 

By the end of this year, there really won't be a network that we can’t connect and protect.”

 

What are the biggest tech projects your team is working on this year?

Our product provides an on- and off-ramp into a secure overlay network. Up till now, the focus has been the so-called “North-South” traffic between networks. Our big project this year is to also provide “East-West” zone policies within a single network. The flexibility gain for our customers is staggering and will let them consolidate many old, aging pieces of networking gear into one.

We are also making big strides simplifying the configuration for site-to-site policies and managing tens of thousands of endpoints. We are doing some really cool things with cloud-based HIPswitch gateways and agents directly in workloads, which enables things like IoT machine learning. Tempered is becoming the smart building gateway. By the end of this year, there really won't be a network that we can’t connect and protect.

 

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