Dear Team members, business partners and friends.
I look back at an exciting and successful year 2015. It was a step in the right direction for the future development of our company; a period of intense cooperation. Together we have achieved much, made new experiences and I hope that our customers are satisfied and happy with our work. Thanks to the whole team for the support - Bumi, Tim, Lars, Liane, Tatjana, Isa, Freddy, Johannes, Max, Carsten, Christoph, Paul, Stephan, Martin, Marco, Micha, Philipp!
And thanks to our customers for the loyality and trust.
2015 was shaped by 2014 and is the base for 2016. We have experienced a lot, we experimented and discovered even more. We recognised new and exciting topics like mobile app development with react and ember and FinTech and we’ve implemented exciting projects in these areas. Let's look back briefly into 2014 to make a review of the past year …
After a fair to middling year in 2014 we thought a lot about how to learn from our mistakes. After 7 successful years we’ve experienced a year when not everything went perfectly (sales situation, lack of interesting projects, lack of focus etc.). Our team spent a lot of time to identify the issues and we worked on ideas how to avoid new mistakes. But first we had to understand our past, the origin of Railslove: three developers who founded a company and turned their hobby into a profession. After seven years exactly those three developers grew a team of up to 16 awesome people. We didn’t have a specific license that enabled us to run a business. But we’ve always had fun. To be honest I’m somehow thankful for the bad moments. It changed the way I’m thinking about running a company and that a company always changes. Nothing is stable.
In 2015 we started to look at ground "pillars" of every company structure (Team, Product, Sales, Controlling, Vision / Mission) and started to observe how they fit for Railslove. We have recognized that we need to strengthen our sales structures to be more efficiently. We wanted to get larger and continouous projects. We have realized that we should know our team numbers better in order to draw the right conclusions. We have recognized that technology is a very volatile issue and that we have to see the bigger picture. We want to work on more projects we’re really interested in. One of the biggest challenge is to not destroy the existing team culture which we have established in the past 7 years. Decisions have to made by someone, but we really want our team to be involved in our decisions too. We’ve always done it that way but we’re going to do it even more explicit in the future.
One thing we’ve recognized in the past is that Ruby On Rails is a perfect ground for a good web app and to solve the problems of our customers. In recent years we have repeatedly proven that we are Ruby on Rails professionals. But there are many more exciting technologies we want to tackle. Last year we started to expand our knowledge about mobile web apps and how to build native web apps – I would say successfully. Two projects that we’ve developed successfuly in this area are ILPT (I Love Personal Training) based on Ember.js and Makerist based on React.js.
We successfully built our first native mobile app for our client Makerist using React Native, which we wrote about in detail in another blog post. And, after 2 1/2 years of successful development, we were able handover the development of the web app to the 4 person-house dev team which we helped to build at Makerist. It feels a bit like kids moving out - it's a bit sad seeing them go, but we are incredibly proud at the same time. We are still supporting Makerist with some special projects and hope to build some cool new features for their native mobile app (eg building on Android version) in 2016. All in all Makerist continues to be a very successfull startup collaboration with both sides benefiting greatly from working together.
We did a full major release of ILPT this year. The app has been completely redesigned and we have finally achieved the feature parity between the mobile app and the desktop application. Furthermore, we did many important back-end changes. We are looking forward to an exiting year 2016 working on ILPT.
Together with 9elements we released the reactjs.de portal last year. A platform with exciting links and tutorials for the german react community. We also offer trainings on react for individuals and companies. Our primary goal is share our knowledge with others.
Another topic we’ve tackled in 2015 are the Financial Technologies (FinTech). Our first project in this area started in 2008 with payango.com - a prepaid credit platform. 2010 - 2012, we have taken care of many payment processes with 9flats and we’ve worked for Skrill with a 6-person team.
We used these experiences to develop a special product to offer web platforms an easy API solution to do SEPA payments: the EBICS::Box. Basically it is an API to transfer money in the B2B sector simple, cheap and fast. 2015, we have successfully tested our first release with a few potential customers. Together with a Cologne based financial company Bank-Verlag (subsidiary of the Federal Association of German Banks), we have found a strong partner with whom we can expand our FinTech products in 2016.
At the same time we’ve started an international plattform for FinTech interested people - the FinTech Weekly. It’s a weekly newsletter around FinTech topics. Our meetup and conference lists on the website are a great overview of what is happening in the community. Together with Bank-Verlag, we also launched the FinTech Magazine that provides curated content by professional journalists. FinTech Weekly is growing fast: we have more than 15 subscriptions daily and a monthly growth rate of 30%. Our partnerships with numerous conferences offer us a large network. I’m very excited that this project is accepted by the community and that motivates me to continue this new experience. Many thanks to Micha who’s curating all the content for the newsletter and to Freddy who’s helping out to make the website even better. And most important: thanks to the subscribers for submitting links!
Furthermore we’ve established a user-centered design process for FinTech applications to find out what it means to develop innovative products for banks. During our first workshop which was highly supported by David and Anke we’ve applied different methods from the UCD area. We did interviews with real customers, based on their answers we’ve started to generate ideas that could have a potential in the market. We’ve published a few stories about our work in the past here, here, here and here. I’m going to speak about this process and about my perspective on the FinTech scene on January 25th in Stuttgart. This will be the first FinTech Meetup in Stuttgart which I started together with Johannes Ellenberg from Accelerate Stuttgart. Thanks to Liane, Stephan, Tatjana and Tim for the support here.
We also did some work for the community last year. Although it is sometimes difficult to find free time for those activities, it’s always a lot of fun. In addition to the Pen & Paper Hackathon @ Interactive Cologne Festival last year my favorite meetups and community activities we organized are: DevHouseFriday, Webmontag, Refugees on Rails and Startups für Fortuna.
Since 2009 I’m responsible for the organisation of Webmonday in Cologne and the DevHouseFriday which started in 2008. I am glad that I received a strong support by Lars and Roland. Thanks guys! We’ve managed to fix the dates for our upcoming meetups which will be announced soon (We start in February and Meetups will conduct alternately). The venues are also almost fixed for next year. We’ll announce everything on Meetup and Facebook. Also many thanks to Rene Bredlau for the really strong commitment!
Although I was only a mentor at the Refugees on Rails meetup, I found this event really successful. It was not the number of participants (about 30 people) that made this event great, but the positive and nice atmosphere and cooperation of mentors and refugees and the participants themselves. I felt that the participants had real fun and were happy to get in touch with other people with a similar mindset. After the first event, the mentors and refugees meet on a regularly base in our office. Thanks to Jacob, Denise and Tatjana for making this event possible.
To be honest it was not a successful year for the Startups für Fortuna project (shortly called “SUFF”). The #suff team unfortunately had not that much time to spend on #suff for personal and professional reasons. But we could at least donate 1,500 euros and get in exchange advertising space on the website of Fortuna Köln. It was not that easy to say goodbye to the chairman of Fortuna Köln Klaus Ulonska who died this year, too. Therefore, we launched the "Digitaler Klaus Ulonska" to collect donations and keep the ritual of collecting money by the chairman alive (which he did every game at his stadion). Furthermore, in collaboration with the UFA Lab, we launched the Fortuna Stories . This video documentary to commemorate the special but club Fortuna Köln.
Since the middle of last year, I brought together a few FinTech activists from Cologne and finally Thomas and myself started to support Mathias in organising the FinTech Meetup Köln. The next one is scheduled for 28.01. All details can be found on the website.
I would like to take this opportunity once again to say “thank you Bumi” for 8 great years at Railslove. He left Railslove this year and currently explores the world traveling. I hope you are doing well and wish you a happy new year bro!
Also many many thanks to Salim for the awesome years we spend with you! i wish you luck in the future!
I gave two talks this year: FuckupNight in summer and TEDxKoeln in October (together with Lars). It was an exciting experience. It has given me the courage to talk even more open about things (both personal and business nature). The preparation for the TEDx Talk was a new and very exciting experience for me – I will talk about it at one of the next Webmondays. Thanks to Greta Andreas for making it possible.
Our first season in the 3. Liga Kicker Cologne has ended. We’ve achieved the 5th place (from 8) - therefore we’re relegated into the 4th division. We feel encouraged. We’ll laser you next season! At this point I animate try all our Kickerapp.
In 2016 we want to strengthen the mentioned topics above and expand our knowledge in those areas. Currently we work together with our team on an internal Railslove Manifesto and our brand image. We want to expand our activities at our innovation lab. In addition to our FinTech activities we see the field of "InsureTech" on our roadmap. We look forward to further projects in the mobile web. We eagerly look at the movement of the Cologne startup scene and are excited about the Cologne Unicorns in 2016.
At this point: I want to really say thank you to all our customers, business partners, my team and the whole Railslove Family in this world for the super co-operation. I wish you a happy and above all a healthy and successful year 2016.