Ask Hard Questions, Build A Better Product

This post provides insight from our VP of Product, Brent Baker.

Over the past few years one trend has emerged that is critical to the FinTech world — in-app payments. Whether it’s paying for coffee at Starbucks with your phone, ordering dinner from Postmates, or stepping away from your ride-share, real-world transactions are now seamlessly integrated into apps.

My favorite part of the ride-sharing experience isn’t the ability to schedule the ride at the beginning of the experience — those who have ever tried to hail a cab in NYC on a Friday in the rain might disagree — but rather the simple act getting out of the car with zero hassle at the end. This shift in consumer expectations led the Dwolla product team to question many of our assumptions about how Dwolla fits into the FinTech ecosystem — a healthy introspection most product teams should do on a regular basis.

Talk to Partners

We asked current and prospective partners detailed questions about what their expectations were for bank transfers, challenging them to think outside the current Dwolla product offering to outline their needs. We weren’t afraid to press them to tell us where they felt the product fell short — we were eager for honest feedback.

Over and over we heard the same issue: friction when another brand is introduced in the transaction flow. Our existing and potential partners made it clear that Dwolla’s value wasn’t in providing a network of existing users (e.g PayPal) but rather that Dwolla allowed them to build an experience tailored to the needs of their customers. Partners wanted Dwolla to simplify the flow of funds between financial institutions and to provide their applications with a robust set of payment features. The value Dwolla could provide was this feature-rich platform.

Respond to Feedback

These discussions led to two significant changes in our product:

Execute, Execute, Execute

We knew what we had to do, so on to the execution! For anyone who knows me, this is my favorite part of the process. To begin, we had to make a tough decision: choose a build-fast path layering White Label functionality onto our existing API or design a new API almost from scratch. Redesigning our API was 5x the effort at a time where we needed to move fast, but we made the right decision to invest in a vastly improved API that supports White Label, Direct, and traditional Full Dwolla accounts.

A key factor in our decision was the desire to re-imagine the developer experience. We took this opportunity to make existing endpoints more efficient and slim down the entire service by gutting features that were no longer driving value. The new API, V2, is currently live and we are in the process of migrating existing functionality and scopes from V1. We’ll reach out to existing API partners with a reasonable, thoughtful transition plan to help migrate over to the more robust API.

Round out the solution

To complement the new version of the Dwolla API, we are more deeply integrating the developer experience within the entire Dwolla website. More news on this front will be coming soon.

We Are Never Done

This directional shift is a continuous effort and we never stop learning and questioning. The Dwolla product team actively participates in all qualified sales calls and remain engaged once the contract is signed and partner development begins. We do this to understand both the integration challenges and the areas of the product that delight our partners. This level of participation ensures the voices of our customers are represented in the product we build with our partners in Development, Legal and Compliance.

When I look back on 2015, I am incredibly proud of what the product team and this organization have accomplished. A directional product shift of this significance requires open minds, a strong leadership team, and a willingness to question the product we have in market. We are never done.

Originally published at on October 26, 2015.