“Cash is king” is a famous saying in the business world. It means that a company’s success depends in large part simply on how much cash is coming in and how much cash is going out. Cash flow management is the science — and sometimes the art — of tracking all the inflows of cash from sales and all the outflows of cash from expenses. Most businesses rely on spreadsheets, scrupulously copying data by hand from bank statements or from other data sources, which is time-consuming and error-prone.
RocketChart is a French fintech startup that wanted to offer business leaders something easier: a simple SaaS dashboard to help them better manage cash flow and forecasting. The three founders built their solution on Heroku, which enabled them to get their ideas to market quickly, and grow to reliably serving hundreds of customers after only six months in business.
Heroku makes it easy for a small team like ours to build and launch a software business in weeks, instead of months or years. Philippe Vanderstigel, Co-Founder, RocketChart
RocketChart’s hard work on cash flow management began with a vacation. In July 2019, Philippe and Marc Vanderstigel were staying with their family at the seashore. The brothers were enjoying the beach, but their father was not. He was stuck at the hotel, working with spreadsheets and trying to calculate cash flow figures for his business. Philippe wondered if there wasn’t an easier way to handle cash flow data. Using Adobe XD, he spent a few hours mocking up a SaaS dashboard for managing cash flow. He posted the mockup on two Facebook groups for founders. Overnight, he received hundreds of Facebook likes and comments — and the brothers realized they had discovered an unmet need in the software market.
Along with their friend Elie Teyssedou, a full stack developer, the brothers launched RocketChart to provide fast, easy cash flow management and forecasting for other startup founders like themselves.
Getting an MVP live with limited time and budget
Time turned out to be a precious commodity for RocketChart, as it is for many startups. Philippe worked full time for RocketChart, but Marc and Elie had other jobs and could only build the RocketChart app at night and on weekends. Without any paying customers to fund development and operations, RocketChart’s budget was limited. The founders needed a cloud application platform that would require a minimal investment of time and fit within their limited budget, while providing the rock-solid reliability required for any application dealing with financial services.
To address all these challenges, the founders of RocketChart chose Heroku. They were already familiar with Heroku from work they had done at other companies, and they could see the platform's benefits for their new startup. Heroku's GitHub integration made it fast and easy to deploy code to staging and production environments, and the team could manage the deployment process using Heroku Pipelines. Without investing lots of time or money, the RocketChart founders could use these tools, part of Heroku's structured CI/CD workflow, to easily test and release features, confident that their app would always be running on a reliable, world-class cloud infrastructure.
The team appreciated Heroku’s flexibility for deploying releases. They could configure Heroku to automatically deploy any changes that are pushed on a branch. But if they wanted to run atomic tests on just a few features rather than a whole release, they could manually deploy to staging and run tests until the new features are proven to work. Either approach was fast and easy.
It was quick and easy to set up our CI/CD workflow on Heroku. The platform’s tools save us time, and as a startup, we need to optimize for time. Marc Vanderstigel, Co-Founder, RocketChart
Data privacy, security, and compliance with EU regulations
Data security is obviously a key requirement for any fintech company that handles customer financial data. To eliminate the manual work required by spreadsheets, the RocketChart cash flow management app imports data directly from customers’ bank accounts, a process which is subject to EU regulations around data protection.
To access customer data, RocketChart uses APIs to connect to the wide variety of systems run by banking institutions and financial service providers. To be allowed to make this connection, the company requires an accreditation from the Banque de France and by the Autorité de Contrôle Prudentiel et de Résolution (ACPR), a government agency charged with preserving the stability of the financial system and protecting the data of financial services customers in France. Therefore, RocketChart partnered with BudgetInsight, which could provide an API service that was accredited by ACPR, and thus ensure regulatory compliance around data flows between RocketChart and banking systems.
The partnership addressed one challenge but created another. BudgetInsight requires that any application accessing data through its API service use a fixed IP address. Limiting bank access only to approved addresses is security best practice for ensuring that only trusted parties access bank account data.
In its default configuration, Heroku doesn't offer fixed IP addresses. But the team found a Heroku Add-on in the Elements Marketplace that helped to solve the problem. The fully managed Fixie service provides static IP addresses for outbound HTTP and HTTPS requests. By installing the add-on in a couple of clicks, Marc and Elie were spared from having to write and test new code just to meet the requirement for a fixed IP address.
With the BudgetInsight API and Fixie add-on in place, RocketChart was off and running, accessing customers’ bank data, automatically categorizing all transactions, and presenting an easy-to-understand view of their customers’ cash flow situations.
Thanks to Heroku and the Fixie add-on, we were able to quickly meet the security requirements of our banking API. Marc Vanderstigel, Co-Founder, RocketChart
Heroku Delivers Growth for RocketChart
RocketChart’s application is maturing, its business is growing, and Heroku continues to power the company’s operations. The founders plan to continue using Heroku in the future, scaling up its dynos as the customer base grows.
Thanks to RocketChart, startup founders get an affordable and powerful solution for managing and forecasting cash flow. And thanks to Heroku, RocketChart can better manage its own cash flow by enabling a lean team to focus on responding to customer needs and building new features, rather than managing application infrastructure. Heroku’s ease of use and reliability make it possible for this small, nimble startup to compete in the fintech market for businesses.
Heroku is the best app platform on the market for startups like us. Heroku offers simplicity, reliability, and the flexibility to customize with add-ons for specific market requirements. Marc Vanderstigel, Co-Founder, RocketChart
Inside RocketChart on Heroku
Still an early-stage startup, RocketChart is running two dynos: one for staging and one for production. Its integration partner, BudgetInsight, requires RocketChart to provide a fixed IP address for connecting to banks, so RocketChart is using the Fixie add-on from the Heroku Marketplace. They're also using the React Buildpack to support their front end. The company stores its customer data in MongoDB Atlas.
Listen to the Code[ish] podcast featuring Philippe Vanderstigel: “From Idea to Beta”.