From 'minimal viable product', Harmoney becomes a P2P lending leader

New Zealand peer-to-peer lender Harmoney had time to learn from the mistakes of others -- and to get its technology stack in order.

New Zealand was a late arrival at the peer-to-peer lending party as politicians took their time writing governing legislation for the disruptive business model.

That delay, however, could have helped produce the most successful P2P lending launch yet, with Harmoney clocking up NZ$100 million in loans in its first year.

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Harmoney CTO Andrew Bates.
Harmoney studied overseas launches carefully, and used institutional money to plug the gap for early loan funding, a gap that caused similar efforts to stutter.

Online marketplaces are built on technology and the start-up also benefited from the perfectly timed arrival of AWS's Sydney datacentre, launched in November 2012.

Harmoney received its licence to operate in July last year and launched using AWS among other services in September. If anything its reliance on the Sydney service, which reduces network latency considerably, is only increasing.

Chief technology officer Andrew Bates said the investor side of the market was definitely a minimal viable product at launch.

"Being a lean startup we built what we needed to go live and be safe. Up until recently the investor experience has been a bit woeful - it hasn't been a great user experience."

Harmoney has spent a lot of time and energy rebuilding the portal, he said. Institutional investors didn't mind, but for retail investors the user experience was more important.

"It's part of the start-up ethos: we pick a technology and we go with it and if it doesn't work we change."

That goes for the overall technology stack as well.

Harmoney, for instance, is shifting its data warehouse off Amazon's Redshift and on to Microsoft SQL Server running on AWS in Sydney.

Bates said Redshift's elastic pricing was proving expensive. Harmoney didn't need extreme performance from the data warehouse and SQL Server on AWS proved, perhaps surprisingly, to be very price competitive.

One data set has already been migrated with others to follow, he said.

Similarly, Harmoney has already pulled its website off Salesforce-owned Heroku and is considering doing likewise with its marketplace.

"The website is sensitive to speed," he said. "You are more likely to turn people into customers if the performance of the site is snappy."

Heroku, with instances on the west and east coasts of the US, was simply in in wrong country. That made network latency an issue. In other contexts, however, Harmoney uses services from Saleforce's Force platform extensively (see chart).

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P2P lender Harmoney utilises AWS and Saleforce infrastructure extensively.
Bates said the website's open source content management system, Refinery, has also been swapped-out and replaced with a similarly open source alternative, Silverstripe, running on AWS.

The future of the transactional marketplace depends on discussions with Heroku, he said.

Heroku announced a new "Private Spaces" service in beta this month, and that could fit Harmoney's needs. However, it was not yet looking at Sydney as a launch region.

"We've been talking to them," said Bates. "We may be able to get a slightly more private version of Heroku on AWS."

The rest of Harmoney's Saleforce infrastructure is multi-tenanted and served from Japan. Bates said Salesforce occasionally splits its instances and this is likely to happen in Japan at the end of this year.