The Fast-Changing world of Finance Tech

The Fast-Changing world of Finance Tech

On this episode, our host, Mason Brown, interviews financial industry influencers, Paul Nolde, NVR Director, Chris Mowry, Capital One, Director of UX Strategy & Engineering, and Jamie Young, Director of Experience Design. Together they investigate the many problems facing FinTech today, the most exciting trends on the horizon, and where tech can measurably improve the lives of finance consumers tomorrow.

What is Mobile By Design?

This show was started by Shockoe, a mobile app development shop based in Richmond, Virginia whose goal is helping companies create better tools to improve utility for their customers and employees. We’re a podcast about all things technology, business, and design.

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Episode 2: The Fast-Changing world of Finance Tech

by Shockoe | Mobile by design

In this episode you will hear more on:

  • How is utility playing a role in the financial space? For consumers or for employees?
  • In a seemingly ever-expanding field of consumer finance apps – roboadvisors, neo-banks, savings enhancers, credit managers – how does a consumer (or an investor) decide which one(s) will win out?
  • What are the most important UX and UI considerations when designing for financial services customers? What are some of the tradeoffs between additional security and usability?
  • Regulations are a big part of any industry, but especially so within Financial Services. How do companies look at potential Mobile Solutions in such a heavily regulated industry?
  • When should financial institutions build their own digital solutions vs. leverage partners solutions or acquiring a startup tech?
  • What is the big disrupter in finance? What will be the thing to make the big shift in financial services?

Thank you for listening! This podcast is produced and directed by Olya Polishchuk. Our host is Mason Brown. Follow us on Twitter @shockoe and Instagram @shockoe_rva

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Shockoe Ranks No. 499 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 with Three-Year Sales Growth of 900%

Shockoe Ranks No. 499 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 with Three-Year Sales Growth of 900%

Richmond, VA – Shockoe, a leading disruptor in the design and development of advanced mobile solutions, is honored to announce that it has been ranked No. 499 by Inc. Magazine in the 36th annual Inc. 5000, an exclusive list of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. This list represents the culmination of a review and ranking of one of the most important sectors in the American economy today – the entrepreneurs. It’s an honor to be named in a list where many of today’s well-known companies gained their first national exposure as honorees of the Inc. 5000, such as Microsoft, Zappos, Jamba Juice, Pandora, Timberland, LinkedIn, Yelp and Zillow.

We are tremendously proud of the work we’ve accomplished in the past few years and feel honored to be included amongst an exclusive and impressive list of growing companies on the Inc. 500,” says CEO Edwin Huertas of Shockoe.com. “Our growth over the years can be directly attributed to an incredible team and their ability to create innovative solutions for today’s ever-changing market coupled with the capacity to solve the most pressing challenges organizations face.”

The 2017 Inc. 5000, unveiled online at Inc.com and with the top 500 companies featured in the September issue of Inc. (available on newsstands August 16) is the most competitive crop in the list’s history. The average company on the list achieved a mind-boggling three-year average growth of 481%. The Inc. 5000’s aggregate revenue is $206 billion, and the companies on the list collectively generated 619,500 jobs over the past three years. Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000.

About Shockoe:
Shockoe is a leader in the development of advanced mobile solutions focused on increasing sales, end-user experiences and employee productivity. Since our founding in 2010, our emphasis on today’s mobile consumer and end-user have helped us grow into a global consulting firm with a unique combination of mobile strategy, experience design, development, and integration. Our solutions have strong returns on investment, deliver excellent user experiences, and adhere to the best practices in security and reliability.

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Comparing React Native to Axway Titanium

Comparing React Native to Axway Titanium

Here at Shockoe we often use cross-platform tools to build our apps. Using a cross-platform tool allows us to have one code base for apps that run on multiple platforms. There will be some platform specific code, but most things can be shared. Our cross-platform tool of choice is Axway Titanium. It used to be that cross-platform tools heavily leveraged WebViews. Tools like Cordova (ex PhoneGap) allow the developer to write a mobile website using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Then PhoneGap handles showing this content to the user inside of a native WebView. Instead of the WebView approach, Titanium gives you a JavaScript context and provides a bridge that handles interactions between the JavaScript environment and native components. Titanium stood out because it actually interacted with native components. But now Titanium is not the only framework out there that takes this approach. A couple years ago Kyle took an early look at React Native. Let’s take another look and see how React Native has come along.

Getting Started

Start off by heading over to the React Native Getting Started page. They offer two options: Quick Start and Building Projects with Native Code. I have not tried the, now default, Quick Start option. Several documentation pages refer to needing to “eject” your application if it was created from the Quick Start. For that reason alone I have only used the Building Projects with Native Code option.

There are a few dependencies to install, but the guide walks you through what you need. You will need NodeJS and the watchman package for observing changes. You will also need to install the react native cli. Additionally, you will need Xcode if building for iOS and Android Studio if building for Android.

Once you’ve got the dependencies installed you create a new project with the CLI:
react-native init AwesomeProject

Running the App

With no changes to the code base, you can immediately build the app you just created. In a Titanium project, all builds are handled through the Axway Appcelerator CLI or Axway Appcelerator Studio. This is not the case with React. It seems you can only build to an iOS simulator, Android emulator, or Android device with the React Native CLI. To do this you use either:
react-native run-ios
To target iOS simulator. Or:
react-native run-android
To target an Android device or emulator.

The options provided with these commands are a little lacking compared to the options with the Axway Appcelerator CLI. In my time with React Native, every simulator build chose the iPhone 6 simulator. I could not find an option to specify a different simulator with the CLI. Additionally, the CLI does not handle multiple connected Android devices well. You need to only have a single connected Android device or running emulator.

So how do you target other iOS simulators or build to an iOS device? Open Xcode! From there you use the same build options that a native developer would use. This is a huge difference from Titanium that basically discourages the use of Xcode for anything but building native modules. If you’ve never done native iOS development this can be a little daunting at first. It’s simple enough to find the play button and drop-down to select your build target. But what if you want to do an adhoc distribution build? Fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there for learning Xcode.

How about Android builds? This is an area that I am not as familiar with. Because the React Native CLI is capable of building to a device, I haven’t tried to build the project with Android Studio. I have generated a signed APK. The React Native documentation has a guide, but it comes down to using gradle.

Editing the App

React Native does not provide an IDE like Axway Appcelerator Studio. The documentation does suggest taking a look at Nuclide. Nuclide is a package for Atom that claims to setup an environment for developing React Native. I found I wasn’t taking advantage of its features, so I uninstalled it after a couple days in favor of just Atom.

So you can open the code in a text editor, where do you go from there? With a Titanium project, at least an alloy one, the entry point is alloy.js. From there the index controller has loaded first automatically. React Native provides entry points at index.android.js and index.ios.js. From there you can load whatever components you wish. The simplest thing to do is to edit some of the text provided with the sample project. Once you’ve made an update you can easily see your changes without rebuilding your app!

Axway Titanium provides a live view feature to see your app update as code changes. React Native offers a similar feature. On simulator you can press command + R to reload the code from the React Native packager. On an android emulator you can achieve the same thing by tapping R twice. Reloading can also be accessed from a built-in developer menu! To access the developer menu simply shake your device. You will see options to reload, enable remote JS debugging, enable live reload, and more.

Debugging Your Code

Axway Titanium attaches a console to builds made directly to a device, emulator, or simulator. The React Native process ends as soon as a build is installed and does not attach a console. Instead, you can enable remote debugging through the developer menu and debug your app in Google Chrome. You do not see a DOM representation of the app, but you do get access do the console and debugging tools! The debugging is done over TCP, so you don’t need to have built on a device connected to your computer. Inside the developer menu, you can change the URL used for remote debugging so you can debug as long as the device and machine running Google Chrome are on the same network.

Moving Forward

This has only been a brief look at getting started with React Native. In the future, I would like to revisit this topic to discuss more configuration, component driven design, and interacting with native code. React Native is very young, but it has come a long way in a short period of time. I am very excited to see how it matures as a cross-platform framework.

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Product Management in App-griculture

Product Management in App-griculture

Back in the day, when life was simple and technology was limited, dairy producers would keep track of their herds by using journals or notebooks. As time as passed, adoption of computer software increased where data could be entered, but only after jotting it down on the farm first. Nowadays, there is mobile technology everywhere and there are apps out there to support all kinds of activities – including dairy farming.

How convenient is it for a dairy producer to take his phone or tablet anywhere to keep track of his/her herd? Well, to keep to a one-word answer – “extremely”. Not only is it a time savings by not having to log something on a piece of paper and go back and enter it onto a computer, it’s the convenience of having the information with you all the time.

Here at Shockoe, we have had the opportunity to work closely with a couple of clients to build apps for the dairy farming community. As part of the process, we had conversations with the future users of the app (dairy producers, veterinarians, and animal technicians) to learn how they use their existing software and what was missing.

As we traverse through the mobile development lifecycle with our clients, our product management practice focused on a few key main areas to ensure we meet our client’s needs:

1. User Experience

If users open the mobile app and don’t feel like there is any value for it, they will quickly delete and continue to use something else. The app needs to have the functionality to allow the users to accomplish their tasks, but also be structured in a way for easy navigation and reliable performance.

2. Simplicity

Albert Einstein: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” This and the principle, KISS, that has been around since the mid-1900’says it all. If a mobile app is not intuitive and easy to use, it will not be used – even if it on a device being carried around all day.

3. Security

If data or user information is not protected, the app is a huge failure. Users need to know the mobile application they are using is safe to use. This means securing the code, securing the device, securing the data, and securing the transactions.

4. Analytics

What is the most common functionality used in the mobile application? Which functionality is the least used by users? How long are the sessions for a user? Answers to these questions and feedback from the users, help determine what enhancements can be made for future versions. It just doesn’t stop after the mobile is pushed out to the stores, monitoring and evaluating needs to occur.

Dairy producers, vets, and technicians need the ability to access information about their animals, update data, and also perform various functions throughout the day. Following these key elements and working closely with the users, allows us at Shockoe to deliver a high quality mobile experience.

Shockoe Wellness Program

Shockoe Wellness Program

There’s a reason the stereotypical image of a software developer is a slovenly mess, a large mass in a black t-shirt covered in potato chip crumbs, the reason being is it’s often true. And while we can’t prevent the ever-growing threat of black t-shirt wearing, we all do our best to keep those black t-shirts themselves from being ever-growing. Here at Shockoe we incorporate several exercises into our daily routine that we hope will improve our overall health. Collectively this is known as the Shockoe Wellness Program.

To keep our metabolisms engaged and the blood flowing through our brains, we’ll often take a stroll along the canal walk near the office. It’s also a great way to unplug from work for a little while and come back to any problems or tasks with a fresh mindset. Inside the office, ping pong is another great outlet to work through bugs and raise our heart rates. And for anyone who doubts the ability of ping pong to raise your heart rate, you’ve clearly never seen the crazy wall and ceiling shots we try every day and the mad dash of our developers to recover the balls as they go flying into the kitchen or under desks.

However, when you work in a profession that has you sitting and looking at a computer screen for eight hours a day, fitness is only one of your concerns. Here at Shockoe we incorporate several exercises throughout the day to help preserve our posture and eyesight. There are two main problems that face those who sit down for a living: forward head posture and anterior pelvic tilt. Speaking generally, from a blenderized knowledge of several internet tidbits, forward head posture comes as a result of, among other things, staring at a screen and inclining one’s head forward. Anterior pelvic tilt means that one’s hips have rotated forward, as a result of weakened hamstrings and abs and tightened lower back and quads due to sitting for long periods of time. To counteract forward head posture, we perform a series of neck exercises 2-3 times a day. Here is the video guide that we follow for these exercises. Vastly more information than I could ever provide about anterior pelvic tilt and the ways to counteract it can be found here, though the exercises that we tend to perform are the quad stretches and occasional stomach vacuums.

To help improve our eyesight, we utilize the 20-20-20 rule, which states that if you spend a lot of time looking at something directly in front of you (e.g. a computer screen), every 20 minutes you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. It also helps to roll your eyes and blink a lot during these breaks.

Shockoe Bods, a sub-branch of the Shockoe Wellness Program, is also very near to our hearts. It was through the Shockoe Bods program that we began a quest to each be able to do 100 pushups. For a while, every morning after our stand-up meeting we would crank out huge sets of pushups. However, we soon found that this was tightening our pecs and making us hunch over at our computers. We needed to add a complementary back exercise as well, so we hung a pullup bar near the bathrooms and encouraged people to do as many as they can every time nature called. For some, “as many as you can” was less than one, and that was perfectly ok. The prevailing wisdom is if you can’t do a pullup, simply hang on the bar for as long as you can, and the first pullup will come after being able to hang for 45 seconds.
All this may seem like a lot, but in total it may add up to ten minutes every day, which, in my opinion, is worth it to not be hunched over a walker by the time I’m 30. Every developer at the office is a huge fan of Bojack Horseman, and to paraphrase a touching moment from this past season: “It gets easier, but you have to do it every day. That’s the hard part.”

Tech Trends: March 2012

We have one word for you:

iPad3

The roar around the arrival of Apple’s latest version of their market-dominating tablet drowned out pretty much anything else tech in the last few weeks. Even the buzz at SXSWi had a distinctly “when will I get my hands on my new iPad?” character. Most of the big voices in mobile that we follow came home fast from SXSWi so they could crack open the shipping boxes on their new iPads.

Pete Cashmore of Mashable said this about his iPad3 on Facebook:

It’s certainly worth getting if you have an iPad 1, but if you have the iPad 2 it’s probably only worth the upgrade if you use it a lot … Or if you work in the tech industry and are expected to know about these things!

And speaking of iPads, the company that designs that tablet’s chips has designs on something else:

ARM wants to crush Intel

Who is ARM, you might ask? If you’ve got a mobile device, it probably has an ARM chip in it. The British chipmaker has gone on record that their goal is to snag 60% of the microprocessor market. They’re currently at 30%, which isn’t bad for a company that most people have never heard of. Our bet is that Intel has heard of them. There’s a good piece CNN Money about ARM and its plans for world domination. We love mobile tech. We also could love the idea of investing in ARM’s stock, particularly based on their established track record and their audacious-but-achievable goals. [Just an observation, not investing advice!]

Samsung: there’s a camera for that?

Samsung has rocked the Android smartphone space, and they’re now looking at creating stand-alone Android-enabled cameras. Obviously, they’re already in the smartphone camera space given that they include cameras on their smartphones, but we’re looking forward to seeing what an Android camera from Samsung might look like.  Would make sharing high-quality pictures on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook easier than ever.

Got a trend you’re watching? Let us know!

Trends in Tech: Truth or Noise?

No industry has more hype attached to it than tech. Sure, the entertainment industry is known as hype-a-palooza, but they rely on technology to both create and hype their products, so we’ll stick with tech as the most hyped vertical on the planet.

How does someone figure out what’s really worth it, and what’s the latest shiny object that’s really just a tin can?

Great minds spend great big chunks of time and money thinking about this very question. Gartner releases an annual Hype Cycle report that looks at tech trends and predicts what their adoption and long tail might be.

Their predictions for 2012 are in the chart below. You can see that most of where we operate here at Shockoe is already on the Slope of Enlightenment.

Here are our Three Tech Trends of Truth that rise above the hype-noise:

#1: Tech that connects emotionally

A great example of this is apps that deal with food. Our own iYummy app takes advantage of this by letting users share their favorite food across their entire social sphere. Angry Birds is another app that uses emotion – it lets users kill mustachioed pigs to blow off some steam. Instagram has an emotional component, too, in that images can have a significant emotional impact. Technology is a human tool, and humans are emotional creatures. Tech that touches human emotion will trend … forever.

#2: Education 2.0

Tech that helps students self-direct learning is coming on strong, and will continue to do so. We’re educators here at Shockoe, and we know from our experience teaching mobile development that learning face-to-face is the best way to acquire some skill-sets. However, there is plenty of room for self-directed education in primary, secondary and university programs, and that idea is starting to gain traction. Legendary tech investor Vinod Khosla posted some of his thoughts on this on Techcrunch last month. A favorite quote:

according to research by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, 60 percent of the top-selling iPhone apps on the education store are made for toddlers and preschoolers. Do we expect these children to relinquish and forget their app- and game-centered development after they get to first grade? This is completely unreasonable! And for me it is easy to envision how we can make education more engaging with these approaches, hence enhancing learning at all levels be it kindergarten or medical school.

#3: Near Field Communication will change money forever

We talked about this two weeks ago in our post on mobile trends. Mobile payment tech turned Africa into a mobile-payments case study, spring-boarding off the M-Pesa launch in 2007 by wireless provider Safaricom. Now a number of banks in the US and Europe are giving NFC-enabled mobile payments and banking a test drive. The early adopters among banks will be the winners in this race. Those in late will become the also-rans, losing increasingly-mobile customers in all geographic areas to the more mobile-friendly financial institutions.

What tech trends are you watching this year? Tell us on our facebook page, or shoot us a tweet.

Picture This!

Shockoe Bottom is a a metropolitan kaleidoscope among business districts of the mid-Atlantic. River and city intermingle to preserve pockets of time archived in vintage masonry and graffiti alike. This is an exciting place to work, live and play.
As you hurry about your business take a moment to enjoy the beauty of your urban world-in-progress. To see things from our point of view, please visit our Flickr account.Shockoe Bottom is a a metropolitan kaleidoscope among business districts of the mid-Atlantic. River and city intermingle to preserve pockets of time archived in vintage masonry and graffiti alike. This is an exciting place to work, live and play.
As you hurry about your business take a moment to enjoy the beauty of your urban world-in-progress. To see things from our point of view, please visit our Flickr account.