Upwire: Standardizing on GCP to deliver business messages quickly and reliably

About Upwire

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Sydney, Upwire provides communication workflows to business customers worldwide. The business has a presence in Australia, Europe, and the United States.

Industries: Technology
Location: Australia

Using Google Cloud Platform solutions has allowed Upwire to meet client demands for fast, reliable messaging while fostering innovation internally and at client businesses.

  • Reduces time to develop a proof of concept from weeks to days
  • Cuts proof-of-concept development costs from more than $100K to less than $100
  • Delivers near 100% availability and helps enable business to meet message delivery SLAs
  • Empowers people without coding skills to create innovative message delivery solutions

Processes millions of voice, SMS, and email messages per month

Headquartered in Sydney, Upwire provides business messaging workflows to customers worldwide from offices in Australia, Europe, and the United States. The business provides drag-and-drop interfaces that enable businesses to create interactive voice response (IVR) systems, two-factor authentication, SMS chatbots for customer service, two-way SMS campaigns, SMS and IVR credit card payment services, and voice biometric authentication. Upwire describes its workflows as being built for people with no IT skills at all, they can just drag and click each step of the way.

Upwire is the culmination of a journey that started in 2002. Ben Brophy, Co-founder, Upwire, says he and fellow Co-founder, Shane Berkinshaw, began developing the concept that became Upwire when working for an established communications business.

“At that time, industry participants relied on traditional infrastructures to run their businesses,” Brophy explains. “Business messaging providers had to close deals with customers that required considerable investment in infrastructure. The costs involved were such that providers faced an uphill task adding more infrastructure for redundancy, and this increased the risk to services if a problem occurred.”

Providers also faced the problem of not being able to plan for peaks and troughs in customer usage yet having to operate an infrastructure that enabled one customer to send 10 million messages without impacting another customer’s services.

The emergence of public cloud services prompted Brophy and Berkinshaw in 2008 to create a business that ran infrastructure and associated products in the cloud. “We were able to do a lot of heavy lifting for large corporations that needed assistance with activities such as database cleansing,” Brophy says. “Companies could connect and deliver messages to our products and infrastructure via application programming interfaces (APIs).”

However, the founders wanted to unleash the creativity and innovation they believed was limited to people with coding skills. “In 2013, after the release of HTML5 allowed us to effectively create drag-and-drop environments, we mapped out a solution we thought would enable anyone in the world to be truly innovative,” says Brophy. “It would allow people without coding skills to create high-quality communications systems, and more than that, it would allow true democratization of technology.”

Rapid Expansion

Brophy and Berkinshaw then created Upwire, a business that is expanding quickly. “We have a new capital raising planned, we have offices in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, and we have clients all over the world.”

Starting the new business in an environment of increasingly mature cloud services prompted the founders to move from a multi-cloud architecture to a single cloud platform. Having established close relationships with product managers and developers of products such as App Engine, Brophy and Berkinshaw understood enough about Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to realize the platform was the best fit for Upwire.

“We were going to take on large enterprise and corporate customers and we needed to be comfortable with a service provider’s capabilities in encryption, redundancy, and backups,” says Brophy. “We also needed to be sure Google’s product portfolio and investments aligned with our need to continually innovate.”

Growing on Google Cloud Platform

The fact Google hosts customers on the same infrastructure on which it runs its own business also prompted the founders to consolidate onto Google Cloud Platform. Upwire initially used App Engine to run applications in an infrastructure-abstracted environment before expanding to products such as Compute Engine for infrastructure as a service; Cloud Storage for unified object storage; Cloud Datastore to run a NoSQL database, and Cloud SQL to run its relational databases.

Machine learning-powered Dialogflow Enterprise Edition powers interfaces with Upwire modules that in turn integrate with third parties to run customer service chatbots. In addition, Upwire has integrated Cloud Speech-to-Text and Cloud Text-to-Speech and made them configurable objects on its platform to enhance its offering to customers. Google Translate powers the translation of Upwire-powered services into a wide range of languages.

For example, a person may book a table at a restaurant via a Google Assistant using Dialogflow Enterprise Edition. She then receives a booking confirmation via SMS. The recipient may reply to the SMS and talk to the same booking bot as they did via Google Assistant. The person may also place a voice call to the number to adjust or make a new booking. The same process can be initiated using SMS or voice.

“Upwire running on Google Cloud Platform helps businesses relieve pressure on scarce coding resources and allows people who understand business logic to innovate.”

Ben Brophy, Co-founder, Upwire

Proofs of concept at minimal cost

Running on Google Cloud Platform enables Upwire to complete proofs of concept at minimal cost in just a few days. “Customers were used to proofs of concept (PoC) that took weeks and cost $100,000, including the cost of setting up servers,” explains Brophy. “With Google Cloud Platform, we can complete some PoCs in days for under $100; needless to say, customers have been very surprised. In addition, Upwire running on Google Cloud Platform helps businesses relieve pressure on scarce coding resources and allows people who understand business logic to innovate.”

As part of Upwire’s everyday operations, the pay-as-you-go-model that GCP offers has enabled the company to align infrastructure costs with growth. This has allowed the business to cost-effectively expand into new markets without the burden of considerable capital expenditure on infrastructure. At the same time, Upwire can dedicate the savings to building a better product for customers.

To date, Upwire has gained the confidence of near 100% availability with global reach by running its product on Google Cloud Platform in multiple regions worldwide. “Even if something went wrong at an infrastructure level, we and our customers have the considerable engineering resources of Google Cloud Platform working to fix it within minutes,” says Brophy.

“With support from Google Cloud Platform, Upwire easily handles all the messaging and business logic associated with the various threads and interactions this service generates.”

Ben Brophy, Co-founder, Upwire

Handling huge volumes of messages

Perhaps most important to Upwire is how Google Cloud Platform can reliably deliver large volumes of business messages quickly. “We deliver millions of messages ranging from password resets to trade confirmations in the United States, and they are all time critical,” says Brophy. “We have to meet a range of service level agreements.” For example, the company might have to deliver time-stamped emails within a set number of seconds and show that they have been delivered to a domain or a telecommunications provider.

Brophy points out that Upwire’s business is considerably more complex than simply moving messages back and forth. “Our product handles the movement of rich content such as micro-web forms that capture data,” he explains. For instance, a system might help manage registrations by sending an automated SMS to people who have not sent in all the required documentation. The SMS includes a link that people can click to access a traditional content microform that can be used to capture a driver’s license or other missing information. It is then encrypted and sent back to the customer.

“With support from Google Cloud Platform, Upwire easily handles all the messaging and business logic associated with the various threads and interactions this service generates,” Brophy says. Overall, Google Cloud Platform has to support millions of voice minutes, SMS messages, and emails every month.

“With Google, we have the opportunity to reduce costs and be less intrusive to the end customer. In addition, we see the ability with artificial intelligence to tailor every communication to the individual and his or her sentiment at a particular time of day.”

-Ben Brophy, Co-founder, Upwire

Next up: Analytics

With Upwire well established on Google Cloud Platform, Brophy and Berkinshaw are now exploring opportunities to use BigQuery to analyze data so businesses can undertake more intelligent communications. “With Google, we have the opportunity to reduce costs and be less intrusive to the end customer,” Brophy explains. “In addition, we see the ability with artificial intelligence to tailor every communication to the individual and his or her sentiment at a particular time of day.”

About Upwire

Founded in 2013 and headquartered in Sydney, Upwire provides communication workflows to business customers worldwide. The business has a presence in Australia, Europe, and the United States.

Industries: Technology
Location: Australia