My Summer at Ramp
Three months of learning and building at New York City's fastest-growing startup.
In May 2018, I attended Apple's developer's conference (WWDC) as a student scholar. For years, I had followed Apple keynotes and installed the latest iOS betas; now, I had the chance to experience it in person — and meet so many incredibly talented people while I was at it.
During a lunch at the conference, I happened to sit next to one of these people: Veeral, a current Apple intern. We kept in touch.
About a year later, Veeral updated me that he graduated school and was going to be joining a corporate card startup based in NYC as an early engineer. From what I knew about the space, there were several large incumbents (like American Express) and a few disruptors (like Brex, which became a unicorn around that time). Regardless, starting any sort of financial services technology company — especially when having to deal with underwriting and credit risk — is a big bet.
The startup that Veeral joined is known as Ramp.
Ramp is the financial automation platform built to help businesses save money. Its mission is to increase the lifespan of businesses. In less than two years, Ramp has scaled to over a billion dollars in annualized transaction volume. Just this week, Ramp announced its $300M Series C at a $3.9B valuation.
That's what I love about startups — you can never be too crazy. With the right idea and the right team, there's nothing you can't do.
I had kept tabs on Ramp's product and once they launched the following year, I knew I was interested in learning more. After meeting everyone on the team through the interview process, it was clear that there was no other place I'd want to spend my summer more than Ramp.
Upon reflection, this past summer was perhaps my most rewarding, high-impact, and exciting one yet.
Over the past three months, I've had the chance to work on many impactful features touching many different parts of our product.
Shipping Information in the UI 📦
My first project involved standardizing shipping fulfillment data for physical cards from multiple data sources and displaying it on the Ramp dashboard.
Faster Accounting ⚡
Accounting is Ramp's superpower and one of the most-loved features of the product. Over my internship, I worked on a few accounting improvements:
- Searching and filtering transactions by chart of accounts on the Ramp dashboard
- Filtering by transactions ready to sync to accounting providers
- Standardizing sub-account and parent account formatting in drop-downs
- Ramp Auto Merchant Rule: matching to vendor fields in accounting providers automatically
Filtering & Renaming GL 📈
My main internship project was also accounting-related. Our larger customers have thousands of accounting options that a single cardholder could code a transaction to! Many options may contain sensitive information, lead to incorrect coding, or just clutter the overall UI.
With Filtering and Renaming GL, Ramp admins could toggle the visibility of any accounting option based on the cardholder's department within Ramp, both individually and in bulk. In addition, most of these option names in accounting providers are often long and cryptic. Now, admins could also rename them to something more readable within Ramp itself, saving everyone time and allowing finance teams to close their books even faster.
- Profile pictures on Ramp
- UX improvements and refactors
- Production engineering: resolving customer escalations and bugs, improving endpoint and application performance
I came to Ramp with two main goals:
- To become a better full-stack engineer
- To understand how a high-growth startup operates and scales
Over the past three months, I definitely made progress on both. Here are some observations:
Fintech is a fascinating space with lots of opportunity
Fintech is having a moment right now. Whenever someone asks me why I'm so bullish on fintech, I start off with a simple example:
Take a look at your credit card statement and you'll see an outdated UI and cryptic-looking merchant descriptors that will leave you wondering where you spent your money. For context, Chase is an American national bank with over 180,000 employees and a market capitalization of $462 billion at the time of writing. In comparsion, Ramp — although offers a corporate card for business — is a startup with a few dozen engineers and has a valuation of less than 1% of JPM.
The difference is just the UI itself is stark — where big banks and traditional financial institutions fail to innovate, opportunity is left on the table for startups to seize. Add on features that solve real pain-points, and you've got a winning product.
While I may be comparing Ramp to a consumer credit-card statement, the past few months have taught me that businesses also face very similar problems. Current tools in spend management, bill pay, expense reporting, etc. just don't cut it!
Ramp is building a 10x better experience than the previous generation of finance tools. Fintech moves fast and is competitive, but I wouldn't want it any other way.
(Hyper)growth without fear
Ramp's slogan — grow without fear — is the perfect phrase to describe itself. The past few months have been insane. I joined the company as an intern when there were 70 or 80 employees. Now, we're double that.
Learning how the company scales revenue, talent, and product is what made this summer so special.
Part of this is also the company's emphasis on transparency and trust among employees. Documents, data, and files are shared across the company so we can all learn and contribute.
None of Ramp's success, however, would have been possible without its solid foundation and ownership-driven culture from the start.
Full-stack engineering is a lot of fun, mainly because I'm able to cut-out any black-boxes and understand how a feature is built from 0 to 1. There's a saying that if you are still happy with the code you wrote 6 months ago, you aren't learning fast enough. That is definitely true for me! In fact, the pace of learning at Ramp is greater than anywhere else I've ever worked.
Over the summer, I've learned the right tradeoff between speed and quality when it comes to building product. To express this idea, we like to use the term product velocity. The collective understanding of this tradeoff among the team has allowed Ramp to scale so quickly from an engineering and product perspective.
It was a fun summer. I spent all of June and July living in New York City with a few friends in the East Village. As everything was re-opening, the city definitely felt electric — and it was great to feel the NYC energy every morning once again.
I went to the office in Union Square nearly every single day over the summer. Whether it was grabbing lunch with co-workers or breaking twitter with viral tweets, it was a blast.
An engineer overheard a sales call today for a customer that needed a feature we were developing and in real time turned it on for them.— Geoff Charles (@geoffintech) July 21, 2021
The client was mind blown.
Office: 1, Zoom: 0
Ramp offers internships in both coding and slonking @nathanhleung @samaysham pic.twitter.com/wsk49rHjKR— Pavel Asparouhov (@Pavel_Asparagus) June 14, 2021
I'm excited to continue at Ramp part-time as I enter my third year of college. It's been an incredible journey and I'm looking forward to what is to come!
Working at a startup was something special. If you aren't at one, go join one! Or even better, come join us at Ramp.
Special thanks to Veeral and Jared for their mentorship over the past few months.