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CTO Nick Fryer on how Dojo rebuilt in the cloud to disrupt the payments market

"The entire system is event-driven. Everything is on the public cloud and the things that have very high availability requirements are on multiple public clouds. You’re not lifting and shifting some other person's nasty 1980s software. This is all brand new microservice-based software."

In 2019 Paymentsense had reason to celebrate. A decade in business had seen it grow into a leading ISO (Independent Sales Organisation) turning over more than £100 million by selling the face-to-face payments solution from industry giant First Data. Yet its founders were not content.

Despite the company’s success, daily interactions with customers exposed a number of pain points which existed across the entire face-to-face payment processing market. Settlement times were slow, as were authorisations. Bills were very confusing and sign-ups were lengthy. 

Face-to-face payments were widely seen as commoditised but Paymentsense’s executive team disagreed. With an excellent distribution capability already at their disposal, they realised if they could build a better product themselves they could disrupt the world of face-to-face payments.

“We were a good ISO selling a perfectly good product, but one very similar to the rest of the market. We got fed up selling a product that wasn’t differentiated,” says Nick Fryer, CTO at Dojo, the payment processing business born two years on from Paymentsense’s 10-year anniversary. 

“We knew our customers very well and we knew if we gave them something that solved their pain points, which we actually filled an entire wall writing them out, we could do something special. But that meant building the product differently than anything else that already existed.”

Dojo CTO Nick Fryer: Leveraging the cloud

The Dojo team knew if they wanted to create a faster and more agile payments solution then it would need to be built using microservices on the public cloud, not because it’s cheaper but because of the superior performance advantages it brings. The interdependency between services is low if designed well meaning features and updates can be released quickly and often.

The desire for exceptional speed, reliability and scalability, as well as the ability to work across multiple clouds and regions, meant a decision was made early on that Dojo would not install its own databases. The mandate was clear: managed offerings on the cloud, nothing hand-rolled.

A combination of databases can work well together in a microservice environment, so Dojo gave its teams the autonomy to select the database solution they believed would work best for each environment. This resulted in Google Cloud Spanner and Amazon Aurora for some workloads, but for the vast majority of its microservices Dojo chose multi-cloud database MongoDB Atlas.

See also: MongoDB takes “Queryable Encryption” wizardry GA – say it has improved latency, useability

Dojo built subsystems for each workload, running on different clouds rather than one large monolithic system. While different databases are used they are all published to a managed Kafka bus and then consolidated in MongoDB through a reconciliation subsystem that ensures everything adds up. 

“It’s super flexible, super fast and works really well,” says Fryer. “The entire system is event-driven. Everything is on the public cloud and the things that have very high availability requirements are on multiple public clouds. Our authorisation system, for instance, is on two regions of Google Cloud and one region of AWS. All three of them are serving traffic at once. 

“Public cloud is not cheap but it gives you huge advantages you can't get with anything else. You’re not lifting and shifting some other person's nasty 1980s software. This is all brand new microservice-based software running on these clouds and they're independent of each other.”

Rapid growth

The cloud-based database technology which underpins Dojo means the time between tapping a payment and getting authorised is about twice as fast as the average. Dojo settles every day, 365 days a year, at 7am, and the sign-up process can very seamlessly be completed in minutes. 

The salesforce built in the Paymentsense business started selling Dojo in April 2021 and the response was phenomenal. There are now over 100,000 businesses in the UK using Dojo to take payments, from small, often family-run businesses through to some of the biggest high street names. . Dojo was recently granted its e-money licence (EMI) from the Central Bank of Ireland, enabling the company to bring its innovative payment technology to Ireland and EU countries in the future. 

We've taken a significant amount of one of the most competitive markets in the world because our product is miles better than everything else out there,” says Fryer. “We haven't done anything that I think is particularly groundbreaking for software engineering, but it is groundbreaking for payments because the vast majority of payment platforms are old. Even the new ones are old. What we did is just not standard in our industry and it gives us a huge competitive advantage.

“We are now looking at how to make even better use of MongoDB Atlas because we have a very clear use case for our microservices. We’re quite happy with the way we’re working. We think it has got a lot of legs and it can be easily duplicated in other continents, or we can just grow one big environment which runs across continents as we expand into other regions.”

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