CTOs to Know: Meet Kickfurther's Peter Sperry

by Jess Ryan
August 25, 2016

Have you ever loved a company or product so much that you wanted to help ensure they’d be a success? You could invest in them if you’re accredited, buy as much of their products as possible or tell your friends about it until you’re blue in the face.

Boulder’s Kickfurther gives you another option — crowdfund a company’s inventory in return for a percentage of their sales. It’s a pretty sweet deal, and the company’s taking off because of it — since 2014, Kickfurther’s users have funded $10.2 million of inventory for nearly 300 companies.

Kickfurther CTO Peter Sperry heads up the company’s tech team, having managed the development and delivery of hundreds of apps in the last decade and bringing more than 20 years in IT leadership to the table.

Here’s what he had to say when we caught up with him to talk tech:


What technologies power your business?

Kickfurther’s platform is currently running a fairly straightforward PHP / MySQL stack using the Laravel framework. We also use Redis for queue management for our asynchronous processes. Kickfurther makes exclusive use of AWS for all of our infrastructure. Some of the third parties we use are Stripe, SendGrid and Shopify.

What technologies are playing the biggest roles at Kickfurther this year?

This year the biggest player is Laravel. The platform started in Laravel and we have no plans of re-platforming in the near future. Another big player this year will be Stripe for payment processing; in addition to credit cards, we will soon be releasing support for Bitcoin processing via Stripe. The other technology that has already started to play a role, and will play a bigger one in months to come, is Golang. As we have been growing, we’ve noticed that some of our back-end jobs need to be swapped out with different approaches — and Golang will be a big player in the next six quarters.

What are the biggest technology challenges you've faced in the past? How did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge by far has been working through the evolution of bringing a young application through several scaling hurdles. As with any application at the early stage, you can’t always anticipate what will grow with you and what won’t — and certainly the last quarter, especially, has had a lot of learning for us. As far as overcoming them, many are a work in progress, but the biggest thing we’ve done is made sure we always have a portion of our time dedicated to diligent refactoring — this has allowed us in many cases to stay ahead of bugs or functionality gaps. Having said that, we’ve also been learning about the value of communication to our user community when things don’t go as anticipated.

What lessons have you learned about working in Colorado that other local entrepreneurs can learn from?

Colorado is a great community in which to start and run your business — especially from a tech perspective. There are a ton of great ideas and energy within the community, especially around startups. There’s also a fairly young talent pool, so finding people to jump in with both feet is a lot more straightforward than in (perhaps) other communities. As far as lessons specifically to software startups, the biggest lesson for me on this project is to constantly refactor and improve your back end as technical debt is very expensive to maintain from a time, money, and user confidence perspective.

How would your team describe working with you?

I’ve been described as a “laid-back workaholic” by several (there’s a compliment and an insult in there somewhere). Having been in IT leadership for almost 20 years, I’m the consummate “old man” on the team and I’ve seen a lot in my career but still have a ton to learn. I also take a very active role in the day-to-day development of the application as well as the product roadmap.

What trends do you see happening in your industry over the next three years? How is Kickfurther anticipating those trends and working toward them?

Although my opinion is not unique, it seems the biggest trends I see continue to be oriented toward mobile and real-time. Many of the changes we’ve made to our infrastructure and back-end application stack have been oriented towards supporting better functionality in both of these regards, including the upgrade to Laravel 5.3 which will be, or will have been, rolled out in the early part of Q3 2016. The other big change we’ll be working on is implementing better client-side functionality and supporting technologies, which will also pave the way for mobile functionality for us.


Photos via Kickfurther. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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