Ingenious code underpins local ride-hailing service

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      Vancouver’s tech scene might be known internationally for its game-changing companies like Hootsuite, Slack, and Avigilon, but it’s also the cradle of a little-known technical revolution.

      In 2007, a New Orleans coder named Greg Young was working on optimizing the dispatch system for the city’s police department. Fascinated by how to make systems operate more efficiently, he took a contract in Vancouver at a company that dealt with real-time stock trading. By using an often-overlooked approach to designing information systems, he found a way to make about three percent per day from the Toronto Stock Exchange—a reliability that was almost unprecedented.

      That success caught the attention of systems architect Adam Dymitruk, who was working right across the street from Young as the development manager at the B.C. Society of Notaries Public. The two bonded over their shared appreciation of the left-field approach to building information systems. Dymitruk, understanding that the architecture could be used to scale companies in a much more efficient way, added a final piece to the puzzle: a way to optimize writes and reads using a consensus model.

      Now founder and CEO of Yaletown-based company AdapTech, Dymitruk has seen his and Young’s previously obscure approach to building information systems underpin companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and LinkedIn. As of March, he can add B.C.–specific ride-hailing service Kater to that list.

      “The story of Kater was that they tried that [to create a ride-hailing service] the previous year, and the team was about 20 [people],” Dymitruk tells the Georgia Straight in the company’s office. “Over an entire year, they really didn’t get anything that they could use to replace Uber or have an Uber-like solution for Vancouver. Their interim CTO called us, and we did sticky-note sessions on the whiteboard with them for four days. For two weeks, our guys coded away, and in a total of three weeks we basically built what couldn’t be done in an entire year. That’s what you get when you understand a system properly at the deepest level.”

      Kater is, Dymitruk says, a hotly contested political issue—but the quality of the tech that underpins it isn’t. His approach to building systems architecture means that no data need ever be deleted and ensures that individuals working in different branches of the company—say, marketing, scheduling, or customer service—are able to access only the information they need to see. Most significant, though, is the ability to grow and scale a company without having to rewrite any code for a new feature.

      Right now, Kater has 140 cars on the road during its test phase and a small number of early riders. Adap­Tech and Dymitruk have made sure that the service can add more drivers and passengers as it continues to grow across the province.

      “In essence, Lyft and Uber don’t have the dials for adjusting their inventory in that fashion,” he says of Kater’s flexibility. “Nor do they have to care. They have their own businesses all around the world in different cities that don’t have those kinds of restrictions on ridesharing, so this little city Vancouver is not important to them. In Vancouver, there are different rules that have to be followed.”

      AdapTech is now working with a number of new clients, including Plenty of Fish and a decentralized social-networking app named Peer.

      “When you start digging for what works at scale—what will not fall over very quickly—everything ends up in this office,” Dymitruk says with a laugh.

      Kate Wilson is the Technology Editor at the Georgia Straight. Follow her on Twitter @KateWilsonSays