Revolut Stays - how we built our latest travel product in just nine months

Karolina Gruszczyk

 · 08/31/2022  · 08/31/2022

Finding and managing accommodations, getting cashback on every booking, choosing to pay now or later – you can do it all with our latest travel product, Revolut Stays. All these features were built and shipped in just nine months thanks to a small, but mighty product team. Get a behind the scenes look of how we pulled it off.

First, get to know the brilliant people behind the product. Meet Pierre-Alain Guillou - Head of Product for Lifestyle, Georgii Fesenko - iOS Developer, Andreea Ecaterina Tiron - Backend Software Engineer, and Arek Biela - Android Software Engineer who share with us how they managed to build and ship Revolut Stays in record time.


How did the idea to create a product like Revolut Stays come about?

Pierre: As a company, we’ve been thinking about travel products since our earliest days. Travel is baked into the company DNA – our customers love to travel, and they love to bring our products along with them for the journey. It was very natural for us to build a product where customers can book accommodations directly in-app. And with a cashback incentive on top, it becomes even more attractive.

Who was involved in the project? Tell us a bit about the Stays team.

Pierre: The team who originally built Stays was actually very small! It included Product Owner, Christopher Guttridge (who now heads the department), a couple of backend engineers, and two mobile engineers. We now have a slightly bigger team made up of fantastic, talented people. We come from all over Europe, with very different backgrounds.

What was the most challenging phase of the product building process?

Andreea: Building the Stays’ localisation engine was a challenge since we had to support 23mil+ rooms across 800k properties in 30 locales. This was both an engineering and user experience feat, as we had strict data quality and timeliness requirements. What's more, we only had two engineers to build this feature in less than two weeks. Through this experience, I cultivated a customer-focused mindset and deeper understanding of database performance and internals.

Pierre: Hard to single one thing out! One very challenging aspect that the team took – and still takes – a lot of pride in is building a product with a very, very small team that goes toe to toe with giants of the industry. People outside Revolut rarely believe us when we tell them we’re so few.

Second of all, we shipped a product in about nine months that some companies in the industry spent years building. Revolut Stays has very quickly gained a global reach - it’s now in the hands of tens of millions of customers across Europe and the UK. That sort of scale came with many hurdles, like aiming to rapidly launch in dozens of markets.

Arek: The most challenging phase for me was proper tech planning and workflow management. Having both time and headcount constraints at the very first stage, we needed to be really precise about proper product and task scoping. As a team, we also aim for great quality, so finding a perfect balance between delivery pace and product quality was one of the key challenges in the building process.

What do you believe was the greatest success of the Stays team?

Pierre: Our greatest success was also our greatest challenge – building a product that offers an experience like Stays in the time it took was incredible. We place the bar for quality very high here at Revolut, and yet, I like to think that Stays is well above that bar.

What did you learn from this experience that you’ll remember for the future?

Pierre: We work in an industry that puts a big emphasis on ‘MVPs’ (minimum viable products), despite a general misuse of the concept. This sometimes leads to a decision bias towards incremental, iterative changes. However, we collectively tend to forget that with a team of talented engineers, designers, and product ops folks – changes that may seem complex can actually get done incredibly fast.

Georgii: I learned that some problems are really hard to foresee and it’s fine to tackle them along the way. If we waited for complete certainty about everything we were building, we’d never build anything! Once we got the ball rolling, we quickly tackled small problems which weren’t visible at the outset – e.g. displaying cancellation windows or sorting by price on the mobile-side. Although we could have tried to anticipate those issues beforehand, I believe it would have slowed us down. Plus, there’s always going to be unforeseen obstacles.

What was the crucial factor for your team to succeed? Put simply, how did you do it?

Pierre: A relentless hunger for extremely high quality products and a very talented team. Working at Revolut is an extraordinary prism for product-minded people to level up their critical thinking about what makes products great. Our talent bar is very high when we hire people, so this means that our teams are faster and better at what they do!

Which moment of working on the project would you love to relive?

Georgii: The last month before release. It’s a great feeling when you’ve been working on something for nine months and there’s just a few things left before it goes to market. You can see that all the effort you put in is about to be finalised.

Andreea: The first Revolut Stays release was one of the most memorable moments. We’d been working toward the same goal and wanted to see our efforts come to life. The thrill and excitement of shipping a product into the world and seeing customers use it for the first time is unforgettable.

Arek: I have unforgettable memories of the MVP release process time. After 10 intensive months of working through challenges as a team, we could start celebrating our first customer bookings. It’s a great feeling to know that people are planning their well-deserved holidays with your product.

What’s your advice to Product Owners who are just starting their work on an ambitious project from scratch?

Pierre: Be ambitious – no great products were ever built by people who did not aim high. Know your user – doing what is right for them, solving their needs, and doing so in delightful ways will bring them to your product and keep them there. Finally, do everything it takes to get it done – you’re not just a product person, you’re a designer, an ops manager, an apprentice lawyer, etc. Be whoever you need to be that day to be one step closer to shipping a great product.

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