Serverless Startup with Yan Cui

After raising $18 million, social networking startup Yubl made a series of costly mistakes. Yubl hired an army of expensive contractors to build out its iOS and Android apps. Drama at the executive level hurt morale for the full-time employees. Most problematic, the company was bleeding cash due to a massive over-investment in cloud services.

This was the environment in which Yan Cui joined Yubl. The startup did have traction. There were social media stars who would announce on Twitter that they were about to go on Yubl, and Yubl would be hit by an avalanche of traffic. 50,000 users suddenly logging on to interact with their favorite celebrity was a significant traffic spike.

How do you deal with a traffic pattern like that? Serverless computing. AWS Lambda allowed the company to scale up quickly in a cost efficient manner. Yan began refactoring the entire backend infrastructure to be more cost efficient, heavily leveraging AWS Lambda.

Unfortunately, Yan’s valiant effort was not enough to save the company. But there are some incredible engineering lessons from this episode–how to build cost-effective, scalable infrastructure. It’s also a case study worth looking at if you work at a startup, whether or not you are an engineer.


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