Flowdash (YC W20) – Human-in-the-loop tooling for operations teams

Hi everyone!

We’re Nick & Omar from Flowdash (https://flowdash.com). We help companies quickly build internal tools to track and execute human-in-the-loop workflows.

We’re built specifically for technology companies that have manual work behind the scenes. For example, a fintech that has a beautiful mobile-first experience for its end users, likely also has a risk team internally approving new accounts, or reviewing suspicious transactions for anomalies. These teams need tools to get their jobs done, but building those tools is time consuming and often means spending your limited engineering resources on internal tools when you’d much rather invest in building user-facing features.

What’s more, maintenance of these tools is an ongoing endeavor. As the company scales and the operations team identifies ways they can improve their workflow, they’re often bottlenecked on engineering availability, forcing the team to implement workarounds in the interim, such as working out of spreadsheets and Slack. These workarounds, while easy to implement, come with pitfalls such as tasks slipping through the cracks or data getting out-of-sync.

With Flowdash, we’re combining the best of both worlds. We want to enable the deep integration that comes from building custom software, while making it possible for operations teams to iterate and improve their workflow over time. We’re able to do this because we’re not trying to be a general-purpose low-code platform, but really focus on use cases where a team of humans works through a backlog of tasks.

Flowdash was inspired by our own experience. Omar and I were early engineers at Gusto and over the course of six years, built several internal tools to support our payments, risk, and payroll operations teams. We saw first-hand the benefits of equipping our ops teams with great tools, but also struggled to prioritize improvements to these tools against user-facing features.

We think of operations teams as unsung heroes. Their work is critical to the day-to-day operations of the company, yet few people externally know they exist. We want to give them better tools to get their work done.

Here’s how it works:

Flowdash’s core primitive is a Flow, which we define as a pipeline of work, where tasks move through a set of stages from creation to completion. Every Flow exposes an endpoint where developers can push new tasks with a single POST request. Users then claim tasks and move them along the pipeline. Additionally, actions can be customized in a number of ways, such as sending email, calling a third-party API, or talking back to your main application. Because stages and actions can be customized without code, the end-user can change how they work without requiring engineering intervention. From the developer perspective, you can think of it as a human-powered background job.

As a concrete example, let’s consider a fintech onboarding new clients. When a new client signs up, a task is automatically pushed to Flowdash. From there, a risk agent reviews the account and decides whether to Approve or Reject the client. In turn, that action issues a callback to the main application to complete onboarding. Here’s a 3-min video setting this up end-to-end: https://flowdash.com/demo.

We’re excited (and a little intimidated) to be on HN today, and would love to get your feedback. Have you had to build similar tools? What were some of the pain points or challenges? Thanks in advance!

Nick and Omar

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