Case Study

Citi Bike

Riding Their Way to Success

In 2015 after acquiring Alta, Motivate came to SUMO Heavy in need of a team that could work as a technology extension of their company while they started to grow their product offering. Internally, they had no engineering or product management that was involved on a daily basis with a set of tools to manage a portfolio of products. During our time with Motivate, we provided product management, architecture, and engineering on the Citi Bike website, Android app, iOS app, and various integrations.


Challenge - Apps without Management

The Android and iOS Citi Bike apps were both more or less as a proof-of-concept and were not being actively maintained. Owning Android and iOS apps require constant and ongoing maintenance. Throughout each year, Google and Apple release new versions of their operating systems. Whether you are working with a major or minor release, your apps will need to be thoroughly tested against these versions. In addition to operating system releases, new devices are released that apps need to be tested against for compatibility.

With dozens of devices available running on various versions of operating systems, it takes thoughtful planning and product management. After working with Motivate on a feature roadmap, we implemented a Kanban process along with a continuous deployment system to push features live as needed.

We also worked together to implement a formalized beta program for users that were interested in testing new features.

Challenge - Growing Audience

The initial apps had poor performance and were essentially a map and list of bike locations that would only update when the app was first opened. This was not helpful to someone trying to find a bike to ride because the available inventory was constantly changing.

Our first task was to fix the performance problems. The app would constantly freeze and crash, and didn't feel responsive to the touch. Reviews were very negative in the beginning but provided insight into what would need to be done in the near term.

As we worked through the performance issues, we started to see reviews turn from negative comments into more of a wishlist. This provided useful information to use during product planning sessions.

After many product planning sessions with Motivate and strategy discussions with their backend provider, we were able to architect the next two important features: real-time updates and account management. Real-time updates allowed users to receive notifications of their start and end rides, and also see the available inventory update on their map while browsing for a bike to ride.

The end result was a set of apps that were more reliable and ready for production, and their usage could be actively monitored and measured with new tools that were implemented.

Challenge - Apps without Parity

While Citibike had both Android and iOS apps, they did not have the same features. While the initial focus was on iOS, once Motivate had a solid direction and few features deployed it was time to create the Android app.

Once the Android app had the same features as the iOS app, Motivate would be positioned to deploy features at the same time to both apps. This would allow users of all applicable devices and operating systems to be familiar with the app on any of their devices.


By implementing the planning, development, and deployment processes, Motivate was able to implement the features that would provide the foundation for an app that customers would actively use. The apps were stable and more feature-rich than ever before and most importantly, the view of the customers visibly changed through app reviews.

Motivate was acquired by Lyft in July 2018.

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