Programmable Commerce and the High Velocity Back Office

Posted on December 18, 2013

The high velocity business model is becoming more and more common, with e-commerce platforms like Uber processing over 1M transactions per week. High velocity businesses are driven by super scalable customer acquisition and product delivery channels, but the back office often relies on homegrown software, spreadsheets and boring data entry work (seriously this still happens today!).

A new wave of companies are making the high velocity back office possible by providing core back office functions via API. A few key players include:

1. Balanced, Braintree, and Stripe handle payments

2. Coinbase for accepting Bitcoin payments.

3. Standard Treasury, COREFXBancbox, and more manage banking

4. Subledger (us!) takes care of accounting

5. Companies like Lob do printing and posting

6. Ripple is excellent for currency exchange

7. Card Flight enables card present payments

Independently, these companies handle specific pieces of the back office, but still don’t create a holistic, automated solution. However, by combining these APIs together using preconfigured commerce logic we can create a completely automated high velocity back office for the commerce application. We are calling this open, modular approach programmable commerce.

An Example: How Programmable Commerce Works

Take an example from an Uber or Lyft style application. There are several events required to process a transaction, and each have commerce logic associated with them:

Event 1: Ride Complete

Step 1: Calculate ride_charge

Step 2: Get relevant sales tax sales from sales tax API.

Step 3: Add sales tax to ride_charge

Step 4: Account for ride_charge receivable from customer and earnings payable to driver.

Event 2: Charge Customer Card

Step 1: Charge customer’s card for ride_charge with payment API

Step 2: If the customer’s card is successfully processed, account for ride_charge received

Event 3: Pay Driver (end of month)

Step 1: Payout driver for earnings during month with payment API

Step 2: Account for earnings payout made to driver

In this simple example the payments, accounting, and sales tax APIs are all working seamlessly together throughout the process.

What’s Next for Programmable Commerce?

Here at Subledger, we’re working on making programmable commerce easily accessible. Our newest application, Plug N’ Play, is a simple rails app you can send transaction data to and it will account for the transaction automatically using pre-configured accounting-logic.

When Plug N’ Play is ready early next year, we believe it can be tweaked to incorporate other core commerce functions such as banking, payments, and more. Our hope is this will enable developers to copy/paste an entire back-office into their application.

We’re at the beginning of a new era of programmable commerce, and there are so many great startups making it possible. We are looking forward to working with everyone to build an open and modular financial ecosystem.

Please leave your thoughts on #ProgrammableCommerce in the comments below or ping me an email on

If #programmablecommerce excites you, please share with everyone  😉

Here’s a tweet: “How do you create a high-velocity back office? Welcome to #programmablecommerce

  • hunterwalk

    agree that unbundling of software/services into API leads to more accessibility and new types of innovation.

  • Henrique

    Uber actually use to automate the payments via API.