Building an API ecosystem

This is the writeup of a session I delivered at both the Hong Kong Computer Society EASIG Seminar and Cloud Expo Asia. It’s about how, at PayMe, we started by creating an API product but realized our goal should have been to build an ecosystem instead. What is PayMe Wikipedia makes a decent job of explaining it:, although it’s a bit light on the products that are most relevant to this post: API and POS.

Book review: The Innovator's Dilemma

I thought I’d share about a book I just finished reading… which I found memorable mainly because it provides a simple framework to understand what - at first look - seems to all of us working in big companies just corporate politics against common sense. The book is “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, by Clayton Christensen. GBS_insertEmbeddedViewer('ISBN:0875845851',300,480); What about it? TL;DR successfull, well run companies that dominates industries and are on a trajectory of sustaining innovation (i.

AEON POS Express app

I like a lot to wander around a grocery store, browsing the shelves and thinking at the tasty dishes I could turn all those ingredients into. One thing I don’t like is queuing up at the cashier, which usually is a long endeavour as people (at least here in HK) expect the cashier to both scan their items and bag them, collect the payment, etc etc… So I was very pleased to find out about a feature in the mobile app of a known supermarket chain in Hong Kong.

Thoughts on the role of Technology Architects

I was reorganizing some files today, and found some (handwritten! :) notes from years past… worth posting them, although they’re not very structured. On the Role of the Architect If I look at how I spend most of my time… Technology Architects/ Technology Strategist do three things: set directions make decisions solve problems (not my definition, by the way… David expanding on what this means) On centralized “platform” teams Platform as a Service is very similar in the way most old style IT programmes were: you built a central reusable service because it’s cheaper to operate common services centrally than reinvent the wheel every time.

SPARKling PayMe

In early October, a delegation from PayMe team went to Amsterdam to attend the Spark+AI Summit. It was a productive week of sharing experiences, meeting practitioners, as well as learn what’s coming next in the Spark ecosystem… We also had a chance to share our experience using data and Databricks to enable a Data Driven Roadmap for our #paymehk products (PayMe and PayMe for Business)… …some say it’s worth 18 minutes of your time… see it for yourself :)

Bring water and sanitation to those who most need it

Clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene should be a normal part of everyone’s daily life. Without all three, people can’t live dignified, healthy lives. With all three, they can unlock their potential, break free from poverty and change their lives for good. With clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene, children are born healthier. They get the chance to go to school and grow up to become adults. Women and men get to earn a living.

PayMe for Business: How we built it?

In the past few months, as HSBC ramps up its digital investment and seek to reorganize the way it delivers digital products, I have been asked this question many times. In some cases, people mean “Can you explain to me how your technology platform look like”. In other cases, the person asking was interested in how we built and organized the team, how we structure ourselves to be agile and lean, a “small startup inside a big corporation”.

Book review: Failure is not an option

I thought I’d share about a book I am reading now… which I found memorable mainly for the type of teamwork and leadership it’s describing. GBS_insertEmbeddedViewer('ISBN:0743214471',300,480); What about it? It’s describing work practices from the Gemini and Apollo mission control teams. Now: those were the people who worked - together with the astronauts - on all aspects of the space missions. They were involved in definition of objectives, feasibility, planning, to the design of every single aspect of the flights.

Miminum Viable Architecture: The intersection between the Enterprise Architecture and Agile Development

Context There were times (and till to date) when we build grand enterprise architectures with capabilities and alternatives for each: from business to technical to infrastructure viewpoints, followed by year long development cycles. While the adoption of agile (any flavor of agile) has changed the way we think about development and start delivering incremental value, the architecture itself has either been ignored (“agile don’t need upfront architecture!”), or continues to follow a waterfall development.


What I usually talk about technology topics, usually whatever interests me at the time. Right now it’s: mobile payments online payments digital wallets cloud (specifically monitoring and alerting) china tech Where Internal company events, local meetups, regional or global conferences… How Just ask me via email :) Upcoming Stop by if you are around! October 2020, Databricks Industry Leadership Forum - Financial Services – Keynote History Some examples for which there is an online trail…

Who am I?

Who am I Alessio is the Chief Architect and CTO of PayMe from HSBC, a Social Payments app for the Hong Kong market. Prior to that, as Lead Solution Architect - Mobile Payments, he worked with OEM partners on Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, HCE wallets, as well as on innovation projects involving chatbots, facial recognition, transaction data and social media (WeChat, Facebook messenger) integration, mostly focussing on the Pearl River Delta/Greater China market.

My Very Own Azure Saturday

Last week, Scott Guthrie was in London and gave a ‘private’ presentation about Azure to some teams in the company I work for… I could not be there in person, but I’m told the below video has pretty much the same content… so I watched it. couldn't be in London yesterday, so watching @Azure demo by @scottgu today own #AzureSaturday ;) #cloud #Azure — Alessio Basso (@alxdwn) June 24, 2017

Banking in the Age of Social Media

I happened to be in Guangzhou last week, and attending an interesting round table discussion during a banking technology event. One of the guests was from WeBank, sharing his experience working in a technology company that happens to hold a banking license in China. He shared the fact that they started as a technology company even before they had the license, developing a banking platform that is now used by 8 local banks in China in a BaaS (Banking as a Service) model.

Let's chat about WeChat… one year later

Almost a year ago I started working with WeChat… I prepared a small intro, but did not share it widely back then. This evening I presented it - updated- to the Hong Kong codeaholics meetup. Enjoy! When we talk about “WeChat” (or “WeiXin”, 微信), most think of one of many smartphone apps used to chat. And this is true - as the app’s main window contains a list of your friends’ contacts (slide 3).


I had a chance to participate to the first ever beta launch event for a new bank app, last week in Hong Kong. Pretty much like for the other challenger banks out there, there were drinks, pizza, the founders and team there to answer questions and help explore the app, and lots of interesting people willing to talk and share their idea of how a bank should look like. I don’t want to write another dull “unboxing” post explaining every single step/screen I went through, so here are the screenshots.

A Better Octopus Card

Octopus card is, by all standards, a success story. Introduced in 1997 by a consortium of railway and bus companies, for transit ticketing purposes, it subsequently expanded to other payment usages (restaurants, parking, convenience stores) following Hong Kong Monetary Authority granting Octopus’ operating company a deposit-taking license. Pretty much everywhere you go in Hong Kong, you can pay with Octopus. It’s as close as one can get to a cashless society utopia.

Debunking WeChat

A no-frills description of what WeChat really is. I’ve been reading for a while articles about WeChat, a Chinese “mobile instant messaging cum social media” very popular in Mainland China (and not only). Most of them are a mix and match of: screenshots of features provided by either Tencent, Tencent’s partners, or brands’ 3rd party developers, delivered as part of the app, wallet, or embedded web browser description of how WeChat is a “platform” capable of delivering any service imaginable (add again lots of use cases, some really existing some not) usually, an ending highlighting how this is the future of apps and how all western apps should follow Tencent’s footsteps But really, what is WeChat?

Cathay Pacific, mobile app

Few days ago, Cathay Pacific released its new mobile app. I downloaded the android version, and gave it a try. TL;DR? It’s better than it used to be, looks more modern, but there are a number of bugs still open, and questionable design chooices have been made. Here are a few comments. Two different loading spinners: why? Page transitions (see below an example of the language selection) are ok, but the “back” button should animate from left to right, not right to left.

A Website's restyling

Last Sunday, Cathay Pacific launched a new restyling for its website. It looks modern while still elegant, and — most important, given the lacking of a mobile app to book flights — it looks good on a mobile. I write “looks” good, because when you start using it, lots of small issues becomes evident. Let’s start from the beginning. When I first open the home page, everything looks good.

Latency vs. Response time

I was recently dragged into a call about application performances test, where people were discussing numbers and results trying to explain them in layman’s terms. However, I found that is useful to establish an unambiguous and common vocabulary between all parties involved. Here are some thoughts on the matter. Response time - When discussing the response time of the system, people often refers to it as latency. Response time is instead the amount of time a system takes to react to a request once it has received one.

Coin card, one year later

One year after my first (and - so far - only) blog post about Coin, the company seems to be in trouble: backers are (rightfully) concerned about the product launch postponed for six months, and commentators ask what are the future plans for the product after its target market - the US - adopt EMV chip cards. It seems most of the backers are concerned about the future in regards to the rollout of chip cards in the US, but the FAQ on coin website don’t do much to address the concern, insisting it will work during US’ EMV transition period and if it has a magnetic stripe.

Credit cards and electronic wallet

I was watching this video the other day, and wondering about the convenience of the thing. Ideally, yes, it would be nice to have one card to rule them all, and say adios forever to fat wallets full of plastic. My first though after the foreseeable reaction to the video (that was, “COOL!”) was if this whole scheme is possible. As: the device shown in the video have only a magstripe; most cards nowadays use the chip in many jurisdictions, the rule is still “the merchant is not permitted to accept a credit card in the absence of the cardholder and without presentation of the credit card“; and this device - at the end - is a copy of a physical card.

Welcome 852 tech

This is a tentative of a blog; I have no idea what when and how frequently I’ll update this space, but want to give it a try.

Need to learn Jekyll first, so everything is postponed to the next time I’ll have a sufficiently long flight or a sufficiently boring layover.

I am @alexdown on GitHub, @alxdwn on twitter.