Oren Michels | Co-Founder & GM
July 12, 2012

API: The New Currency

 

From my vantage point, it’s been fascinating to see the evolution in how others see what we do.

We’ve been around since 2006, but for much of that time many companies we talked to didn’t even know what an API was. Today, most info-savvy executives focus instead on broader questions around priorities. How does the API outlay stack up against, or with, other technology expenditures? How urgent are the go-to-market concerns? Most of all, who’s going to manage all this, and do they have the time? Of course, as a CEO myself, I face conflicting interests like these all the time, and I have to address them.

So here’s the message I always have: By fueling applications that drive commerce, social interaction, entertainment and much more, APIs represent the New Currency.

It’s a natural evolution. When it arrived back in the ’90s, the Internet was seen—quickly by innovators, slowly by others—as the engine of the New Economy. Social media is a more recent phenomenon, and we’re still working through different channels as they emerge, but it’s being seen—again, faster by innovators than others—as the engine of New Commerce. In this evolving marketplace, APIs are the New Currency.

This is a business environment in which many organizations are intrinsically interdependent. They need to scale both upwards and sideways, and usually in a very tight timeframe. At the same time, social media tools are forging connections between individuals and businesses with astonishing ease and speed. Inside this surging micro-economy, the market isn’t just getting more fragmented, it’s getting more individualized. Every potential customer wants to access every business his or her own way, and the multitude of applications grants exactly that freedom.

The API is the New Currency of those connections, and that activity.

As Haydn Shaughnessy wrote in Forbes earlier this year (after talking to me and others, and watching a presentation by Expedia), every company’s core business is its platform. It needs the ability to scale from that platform via its partners—a hotel with its adjoining golf courses and museums, a content provider with its suppliers and distributors, etc.

A solid API strategy, built on a combination of tools and services, offers a unique ability to scale directly in response to (or anticipation of) business needs. It fuels the ecosystem by enabling everyone from new business professionals to app developers to work in tandem and stay on track with evolving market priorities. And it allows for the development of applications that adhere to the brand while being personalized for individual customer needs.

Obviously, there are other issues fundamentally involved here. For example, there’s now more unstructured data than ever before, and we need the ability to collate and analyze that information to grow the business. Each vertical industry has its own concerns, from competition to compliance, and those factors rightly influence ongoing business initiatives. Perhaps most importantly, a company’s brand is both distinctive and vital, and there’s often a fear—sometimes justified, often not—that an open API will compromise that.

Again, from my vantage point, I not only understand but relate to these concerns. Moving forward, I’ll go deeper into each of these issues, and provide best practices and examples of companies that did it right (and maybe some that didn’t). But here’s the part that will always be the same.

Today’s business ecosystem is organically interdependent, and a good API strategy provides the foundation for every partner to become a strong sales engine. It can grow eCommerce channels, it can extend the brand to all kinds of mobile devices, it can foster innovation through information sharing, and it can mine Big Data assets to pursue new business opportunities.

That’s what we do, and in this space, I’ll talk more about how we do it. Stay tuned.