Sunday, May 22, 2016

Building an API business in India

Tl;Dr: Its Lonely

When we started KooKoo in late 2009, APIs as business was sort of new. Twilio was just picking up and new API businesses were coming up. Fast forward to 2016 and we have learnt a lot about running an API business in India.

1. Its lonely. An API is an endpoint. An endpoint by itself is not so useful. Its usefulness grows exponentially when it can integrate with other endpoints to create mashups. Unfortunately, I cant think of one API business in India other than us. So the only mashups we create are with APIs from startups in the US. But what is surprising is that we are still,after 6 years, the only public API platform in India.

2. Developer ecosystem is not too big. We had reached almost all active developers in India in 3 years. But since new developers are created every year you need to continue with your evangelism.

3. Conducting hackathons and other developer evangelism is a must. But after conducting 4-5 hackathons, we started getting repeat hackers.

4. Visitors to NextBigWhat are much more probable to be developer friendly. So if you have an API product, better to be featured in NextBigWhat.

5. API business can be profitable. But in India, you may need to create a couple of products on your API. Thats why we built Cloudagent

6. New age startups are not averse to APIs. They have a lot of young developers who try out these APIs and prototype innovative new things to showcase to their management.

7. You need to create bucket loads of examples. Examples are what help kickstart a developers mind. Once he sees what can built on the platform, they can let their imagination run wild. We used this blog to push lots of examples.

8. Just API platform is not enough. It has to be backed up by humongous amount of support. Thats what customers will actually pay you for. When we started KooKoo,lot of people said, why a telephony platform. People will just download Asterisk or Freeswitch or some other thing. But after 6 years, I can tell you, if you do the platform right and support it properly, people will pay for it.

9. Timing is important. We launched at the right time when all these new startups were coming up. When we started, Zomato, Flipkart, Pract etc were all young startups. But its good that they grew and did innovative things. So the more innovative startups you have in the ecosystem, the better it is for API businesses.

Would we have survived with just KooKoo? I dont know. I would like to think yes. But who knows. But we are happy to be doing both a platform play as well as a product play with Cloudagent.