Enterprises and the API economy: Mashery sees growing maturity in Australian market

More Australian businesses are treating APIs as assets in their own right says the Intel subsidiary

According to Intel subsidiary Mashery there is a growing interest among Australian businesses in using APIs to open to new channels and cultivate new business opportunities.

The 'API economy' is the term used to describe how application programming interfaces are being transformed from just being software development tools into fully fledged business assets.

In the space of 18 months, public APIs doubled, according to Deloitte's Tech Trends 2015 report, which was released in March.

APIs are changing into "a business model driver and boardroom consideration", the report argued.

Increasingly, enterprises are exploring ways of expanding their partner networks or even directly driving revenue using APIs.

Mashery, which provides a SaaS API management platform, won its first Australian customer — former Telstra subsidiary Sensis — four years ago.

But even two years ago conversations with many Australian customers were "very base level", says Jason Cormier, Mashery's director of strategy and business development in Australia — "What exactly is API management and why should I care?"

"Today the conversations are much more advanced," Cormier adds.

"It is: 'I've got an API, I need to do more with it. I can see that competitors are doing things in this space — what do I need to do to catch up and to be there?'"

"I think it's fascinating that the Australian market has caught up to that in the last couple of years, and that's why we're very excited about our growth in this region," he said.

As well as Australia, in the region Mashery has customers in Singapore, India and Japan.

Mashery's Australian customers range from startups such as ASX-listed call recording company Dubber through to MYOB, Sensis, News Corp and Westfield.

Globally, the three industry sectors where Mashery has seen the greatest growth are retail, media and travel, said the company's head of global customer success, Boaz Maor.

Number four is data management companies, from marketing companies like ExactTarget through to data services businesses such as Dun & Bradstreet and its subsidiary Hoover's, he added.

Mashery categorises the API programs of its customers into four types, Maor said.

"First are internal programs: Those APIs that are only open to developers within the company. Used for machine-to-machine, developer-to-developer, mobile apps that you develop internally, things like that.

"The second option is public programs; those are APIs that are opened for third party developers... that's where hype is, less where real value is," Maor said.

"The two program types where we see the most value to date have been partner programs — those are programs where Mashery customers are opening up APIs to channel partners, in order for other companies to embed their APIs into their solution."

"We see it a lot in travel and retail — companies want to embed their capabilities into other channels and grow their omnichannel capabilities," Maor said.

"Customer programs are the fourth type: This is where certain companies are converging on APIs as the operating mechanism by which they service their customers," he added.

"If you think about [user-generated content marketing firm] Bazaarvoice: They provide a service to collect, aggregate and enable user-generated content for retailers.

"For example if you go on Target.com and browse products and then click on a review, essentially what you have just done is trigger an API call from the Target database through the Mashery system to the Bazaarvoice database to get the information you wanted.

"An API became the way by which to make that service instead of, previously, 1:1 integration, flat files, or other means."

Looking at those four categories, about 35 to 40 per cent of Mashery's customers have internal programs and about 25 per cent have programs open to third-party developers.

Some 70 per cent of the company's customers have partner programs and around 20-25 per cent have customer programs, Maor said.

"A very large portion of customers have multiple types of programs — because once you have a platform, why not open it up to multiple use cases?" Maor said.

"Almost 75 per cent of our customers enable multiple [types of] programs through our system."

Cormier cites Melbourne-based communications management company Whispir as an example.

"They started with us utilising our platform to manage their APIs internally," Cormier said.

"But what's happened — and this is very common with a lot of customers — is you start with that internal use case, then you start realising, 'Well actually we've got some partners we want to on-board and doing it via the API is a lot easier, so why don't we open it up to them?'

"Ultimately you get to a point where as a business you realise, 'Look if we have digital assets that are of value to us, they're probably of value to somebody else. What would happen if we opened them up to the public?'

"When you take that first step, as Whispir did, suddenly you start seeing a whole bunch of inbound business opportunities via the API that you may never have considered otherwise."

"Whispir decided to treat the API like another product, and this is really the maturity process that most companies go through," he said.

"Businesses start very conservatively and think internally and that's great," Cormier said.

"But ultimately the smart ones get to a point where they've got all kinds of different customers accessing their assets via the API."

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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