How APIs are helping startups, traditional industries in Australia
- 15 February, 2017 15:14
While API uptake is increasing across all businesses in Australia, APIdays organiser Saul Caganoff says “there is plenty of runway yet to go”. He says that APIs cut across the traditional ways that Australian businesses have been used to building technology solutions as proof that while APIs are making an impact as a way to build software, connect systems and digitise businesses, there is plenty more work yet to be done.
“APIs are growing steadily in profile,” Caganoff says, pointing to three main vectors for API adoption. He explains: “First there are startups developing new mobile or platform businesses which rely heavily on APIs for adoption and growth.
“Second there are established companies who need APIs to support digital transformation. The first wave of digital transformation projects in Australia were fairly shallow — they mainly centred on siloed apps. The second round of digital transformation efforts are now taking place and they recognise that you need to leverage core business data and capabilities which are exposed through APIs. We call this approach ‘deep digital’.
“And finally, there are the enterprises looking to modernise their application infrastructure or to adopt hybrid cloud models for application sourcing. That is driving a lot of API adoption.”
Caganoff says that members from all three API communities — both from the business/product management and architecture/engineering side — will be attending APIdays at Sydney Convention Centre on 28 February and 1 March.
One speaker will be Tom Adams, director of engineering at artist marketplace Redbubble, one of the tech startups called out in the recent StartupAUS Crossroads Report for being an Australian startup success story. The company is currently valued at $180 million.
“We currently use APIs for exposing data and workflows to various parts of our platform,” says Adams. “For example, we have a search API that provides search results to the website as well as the mobile app. We also have APIs that external parties use, in particular, third party fulfillers that manufacture products use these APIs to integrate with our systems.”
Adams sees APIs as having been an essential part of the tech startups success to date: “We see APIs as strategic to the business, as they allow us to iterate faster on ideas, to get them in the hands of users more quickly, so that we can validate their impact.
“APIs allow our teams to innovate far more quickly than if they were building the same functionality inside our main codebase/system. APIs also give us a practical benefit of enabling us to decompose our main system into smaller pieces (microservices), while continuing to ship new features to consumers & artists.”
Both Caganoff and Adams say that startups have been able to grow faster with less need for resources thanks to the use of APIs. Australian startups like Airtasker have leveraged messaging service Twilio’s API, for example, to create a customer feedback loop and job allocation messaging service which has been crucial to their customer experience, a major driver in that startup’s overall market uptake.
“It's now easier than ever to get a company off the ground, and the amount of capital and time required to do so is orders of magnitude smaller than it was. A lot of this is down to the rise of APIs, which make it easy to get small proof of concepts (or MVPs) off the ground with minimal investment,” says Adams.
Caganoff sees the biggest recent uptake of APIs occurring at the other end of the spectrum: Amongst traditional enterprise sectors. “The most rapid change I’ve seen in the last 12 months is in banking – some of the fallout from European open banking initiatives are taking hold in Australia and all the big banks have public API initiatives in various states of maturity,” says Caganoff.
“We’ll see them flourish in the next year or two, perhaps driven by some legislative pressure, but more likely via competition from FinTech upstarts.”
APIdays already has more than 40 speakers scheduled to speak, with several more still to come on board. The conference spreads talks across several themes including strategy, execution, emerging technology, and platforms and architecture.
Mark Boyd is a writer/analyst focusing on APIs, programmable business models, smart cities and civic tech. He will be presenting his latest research on GraphQL at the APIdays conference and chairing a panel on banking APIs.