Mobile Apps: The Only Way to Navigate Festivals — Tools Like APIs Make it Work!

As you, my virtual audience and friends, have seen the last few days in ATX were a BLAST! I love the energy and ideas of SXSW, and I quickly learned the ONLY way to manage a schedule was via the SXSW GO app. I also had the opportunity to be a SXSW Speaker this year with my friends @shawnabboud, @shakeelr and @masundu on Angel Investing; what a thrill to be part of the “official” programming!

This week, I was scheduled to publish the 4th in the Lontra Ventures Spotlight series on Stoplight, an Austin-based, API design and testing company. Given that all 40K of the SXSW Interactive attendees from around the globe had mobile phones looking for real-time updates, this technical post feels particularly relevant. Trust me, APIs are a REALLY BIG DEAL.

Every Day We All Make Hundreds of API Calls, Even If We Don’t Know It

All of us with a cellphone accessing social media apps like Facebook, online banking apps or games use APIs many, many times per day. This critical technology component is a major economic driver, yet most of us have never heard the word. So, let’s start from the beginning.

An API is an Application Programmable Interface, or simply how programmers communicate with apps. I like this analogy.

Imagine you are ordering lunch at a your favorite restaurant; since it was just SXSW I’m thinking Chuy’s, Rudy’s or Chi’lantro. The food and beverage menu is a contract “OAS/Swagger”, the waitstaff is the “HTTP Protocol” and the kitchen which prepares the food is the “API”. When I sit down, I order a Mexican Martini (famous in Austin) from the waitstaff; this is in techie language is a “request”. When I receive the drink, the API provided a “response”. All evening long, I make requests and the waitstaff responds just like APIs in the digital world!

Each time we are on Facebook and press “Like”, or call an Uber, or access our Nest to move the thermostat, our connected devices are accessing a data set for that application and making an API call. This frictionless, realtime “magic” have resulted in true digital transformation.

APIs are now a business catalyst and a business asset that need to be designed and managed with rigor and process.

When I sat down with Marc MacLeod, Stoplight’s founder for this piece, he explained:

“The API economy is a superset or ‘meta industry’ of larger industries such as mobile apps and Internet of Things which function based on API protocols. Large enterprises such as Sprint have tens of thousands of APIs both internal and external pointing.”

So, What Does Stoplight Do?

Stoplight is premised on the notion that an API must be developed and supported with a comprehensive life cycle view ie 360. The goal is to ensure that the dependencies of thousands of moving pieces around the API spec are fully managed to support complexity with a solution that is both simple and elegant. Stoplight’s products today are focused on the development of an API, before the product is launched into the consumer market, ensuring upon launch the product is easy for developers to engage with and to ensure that consumer achieve proper information with use.

Specifically Stoplight offers:

  • API pre-production toolchain. All in one modeling, documentation, and testing software solution.
  • Visual and automated. Create 1000s of lines of API spec code 10x faster than existing manual solutions.
  • Cohesive. Automatic docs, one click test suite generation, and more.
  • Flexible. Cloud, desktop, on-premise solutions which integrates with existing enterprise workflows and tooling.
  • Service registry. Manages the dependencies between 1000s of microservices and their supporting artifacts (tests, docs, etc).

What Inspires Stoplight’s Team?

When chatting about Stopight’s core beliefs, MacLeod had a few thoughts. First, efficiency permeates the entire Stoplight culture and product offering. The goal for both internal operations and customer products is efficiency. Stoplight is philosophically based on distilling what is inherently complicated into a beautiful and use-to-use visual solution without diluting the overall effectiveness.

Customers Appreciate Stoplight

Stoplight launched their first paying product in the later summer of 2016, just over 6 months ago. In that time, companies such as SendGrid which published a case study, Tivo and ZenDesk have implemented their tools with the benefits of reducing development time, decreasing errors and improving API development processes. The team is most proud of the extent to which their customers appreciate the products ease of use, recommend it to colleagues and are deeply integrating into their enterprise workflow.

The Team is Fired Up!

Stoplight’s bold leader, Marc MacLeod, directs the product vision and is unabashedly focused on delivering the most elegant tools in the industry. He has deeps roots in the industry and has exceedingly high expectations for what his team can and will deliver. Stoplight has recently been joined by Duane Tharp, an industry veteran who has been parts of management teams with exits to Symantec, Oracle and BMC. The team is supported via stellar engineering talent including Thomas Pytleski, Chris Lott and Vazha Omanashvili.

2017 is Off to a Bang!

Stoplight is on a major expansion path. The company is heavily focused on movement into the enterprise space with the future launch of on premise solutions for those enterprises which require. Product offering will also move movement further up the toolchain into production.

Start-up Ecosystem Supports Stoplight

Stoplight is a proud graduate of @Techstars Austin. Various angels support the company to date.

Dramatically Outpacing Growth in the Expansive API Market

The API landscape is rather concentrated with less than a dozen true competitors and players. Additionally, last summer Google bought Apigee and more recently Oracle purchased Apiary. These transactions have created a reshuffling of the landscape which may results in gaps in tooling with other ISVs. Therefore, Stoplight will be in market to fill the gaps. Stoplight is lean, visionary and opportunistic and therefore I am proud to support the team.

Lontra Ventures Background

Lontra Ventures works with companies ranging from artificial intelligence, analytics, audio and video, big data, database technologies, developer tools, high performance computing, IT infrastructure, IoT and web optimization. Delivery delivery models span from API, SaaS, PaaS and Enterprise Sales with consulting and even consumer.

Mobile Apps: The Only Way to Navigate Festivals — Tools Like APIs Make it Work! was originally published in Austin Startups on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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