Mashape Turns Down Acquisition Offers; Raises Seed Round From Big Name Investors

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APIs are hot. Twitter attracts 15 billion API calls per day, and Saleforce.com receives 50 percent of its traffic through its API, to site a few big name examples. So here’s a simple thought: If everyone and their mother is beginning to take advantage of APIs, why not create a marketplace where developers can easily discover, distribute, and consume all things API? This was the thinking employed by a young Italian startup (transplanted to San Francisco) named Mashape. As we wrote in our original profile of the startup in June, simply put: Mashape wants to be a little bit Etsy, a little bit Github by offering a unified, all-in-one marketplace where users can find, sell, distribute, and hack on APIs.

When the startup arrived in the U.S. in 2009, it quickly raised $100K from several angels and VCs. And now more investors are buying, and their names are familiar in the world of tech investing. The company announced yesterday that it has raised $1.5 million in seed funding led by New Enterprise Associates, with participation from Index Ventures, Charles River Ventures, Ignition Partners, and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. Several angels also contributed to the round, including Amazon President and CEO Jeff Bezos.

It’s an impressive list of investors, especially considering the fact that Mashape launched in private beta last June and has still yet to officially launch publicly. Mashape CEO Augusto Marietti also tells me that, prior to its seed round, the startup had received acquisition offers from both a “big public company” as well as a “medium size” company (of around 200 employees). The founders turned down both offers, and thus were not willing to share names, in pursuit of raising venture and angel investment to allow it to continue to operate as an independent entity.

What’s more, Marietti said that the startup has already begun to generate revenue, and in three months has jumped from 110 APIs to nearly 200 — both public and private.

What do I mean by public and private — and where is that revenue coming from? The APIs listed on Mashape are both free and for charge, hence the public and private, and Mashape’s incipient monetization strategy. But the company also wants to help developers monetize, too. Mashape offers a simple (and free) tool that enables users to monetize JSON APIs, for example, by allowing them to list an API and then set up billing with a single click to choose monthly charges, API call limits, and give a price per additional call.

“If we take a look into those startups that have more than 30 people”, Marietti said, “we notice that most of them are hiring two new positions: API evangelists and API engineers. These positions would never have existed 3 years ago. A new market is on its way”.

APIs are without a doubt maturing, but Mashape also wants its marketplace to take advantage of the other maturing facets of Web 2.0, 3.0, or wherever the Thought Leaders want to put us. Thus, Mashape is building a social layer on top of its APIs, in order to address the discoverability and trust issue inherent to a growing API marketplace, allowing users to see what their friends are using.

Bigger sites like Twitter haven’t yet bought on to Mashape, and granted the startup is playing in a market made of enterprise solutions, but with these features in place, the startup is poised to take advantage of a community built from startups, SMBs, to the big guys — whenever they finally decide to take the bait.

In another newsworthy note for startups and developers: Mashape announced today via its blog that it will be a partner in Rapleaf’s new “Personalization Fund”, a $1 million fund “dedicated to supporting developers creating projects around data and personalization”. Mashape community members will receive priority access to Rapleaf’s fund resources, according to Marietti.

As VentureBeat initially reported, Rapleaf is looking to fund between 50 to 100 startups with its new initiative, which offers $15K in cash grants, free data, and services. Startups chosen to participate will receive access to Rapleaf’s network of partners, its customers, and joint marketing opportunities, the company told VB.