Augusto Marietti, Marco Palladino and Mike Zonca founded Mashape in November 2010 to create a unified, all-in-one marketplace where one could go to find, sell, distribute, and hack on APIs, believing that APIs would become an essential part of the conversation for developers. Though it wasn’t an easy road, last September Mashape raised $1.6 million from NEA, Charles River Ventures, Jeff Bezos, and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors — to name a few.
Mashape has been in private beta since, testing its model and “building out the supply-side,” says Marietti. Today, the startup is finally throwing back the curtains, officially opening to the public, with new features and inventory in stock.
Github recently opened quite a few eyeballs with its $100 million from Andreessen Horowitz. The startup, which is part code sharing and publishing service, part marketplace, and part social network for programmers, had yet to raise a round. It took the slow-burn approach and wanted to become indispensable before raising money. Mashape is taking cues from Github in its approach both to its market and to its own growth. Marietti says that he likes to think of Github as an open source assembly line for code, and he wants Mashape to be the assembly line for APIs.
Github also provides a response to the question of why it took so long for Mashape to launch publicly. Says Marietti:
We wanted to reach a critical mass before opening to everyone. When you’re a marketplace, you always fight the chicken/egg problem and the last thing you want to do is open up a marketplace when you don’t have enough supply yet … so we wanted to get to a place of infrastructure stability and to a point when the community was starting to become substantial.
For context: A year ago, Mashape was adding two new APIs every 10 days, but today the startup is seeing 300 percent year-over-year growth, adding two new APIs per day. It now has an international footing, with API providers from China to Mexico and is driving millions of API calls a week to its 450+ APIs.
But, importantly, Mashape doesn’t want to focus on managing APIs — it doesn’t want to become a tools company. First, the startup is focusing on making it easy to distribute, monetize and discover APIs. In the long-run, Mashape wants to help centralize APIs and become a unified broker for services and data.
So, on the business side, like Github, Mashape is both public and private. Mashape is free to use, “as long as you’re not making money out of it,” the company says, and listing or consuming an API on Mashape is free. If API providers decide to charge using the startup’s billing add-on, Mashape takes a fee (between 6 and 30 percent) out of earnings. And those paid subscriptions to APIs, in particular, are now growing 40 percent month-to-month, the Mashape CEO says.
For clarification, for API providers, Mashape offers a billing system for their APIs with custom plans for customers, or the ability to charge for specific objects (SMS, MB, calls, data points, etc.), auto-generated documentation and client libraries. For the consumers, on the other hand, it’s a unified place to find multiple APIs — you can subscribe to any API using a credit card, consume, and analyze your API usage through a dashboard.
The CEO continued:
Scaling a marketplace for APIs is very challenging from both a business and a technology point of view. For example, there are more than 17 ways to monetize an API. Technically, the API world is a jungle; there are different formats and authentications and REST is not even a standard — everyone has their own interpretation. In addition, APIs change, go down and lose trust — we’re trying to create a trusted community where your API is at the center and if problems occur the community will notify and help developers fix the issues. In every marketplace, “trust” and “reliability” are the most important things. We’re committed to make the API Industry a more trusted place”
To illustrate Mashape’s usefulness in the wild, the team gives the example of Face.com, which was recently acquired by Facebook and quickly shut down. A lot of developers were annoyed and didn’t know what to do. Lambda Labs created and deployed a Face.com replacement on Mashape called Face, which has acquired hundreds of developers in just a few days — thanks to a great API.
Mashape believes that by enabling API providers to easily host their killer APIs and any developers to quickly sign up to consume, it’s bringing some Github to the API space. In doing so, it wants to bring another revenue stream to companies both big and small to help them better monetize their APIs — and if that means it can soon turn a profit itself, all the better.
And, for good measure, here’s a snippet of a back-and-forth between Marietti and Fred Wilson on Wilson’s blog post “Mobile Is Where The Growth Is”.