Years after crashing on Travis Kalanick’s couch, this founder has raised $18M for his startup, Mashape

For Mashape CEO Augusto Marietti, the Silicon Valley dream is playing out as well as could be imagined.

In 2009, Marietti and his co-founder Marco Palladino — who’d formed a software company in Milan a year earlier — learned of and were accepted into TechCrunch50, a pitch competition that has evolved into today’s giant TechCrunch Disrupt events.

As the event approached, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick — then an active angel investor who was just beginning work on the ridesharing service — posted an ad on Craigslist, offering his home to founders coming in from out of town. Three teams responded; Kalanick chose Marietti and Palladino, providing them a bedroom for a few days and, more importantly, a lifeline to Silicon Valley after they returned home. Indeed, Marietti says he was back in California six months later, negotiating $100,000 in convertible notes with several early YouTube employees at Kalanick’s kitchen table.

At the time, Mashape had just $2,000 in the bank. Fast-forward, and today, San Francisco-based Mashape has raised $28 million in funding, including a fresh $18 million in Series B funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from earlier backers Index Ventures and  CRV.

It’s been a battle that has gotten easier to fight over time, as Marietti tells it.

New Enterprise Associates led a $1.5 million seed round in 2011, then the company “struggled and made it to the Series A,” a $6.5 million round that closed in 2013, including with a bit of capital from Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors and Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

But Mashape’s newest round “happened quickly because we found a gold mine,” says Marietti of his 25-person company. How, exactly? The company had built for itself an internal technology to help navigate the API marketplace it began building years ago; at some point, it realized that its “air traffic controller-like” technology was the most valuable aspect of its business, and it began to make it available to enterprises.

It was a smart pivot. While early adopters like Uber understood the power of APIs early on — remember that Uber assembled its initial product with other companies’ mapping, payment and communications technologies — more traditional companies were slower to understand that APIs would become the center of modern application architecture.

They appreciate the power of APIs now. In fact, big companies are beginning to embrace these microservices in waves. Now they need tools that help their development teams build flexible new software systems out of them — which is where Mashape comes in.

It isn’t alone in tackling the challenge. Apigee and Tibco’s Mashery are among two companies competing for the same customers. Nevertheless, Mashape says that more than 30 companies are currently paying it a six-figure annual subscription for its core product, Kong. Meanwhile, Marietti says the startup turned cash-flow positive in December.