StepZen, a new startup from the crew who gave you Apigee (which was sold to Google in 2016 for $625 million) had a different vision for their latest company. They are building a single API that pulls data from disparate sources to help developers deliver more complex customer experiences online.
Today, the startup emerged from stealth and announced an $8 million seed investment from Neotribe Ventures and Wing Venture Capital.
With years of experience working with APIs, the founders wanted to take that a step further, says CEO and co-founder Anant Jhingran. “StepZen is a product that lets front end developers easily create and consume one API for all the data they need from the back end,” he explained.
This is all in the service of providing a smoother, more consistent customer experience. That means whether you are on an e-commerce site accessing your order history or a banking app grabbing your current balance, these scenarios require pulling data from various back-end data resources. Connecting to those resources is a time-consuming task, and StepZen wants to simplify that for developers.
“Developers spend an enormous amount of time deploying and managing code that accesses the back end, and what StepZen wants to do is to give them that time back,” he said.
Instead of manually writing code to pull this data, StepZen enables developers to simply provide configuration information and credentials to connect to these back-end data sources, and then it builds a single API that handles all of the heavy lifting of pulling that data and presenting it when needed.
Jhingran uses the example of presenting a list of open orders for a customer. It sounds simple enough, but once you consider that the data could live in several places, including the CRM system, the order system or with your courier, that means accessing at least three separate and highly disparate systems. StepZen will help pull this all together via its API and present it smoothly to the user.
Today the company has 11 employees, including the three founders, with plans to add another eight or so in 2021. As they do that, CBO and co-founder Helen Whelan says they are working to build a diverse and inclusive company. While the founding team is itself diverse, they want to hire employees with diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking to build the most complete product and company.
“For the first 10 or so employees, we tapped into the networks of the people who we’ve worked with, people who you know can do a great job. Then I think it’s about deliberately expanding from there and deliberately taking the time that you need to explore and expand your pipeline of candidates,” she said.
The company is just nine months old and has been spending most of this year building the solution and working with pre-alpha users. Today the product is in alpha, with plans to release it as a software service early next year.
As the company emerges from stealth, it’s looking to continue building the product and looking for ways to remove as much complexity as possible. “We know how to do the hard things on the back end. We’ve got the database technologies and the API technologies down, and it’s now about finding how to make all of that simple on the outside and easy for developers to use, ” Whelan said.