Why Future-Thinking Companies are Betting on API First

November 09, 2021
Checkr Editor

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are ubiquitous in the tech world. In fact, if you visit  VentureBeat you will find ⅔ of all developers embrace the API-first philosophy, up five points from last year.

APIs began to pop up in the early 2000s as a way to connect two applications to each other. Yet as the power of the API became clear, they were no longer just considered an add-on or afterthought. In fact, companies are now moving toward becoming API-first, meaning their product essentially is the API. Others are choosing to implement API solutions versus building everything from scratch. For example Uber uses the Google Maps API.

An API-first strategy removes a lot of the roadblocks to business growth. So, why is API-first a smart strategy? And how can companies like yours grow into an API-first organization?

Why API-first?

Let’s start by reviewing why API-first matters. As I mentioned above, APIs essentially allow two applications to talk to each other by passing crucial data and information back and forth. It’s a powerful way to leverage the capabilities of another application or platform to build your own application. Benefits of using an API include faster go-to-market ability, and the power to build innovative products and a seamless user experience.

APIs are so important to the modern technology landscape that by 2023, 65 percent of global infrastructure service providers’ revenue will be generated through services enabled by APIs.

With the growing popularity of APIs, API-first companies have begun to take shape, offering an innovative, cost-effective solution to improve an organization’s product. API-first companies build their solutions around the API, meaning they design their software with the API at the forefront. These API-first organizations can be industry-agnostic, industry-specific, or created to support the API economy. The ability to easily add increased functionality to an application allows all companies–especially startups and small businesses–to scale at a quicker and more cost-efficient pace.

API-first success stories

Companies synonymous with API-first are Stripe, Twilio and Plaid, which have revolutionized the way payments are made and the way businesses communicate with their customers, respectively. These companies have created software solutions that provide businesses with an easy pathway to online commerce and communications, without the burden of having to create costly solutions on their own. While these are arguably three of the most notable API-first businesses, others across a variety of industries, including digital asset trading platform FalconX and indoor mapping and wayfinding platform MazeMap, are quickly catching up.

Growing an API-first company

So, what does it take for an API-first company to succeed? It starts with the right mindset.

When building your business, it’s important to think about it with an API-first mentality, as opposed to an integration-first mindset. What’s the difference?

If you’re going into development integration-first, you’re taking too much of a siloed approach. You’re focused solely on the specific project and create an API as a one-off, without thinking about its future utilization. An API-first approach, on the other hand, means you’re considering all of its various uses by organizations of all types and sizes, therefore widening the net of potential business opportunities.

By taking this approach, API-first companies can offer API solutions for other organizations to build into their products, therefore launching industry-disrupting platforms that will forever alter the technology space. That is exactly the way we have thought of API-first at Checkr for the past seven years by providing a simple background check API solution that made it easy for many gig economy businesses and HR business platforms to embed background checks into their offerings.

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