API as a Product
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API as a Product

Tips for Running an API-centric SaaS Business

About the Book

API-as-a-Product is the concept of serving up an Application Programming Interface (API) as a business. In API-as-a-Product, we've collated some of our most helpful insights to help you begin your API-as-a-Product journey.

At Nordic APIs, we've been tracking the emergence of many API trends throughout the years. On our blog and at our conferences, contributors have time and time again described new ways to generate value from APIs. However, few subjects encapsulate as much interest as the API-as-a-Product concept. By opening up specialized software functionality through an API, companies can commoditize data and operational components on a per-call basis. Many startups are beginning to treat their API as a core offering due to its potential for scalability and explosive growth. Some API-first companies have even IPO-d in recent years. 

However, it takes substantial effort to build and maintain a functional, self-service API-as-a-Product. You must balance openness with charging for access. Providers must find their secret sauce of freemium, rate limiting, charging per call, or subscription pricing. You must support standard protocols and track emerging communication styles. It also helps to know your developer users well, monitor platform use, and optimize to find the correct model.

And, designing the program is only the beginning. API-as-a-Products require unparalleled developer experiences and high stability. The provider may also experience unexpected challenges, such as identifying spam users and thwarting black hats. Or, the API may struggle to get off the ground and attract a developer foothold necessary to sustain a business. 

Throughout the years, Nordic APIs has featured many writers and contributors as we explore the API-as-a-Product subject from many angles. As a result, our community has produced a ton of knowledge on treating an API as a product. 

In this eBook, we've included some of our most helpful insights to help you start and sustain your API-as-a-Product. From nitty-gritty details, like calculating API-as-a-Product maintenance expenses, to optimizing your self-service developer portal, we cover hot tips to get the most out of your API-centric SaaS. Even if your API doesn't adopt a public model, it still helps to consider how you can benefit from taking a product perspective to integration.

About the Author

Nordic APIs
Nordic APIs

This book includes articles written by the Nordic APIs writing team and select community contributors.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword: The Potential of API-as-a-Product
  • What is API-as-a-Product?
    • API-as-a-Product Consumption and Monetization Models
    • The Future of API-as-a-Product
  • 8 Unexpected Challenges of Running an API-as-a-Product
    • 1. It’s More Than A Technical Challenge
    • 2. Realizing You Need an API Product Manager
    • 3. Developers Will Spam Your Free Trial
    • 4. Developers Are Resistant to Paying
    • 5. Providing Ongoing Support is Challenging
    • 6. Lowering Barriers To Adoption
    • 7. Your Real Competition May Surprise You…
    • 8. Build It, And They (Might Not) Come
    • Final Thoughts: The Real Product is Trust
  • What to Consider When Building Your API Strategy
    • The API-First Approach
    • The API Economy
    • Challenges and Risks
    • API-as-a-Product
    • Focusing on the Core Business
    • Providing Seamless User Experience
    • Summary
  • 6 API-Driven Startups Shaking Up Silicon Valley
    • 1. FalconX
    • 2. Flinks
    • 3. Spruce
    • 4. Evervault
    • 5. Nylas
    • 6. Segment
    • Final Thoughts
  • 5 Ways to Generate Direct Revenue With APIs
    • Direct vs. Indirect Monetization
    • 5 Methods of Direct API Monetization
    • API Monetization Strategy
  • The Ultimate Guide to Pricing Your API
    • First Things, First. How Do Businesses Monetize Their APIs?
    • Three Developer Usage Pricing Models
    • Original Benchmark Data
    • Include a Free Testing Plan
    • Tailor These Benchmarks for Your Business with The “Three Cs”
    • The Takeaways
  • Calculating the Total Cost of Running an API Product
    • Assessing Development Time
    • Deployment and Maintenance Costs
    • Advocacy and Marketing
    • Evaluating our Totals
  • 13 Important Metrics for API Companies
    • Infrastructure API Metrics
    • Application API Metrics
    • API Product Metrics
    • Business and Growth
    • Conclusion: Track the Right API Metrics
  • Pointers for Building Developer-Friendly API Products
    • 1. Know Your Developers
    • 2. Be Obsessive about Naming
    • 3. Always Stick to Your Process
    • 4. Build a Complete Ecosystem
    • 5. Think API Governance
    • Final Thoughts
  • How To Treat Your API as a Product
    • Consumer
    • Investment
    • Roadmaps and Lifecycles
    • Reversing the Developer-Consumer Relationship
    • Consumer Friendly
    • Define and Adopt Business Roles
    • Assume Your API Will Become an Public API
    • Final Thoughts
  • Why Your API Needs a Dedicated Developer Experience Team
    • Understanding the Difference: DevRel and DX
    • Why Developer Experience?
    • Why the Shift?
    • You Need a Dedicated Developer Experience Team
    • 4 Main Responsibilities of a Developer Experience Team
    • Final Thoughts
  • What Qualities Make a Great API Product Owner?
    • Why API Product Ownership is Important
    • Developer vs. Product Manager vs. Evangelist — When Worlds Collide
    • Hiring Internally vs. Externally
    • Outsourcing to Jump-Start
    • Conclusion
  • 6 Ways to Market Your Niche API
    • 1. List Your API on Directories
    • 2. Create Valuable Content
    • 3. Make the Most of Social Media
    • 4. Host and Attend Events
    • 5. Use Launch Announcements
    • 6. Reach Out Directly
    • Don’t Forget to Make Devs Happy!
  • Nordic APIs Resources

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