a16z Podcast: The API Economy — The Why, What, and How

APIs (application programming interfaces), observe the guests in this episode of the a16z Podcast, can be described as everything from Lego building blocks to Tetris to front doors to even veins in the human body. Because the defining property of APIs is that they’re ways to send and receive information between different parts, that is, communicate between software applications (which often map onto different organizational functions/services in a company too). APIs therefore give companies access to data and competencies they wouldn’t otherwise have — or better yet, that they no longer need — by letting even non-tech and small companies combine these building blocks to get exactly what they want.

Which means companies today — including non-tech companies and small companies — can focus on their core competency instead, access bigger data, and get superpowers to scale and compete with the Amazons of the world. But what does all this mean for design — after all, APIs are interfaces between software, not people — and for other stakeholders (finance, ops, etc.) beyond developers? Who do you sell to? How are APIs changing not only the (inter)face of business today, but how entire companies are being formed from — or around — them? This conversation considers all this and more, featuring: Cristina Cordova, who leads partnerships for Stripe, which builds infrastructure for the movement of money including payments processing; Augusto Marietti, CEO and co-founder of Kong, which helps companies manage secure APIs and microservices; Laura Behrens Wu, CEO and co-founder of Shippo, which powers multi-carrier shipping for all kinds of commerce; in conversation with Sonal Chokshi.