Why Hasn’t There Been Another Stripe or Twilio?

Stripe and Twilio are held up as shining examples of how to do APIs in our world. This shining blueprint of how to do APIs has been around for a decade for others to follow. It isn’t a secret. So, why haven’t we seen more Stripes or Twilios emerge? Don’t get me wrong, there are other well done APIs that have emerged, but none of them have received the attention and level of business that Stripe and Twilio have enjoyed. These things always get me thinking and wondering what the reality really is, and if the narrative we are crafting is the one that fits with reality on the ground—pushing me to ask the questions that others aren’t always prepared to ask.

I am going to spend some time flagging some of the new APIs who do rise the to the occasion, but while I am working on that I wanted to pose some questions about why we haven’t seen the Twilio and Stripe being modeled by more API providers. Here are a few of my thoughts as I work through this view of the API landscape, and helping me understand why there aren’t more API rockstars to showcase:

  • Investment - Investment cycles have changed and the investment you need to do this right is available for startups in the last five years.
  • Blueprint - Twilio and Stripe are not a blueprint that applies universally to other APIs, but worked will in those business verticals.
  • APIs - This use case of APIs is not as universal as we think it is and is not something that will work being applied to all business verticals.
  • Skills - It takes more skills than we anticipate when it comes to actually delivering an API as well as Twilio and Stripe have done.
  • Cloud - The dominance of the cloud providers is making it harder for small API startups to get traction and attention of investors.
  • Wrong - These API providers exist and I am just not seeing them for some reason, and the model is alive and well in a number of API startups.
  • Stories - The tech blogosphere doesn’t care, and there isn’t enough storytelling around the API startups that already exist out there.
  • REST - Delivering APIs using REST isn’t the future and the next waves of startups will be using GraphQL, Kafka, and other API patterns.

These are just a handful of thoughts I had thinking about why we don’t see more Stripes and Twilios. I’m perfectly prepared to be wrong here, so let me know what API startups I am missing. I really haven’t thought about this subject enough to weigh in and provide my opinions on why there haven’t been added waves of API rockstars. I am not looking to have all the answers here, I am just looking to understand where we are, what they future holds, and what works and doesn’t work when it comes to APIs.

If you think there is an API that was started in the last five years, and sizes up to Twilio and Stripe—let me know. If you have additional reasons why there haven’t been any additional Stripes or Twilios in the last five years I’d love to hear what they are. I have a Twilio blueprint that I use as a shining example of how other API providers should consider operating, and if there are elements missing, or I am entirely wrong I want to know it. There have been a number of API fairy tales I’ve told over the years that have proven to be untrue, so I’m always ready to call bullshit on my own work, and the narratives we craft in the world of APIs.