I Am Not Sure You Want Me Reviewing Your AI API Startup

I am not sure I am the right person to be asking for feedback on your startup. But, here we go.

Your startup will be successful. Not because you do the thing you sell to your customers, but because your narrative hits a home run with a proper buzzword bingo card that when fed into the player piano produces exactly the danceable tune all of the believers are wanting in this particular moment. This hustle is all about having the right story, and you have it. If you had asked for a review of your product during one of the previous AI waves around 2012, or bot waves around 2015, I would have pulled up alongside your player piano with my IPA, and bust out with a proper song and dance to entertain our very demanding audience.

However, it isn’t 2012 or 2015—it is 2024, and I am tired. I genuinely believe you will find success. Your website hits all the notes. You speak to this particular moment of API sprawl and chaos with AI fueled promises of helping me make sense of the unmanageable landscape. Making it all more observable, secure, and helping me integrate using APIs with ease. Yes please. OHHHH, YES PLEASE!!! We are all suffering from the complexity, sprawl, chaos, and technical debt that plagues our enterprises. We need your solution, much, much, much more than we needed the previous solutions that we purchased and contributed to the awkward position we find ourselves in today—-which you are promising to help get us out of. Where do I swipe the card? Invest? I am not tired from the API work at hand, I am tired from being sold what I need, then having it magically become a train ticket I can’t afford that is heading in a direction I do not need to go with the depleted emotional bandwidth I need to do the work I used to be able get done without your “solution”.

Your solutions sound nice. It sounds like it will reduce friction for so many of those redundant things my teams find themselves doing, and that cost us so much money. Sure I want that technical debt to disappear, so that I don’t have to think about all of those bad business decisions that were made yesteryear, which I am now responsible for. However, I just do not believe that your AI, algorithm, or proprietary magic will be able to unwind all of those custom hacks we implemented in our authentication, or the unique approval process our vendors implement to obtain tokens, certificates, and special keys to keep their solutions adequately generating revenue—-there is an awful lot of human nuance at the REST API integration layer. I have spent 14 dedicated years down here on the ground floor of the API factory and know that most of our problems are human created and not technical ones, and are ones which will ultimately gunk up the pipes and gears of your AI solution like wet wipes in the London sewer system.

I know you are confident in your solution. I know that you understand how to tell just the story enterprise decision makers, investors, analysts, and pundits are looking for. I like that. I really do. However, my futurity ring is broken. I broke it punching the vending machine in the startup employee lounge. When I look across the API landscape I don’t see technical things that need fixing, I see deliberate business things that generate revenue specifically because they are broken, or at least possess enough friction to to keep someone spending money to alleviate the pain. It is an incredibly messy business landscape. One that is messy because of business and politics, not just because of technology. I am just not sold that there is an easy button for this. The landscape is a mess primarily due to all of us looking for easy buttons over the years, buying and baking in solutions, then changing jobs because they don’t work and we are perpetually looking for greener grasses. I am sorry, I just don’t believe you aren’t going to unwind all of that. I really, really, wish you could. I am convinced you will be very successful with your business, but actually make things on the ground harder for me because what you are selling has more to do with your startup than the solutions you are selling me.

I appreciate you reaching out and thinking I am someone that matters, and that people listen to me. Something that was true back when I’d pull up a pint and dance a jig for you. However, now I operate over here in the corner, outside the mainstream narrative and song and dance on the player piano. Because this song and dance isn’t about the work we have in front of us. This song is about brighter times right around the corner, just like “Free Beer Tomorrow”. And I don’t drink like I used to. I do wish you the best of luck. There are plenty of my API compadres, pundits, and puffers who will provide you with a glowing review for your next generation AI API solution. I just don’t think that API, AI, or any other acronym startup will save our souls at this point. I am convinced that we are going to have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on delivering only the most meaningful of APIs, where engineers, architects, product, platform, and consumers are all actually working together to deliver what is needed. As I look out across the API landscape I see very few solutions that will help us in this work today. Not because there aren’t solutions that won’t help us, but because the business and politics of their investments, road maps, and leadership are not aligned with the hard work that has to happen on the ground floor today of our businesses.