Eventbrite Reorients Toward API First Model

Renaud Visage, CTO and Founder of Eventbrite, spoke at Apps World in London today about how his company's API is central to its goal of becoming the world’s biggest event marketplace.

“In 2013, event organizers made over $1 billion on the Eventbrite platform,” said Visage, “and 15% of the gross ticket sales were channeled via our API.”

As an Internet business that kicked off in 2006, Eventbrite is in the curious position of not having developed as an API-first approach, a legacy that now requires significant internal change in order to take advantage of the business potential of APIs.

“We launched our API in 2008 and we didn’t adhere to any standards,” Visage admitted, although there would have been few standards that Eventbrite could reference at the time. “It was pretty bad actually, when I think about it, but it fit the need, and a lot of people used it because they needed the data and could create things programmatically: They could build dashboards, add new users, add new events, for example.”

Four Business Values of APIs

Now, there are more than 10,000 applications built on top of the Eventbrite API, Visage said. Eventbrite is in the process of reorienting its code base in order to be more service-oriented and API first. Visage points to four main business values that are enabled with an API-first approach.

1. Increased Revenue Opportunities

“There is a direct correlation between having an API available and bringing in more revenue. Our first integrations were with Lanyrd (which we have since bought, so it was a good investment for them), Eventful and others.” Visage says these early API integrations were bringing Eventbrite to the notice of new customer segments, which in turn were purchasing tickets through the Eventbrite platform, meaning more revenue from new markets not previously accessed by Eventbrite.

2. Extending the functionality of your product

“You cannot build everything for your partners. Having APIs helps you extend the life of your product. We have a Salesforce connector, for example, to connect event signups with your CRM. We have a WordPress integration, and integrations with SurveyMonkey, MailChimp and others.”

Visage believes that to outsource product functionality by letting this be done on the integration end means being willing to invest in the key partnerships that are making these new product functions possible: “You need to decide who are your strategic partners, see what they are changing in their APIs, and let them know what you are changing.”

Visage sees a business with good API reach as having “a real competitive advantage.” “It is hard for a startup to come in and have the footprint you have,” Visage argued.

3. Fostering innovation

“You need to let other people solve problems. For things like wearables, for example, we are watching how others are using our APIs to build for those use cases. So we do not have the burden of the R&D cost to play with every tech out there. We get to keep the focus on our core business.”

4. API first development saves money

Visage says technology has advanced rapidly even since Eventbrite started, when smartphones weren’t as ubiquitous at events as they are today, and tablets weren’t a business tool. “Now, everyone expects to see their stats on their tablet. There was no common code base for our tablet, Web and phone applications.”

Visage shows how Eventbrite is reorienting its code base toward a service-oriented architecture, enabled via API.

Visage explained: “So we are in the process of revamping our APIs to use them internally, and we are seeing great benefits from that. This is what happens when you don’t eat your own dog food. Now, we have moved from a monolithic code base to embarking on a journey where we build services first and expose APIs.”

Visage summarized his experiences around using APIs as being core to the business’ ability to scale:

  • APIs allow you to scale your customers' businesses.
  • APIs allow you to scale your product functionality.
  • APIs help you scale your product innovation and make your end users happier.
  • APIs scale your product development.
Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities.

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