Postmates Launches API for On-Demand Local Delivery

On-demand local delivery service Postmates yesterday unveiled an API that gives developers the ability to integrate delivery functionality into their apps.

According to Bastian Lehmann, the company’s co-founder and CEO, “Since the launch of Postmates over two years ago, it has been our vision to provide a reliable infrastructure for on-demand deliveries in every major metropolitan area in the world. And while we stayed focused on food delivery as a vehicle for growth, we’ve always been fascinated by how our customers use Postmates to hack their cities. We’re hackers ourselves, so observing the ways in which other people hacked our product gave us great satisfaction and added to the belief that cities would benefit from an open delivery infrastructure.”

In order to support use cases that Postmates itself would not be able to pursue on its own, Lehmann decided to make his company’s delivery infrastructure, which consists of more than 6,000 couriers in 18 U.S. markets, accessible through a JSON REST API. Using the API, developers can retrieve delivery quotes and estimates, initiate deliveries, and track their status around the clock. Documentation and pricing information is available via the Postmates developer portal.

Early partners using the Postmates API include Betabrand, Threadflip, Everlane, Curbside, and MeUndies. The last is an ecommerce startup that sells underwear, socks, and t-shirts. Through its integration with the Postmates API, it can offer same-day delivery to customers in select markets served by Postmates.

In an effort to spur adoption of its new API, Postmates has issued a Request for Partners and highlighted possible applications that are of particular interest to the company:

  • Supply chain. Postmates believes its API can help brands and retailers expand their fulfillment footprints into new markets.
  • Healthcare services. Postmates is “eager to partner with companies and startups who want to provide better services to those who are elderly, handicapped, or ill.” This could include services that deliver prescriptions to patients and goods to hospitals and doctors.
  • Groceries and produce. Postmates is interested in building a delivery network for local produce as well as applications that can connect social experiences to on-demand delivery of groceries.

As an incentive, the most innovative companies to respond will receive $100,000 in delivery credits.

Disrupting the disruptors with an API

Investors have been pouring money into on-demand services. For instance, on-demand grocery delivery startup Instacart is reportedly raising more than $100 million in a funding round that will value the company at $2 billion.

But it’s possible that the Postmates API could disrupt disruptors like Instacart. By opening its delivery network to third parties via API, Postmates has the potential to promote the development of a new wave of on-demand delivery services. Unlike first-generation on-demand startups like Instacart, the new upstarts won’t need to build their own networks. They can just tap into Postmates’ network by integrating the company’s API into their apps.

Just how big is the opportunity Postmates is creating with its API? Time will tell, but if history is any indication, the API-ization of on-demand delivery could be a game-changer.

Patricio Robles Follow me on Google+

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