PW Interview:Bob Bickel CoFounder Redline13

This is an interview with Bob Bickel, co-founder of Redline 13. Bob is a leader in the tech field with experience at Bluestone, HP, JBoss, Hyperic, CloudBees, eXo and RunSignUp. We picked the Redline13 ZipCode API to be the API of the week in July 2013.

The Zip Code Distance API is a Web Service from RedLine13, the cloud load testing service. The API can calculate distance between zip codes, find all zip codes within a given radius, and convert zip codes to/from primary city names. The API supports HTTP GET calls and returns JSON, XML, or CSV formatted responses.

PW- How does the zipcode API help customers.

Bob- The RedLine ZipCode API is a very simple and fast web service that can be used by any application requiring ZipCode information and distance calculations. Web and mobile developers can easily access this from their applications and make up to 250 calls per hour for free. The docs are fully interactive, and we support JSON, XML and CSV formats.

PW- Name some usage stats for your API. What are your plans for 2013

Bob- The RedLine ZipCode API is fairly new, but is gaining rapid adoption. Our system is currently designed to handle up to about 50,000 requests per minute. If demand continues to surge, we may look to expand that in late 2013 or 2014.

We recently expanded the API from Distance and Radius calculations to include City-to-Zip and Zip-to-City methods. This is very popular for web applications that are either looking to reduce data input (especially for mobile devices) by simply entering a ZipCode and auto-populating the City and State, or by apps that are looking to ensure the user has not made a typo.

PW- Name a customer case study or a specific sector that has greatly benefited from using your API

Bob- I'll give you one for each use case of our API.

  • For the simple Distance Calculation, we have a large retailer that gives visitors to their website looking for the closest store the mileage based on the ZipCode.
  • For the ZipCodes by Radius, there is an Alumni application that let's people look for other alumni within a certain radius of their homes.
  • And we have a number of web and mobile applications that are allowing users to just type in their ZipCode and then auto-populating the City and State.

PW- How do you intend to reach and attract top developers to create mashups and apps using your API

Bob- We think the best way is word of mouth. Developers like to share their solutions with others and we have started to pop up in some of the develop forums and places like ProgrammableWeb, Mashape, and Stackoverflow.  Most of our users are only at the free service level, so we have no intention of adding expense and having sales and marketing people.

PW- Describe your journey as a startup in the API world. What are some best practices you can share.

Bob- We originally developed this for ourselves on We realized that others could use it.  We run our site on Amazon and realized how inexpensively we could host this service and how we could scale it with tricks like memcached and RDS. So we decided to make it public and see if we could get enough big users to pay for the operation of the service.  We don't expect to become wealthy off of this – we view it more like the new form of open source.  An easy way to let others make use of cool technology we built.

Zip Codes Anyone? Just an (Redline13) API call away!

Be sure to read the next Best Practices article: The Importance of Impermanence in API Design