Successful Developer Programs

There were a number of interesting sessions at yesterday's Business of APIs Conference hosted by Mashery. Dave McClure, who previously oversaw the launch of the PayPal developer network, gave an engaging, to-the-point talk entitled "Successful Developer Programs". If you're running an API developer network or even thinking of running one, here's a summary of good ideas and important questions to ask yourself:

Who's your audience?

  • What kind of developers? Indies, small co's, enterprises? They are not all the same.
  • What makes them tick?
  • What problems do they have?
  • Are there geeks already solving your problems?

Your product better be cool

  • Cool = new, innovative, latest tech
  • If it ain't cool, make it cool
  • Provide code examples
  • Make them either rich or famous (or both)

Your team = more geeks

  • Hire extroverted geeks (tough). Bloggers, writers; wiki, forum addicts; try conferences; find the alpha geek driving a crowd of geeks
  • Credibility is important
  • Recruit a geek advisory board: with target languages/platforms; customer verticals; should already be successful, making money, well known

Geek metrics

  • Examples: # new customers; # downlaods; # active developers; # transactoins, $ revenue from APIs
  • Tip 1: make sure your non-geek boss signs-off
  • Tip 2: assume

API biz model = biz model

  • Bake your business model into your api; no free rides
  • Hopefully your api is a business development deal
  • If your api helps geeks make $, you win

Education = it's the only thing

  • To win you must educate (product mktg)
  • To educate you must speak (blog)
  • To speak you must do/show (code)
  • Tip: do not require registration or login to educate, ever.
  • Perhaps require login to make money
  • Your api should be invisible to the customer

Marketing = sell the geeks, not you

  • What do geeks crave? respsect (always), attention (sometimes), money (sometimes)
  • Help sell them: BFF
  • Product directory of 3rd party app
  • Preferred/certified dev program
  • Affiliate/incentives for your geeks
  • Send them a steady stream of customers

Be sure to read the next Financial article: Mashup Startup Teqlo Folds