📦 Issue #78: Shipping Great API Experiences
Sagar Batchu shares his experiences from LiveRamp's London office, South Park Common's incubator, and now Speakeasy - the API-first startup he co-founded
💬 Welcome to issue #78 of Between the Lines
Good morning & happy Thursday. For all our readers out West who have experienced this record rainfall and flooding, we hope you all are staying safe and dry out there! 🙏
This week, Claremont alumnus Sagar Batchu lends advice for building an early-stage founding team, dives into the importance of APIs, and shares how Speakeasy is helping other companies deliver Stripe-quality API experiences for their customers…it’s a Claremont world out there. 👇
~ Josh & Miles
👤 Community Spotlight: Sagar Batchu & Speakeasy
Sagar graduated from Claremont in 2015, where he focused on physics and programming. After graduation, he started his career as a software engineer for IoT proptech startup Enlighted, where fellow Claremont alumni Joe Costello was the CEO. Once Enlighted was acquired by Siemens, Sagar left to join LiveRamp’s new London office and grew into a Director of Engineering role, where he helped build and scale the London engineering team. Now, Sagar is the CEO and co-founder of Speakeasy — a developer-first API DevEx platform that enables developers to offer best-in-class self-service experiences for API consumers.
These days, you’re building something new in Speakeasy, a Zero Ops API tool. Can you share the company’s origin story?
While I was at LiveRamp, many companies in the industry were transforming to be API-first, and there was a lot of buzz in the ecosystem around this. There was an old generation of API companies like MuleSoft with a more closed ecosystem and then a modern set of more open ecosystem API-first companies that were coming up. At the same time, there was also the popularization of API as a business model. You had Stripe, Twilio, and probably 100 companies that do API for X.
All of this was happening, and at LiveRamp, we were a massive data platform essentially and wanted to become API-driven as a way to expand revenues and also serve customers better. I spent a lot of time doing developer tooling and data infrastructure in my role. This meant focusing on setting up the frameworks technically and also teams to build out these products — things that really give developers higher leverage.
While we were there, a whole team focused on API platform building, and the goal was to make it easy for every other company in the organization to ship API’s very quickly. When you work with API’s as a developer, you realize there’s a ton of operational burden that you take on which are actually major business concerns. Like how do your customers interact with you? APIs are a kind of critical product surface area that recently have not gotten nearly as much attention as some of the other spaces like modern data, stack, and cloud. But I think the tailwinds around the explosion of API’s and developers using them means that you need a much better developer experience while using them.
So, a lot of companies like LiveRamp, transitioned from having different customer personas as the target customer to having developers as the target customer. But, the moment devs are your target customer, you have to ship a lot of tooling for them. All of these thoughts were swirling in my mind while I was at LiveRamp. Seeing other companies invest in platform engineering plus the explosion of other platform engineering companies, helped me see a large opportunity. An opportunity for a GitHub site or to go build out something that every company could use to ship great API experiences.
That’s where Speakeasy started, and we set out wanting to build something that would let every company have a Stripe-quality API experience for their customers. That was the origin story for Speakeasy. Over the last couple of months, we’ve brought on a couple of customers, built a team, and really gone deep into product thinking around how we build developer experience products. At the end of the day, Speakeasy is a developer experience product and we really want to be that kind of platform team for you on demand.
Despite the challenge, you and your team have done an excellent job quickly recruiting talented engineers at a very early-stage business. What has been your secret?
We had to develop a whole hiring model. I should preface by saying after several weeks of failing and figuring it out, we had to develop a model around essentially having folks contract with us for a couple of weeks, and then turning that into full time engagements. So to date, we have not run an interview, so to speak, at Speakeasy. We know this won’t scale forever. We will have more formal interview processes at some point. But for the team size we’re at, everyone has been someone who kind of naturally found fit and grew into being part of the company. That’s something we’ve all really enjoyed. It’s helped de-risk hiring for us, and also, hopefully built stronger bonds between our early team.
I also highly recommend communicating the vision and team values early on during any hiring process. When founding team members are evaluating you and you’re evaluating them, it’s not just skill sets that matter. I would actually almost rank the skill set as furthest on the stack rank of things to look at.
The YC quote of slope over intercept, right? You want people growing quickly, but you have to think about how you communicate the value prop and the growth at working in a startup to someone. Part of it is obviously selling them on the product vision, but also the vision of what kind of team this is going to be. I think on an early version of our website, we actually had team values. We had a little snippet of our shared vision that we put out there. So for folks reading, we wanted them to be able to read that as much as actually read about the product and what we’re building. I definitely encourage founders to think deeply about how to communicate what kind of team you want it to be early on. It matters!
🤝 Pardon the Introduction: Candace Williams
Claremont and Stanford graduate Candace Williams is an educator and startup operator turned software engineer. Early in her career, she helped launch General Assembly’s first online education product and grew it to 5,000+ students. Candace was also the Head of Community Growth for podcasting ad tech company BlogTalkRadio, which Voxnest later acquired. As a self-taught software engineer, her most recent project was building out Spheri – a web app that gives music recommendations based on the weather. Her app received 500+ upvotes in Reddit’s r/Python and has GitHub contributors.
Candace combines a teacher's empathy, a social scientist's curiosity, and a developer's problem-solving skills to build impactful products. She is currently looking for full-time backend, full-stack, or data engineering roles that would allow her to work remotely and learn from seasoned software engineers. If you or your company have any openings that may be relevant, email Candace here!
💼 Who’s Hiring?:
Kinside, founded by Claremont graduate and CEO Shadiah Sigala, tackles the single most challenging part of being a working parent in the modern world: childcare. They believe all families deserve access to high-quality, affordable care. Since launching in 2020, Kinside now serves more than 4,000 employers and their employees, who get access to a database of available childcare providers and a tech-forward way to pay for it. The company has raised $16M from YC, Magnify Ventures, Initialized, and Maven. They’re currently looking for an Associate to assist operations and growth in varying projects:
Co-founded by Claremont alumnus and CTO Timothy Morgan, DeepSurface Security is a fast-growing software development company that is changing how companies address risk in their cybersecurity systems. They are the first risk-based vulnerability management platform that allows cybersecurity teams to automate the process of analyzing and prioritizing vulnerabilities. Created by a team of cybersecurity experts, DeepSurface is highly trusted by enterprise companies and is funded by top firms such as Differential Ventures, Osage Venture Partners, Voyager Capital, and Cascade Seed Fund. Check out their opening for a Senior Account Executive:
Check out the other ~5,000 open jobs at 400+ Claremont-affiliated companies here on our Storyboard. Plus, create a profile and enter your preferences to get alerted to new job postings relevant to you, be they the 1,000+ remote jobs, 100+ internships, or 40+ part-time positions available. We’ve published research that shows that Claremont-founded companies that disproportionately hire Claremont talent outperform — so pay attention, Claremonsters!
If any of these roles catch your eye 👀 , apply and mention Between the Lines. Or, if you are an employer looking to hire tip-top Claremont talent, fill out this form to have your jobs featured.
🗣️ Conversations on the Interwebz:
This week’s top Claremont financing 💸
Congratulations to Claremont alumnus Maddie Hall and her company, Living Carbon, on their recent $21M Series A led by Temasek. Living Carbon is an SF-based biotech startup that's making trees more efficient at capturing carbon from the atmosphere.
This week’s top listens 🎧
Claremont alumnus and BeatBox CEO Justin Fenchel sat down with Beyond 8 Figures to share some of the lessons he’s learned from his journey of successfully scaling a business and creating an employee-first culture. His company, BeatBox Beverages, is now the #1 fastest-selling ready-to-drink cocktail & wine brand in the U.S.
In this recent episode of the 4thly podcast, Bret Waters invited Claremont alumnus Asher Weiss to talk about how he transitioned from being the Golden State Warriors’ digital product manager to a startup founder. Asher is the co-founder and CEO of Tixologi – a next-generation ticketing platform for sports and other events, using blockchain as an underlying technology.
Can’t get enough of Between the Lines? Follow and connect with us on Twitter!
🍽️ BTL Snacks:
📢 The Next Gen Of Marketing….. In the last decade, several companies have made a name for themselves in MarTech. But what’s next? Claremont alumnus Adam Schoenfeld shares his insights on how the industry will evolve in the next few years and some of the companies he’s keeping on his watch list. Adam is the co-founder of media company PeerSignal and B2B software startup Keyplay, which recently came out of stealth with a $3M Seed round.
🌳 Another Round To Save The Planet….. Biotech startup Living Carbon shares how they’re accelerating efforts towards removing global emissions with their Series A raise. With years of hyper-focused R&D, the biotech startup has developed a hybrid poplar tree that accumulates up to 27% more carbon than regular plants. Claremont graduate Maddie Hall is the co-founder and CEO of Living Carbon. Maddie shares more on how they’re planting 5M trees and what’s in store for 2023.
A: During 2022, 88 Claremont-founded startups raised $6,918,405,631 in funding
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