Jakub Nesetril is the founder of Apiary.io, a hosted suite of tools that help companies build web APIs quickly, test & monitor them easily and document them effortlessly. Prior to starting Apiary, Jakub was the first employee at GoodData, another startup where he led the engineering team. In our interview we talked about the idea behind Apiary, getting funding and scaling the business.
Hi Jakub, How are you doing, great to have you on YHP?
Thanks for having me Joseph.
Could you quickly give us some background information about yourself? Tell me about yourself growing up?
I am a classical story of a passionate programmer - grew up loving mathematics, got into programing when I was 8, got my first computer when I was 10 - and never really looked back since. It was only in high-school that I discovered I also love doing things end-to-end - not just developing programs, but also negotiating with customers, selling my products, supporting them etc. I founded my first development company when I was 20.
How did you get into business? Were you exposed to entrepreneurship as a child?
Both of my parents are university professors (in mathematics) so I wasn’t really brought up as an entrepreneur. However, I always had people around me with world-class ambitions (and world-class success). So it was quite natural for me to expect to do the same with my companies.
Who was your inspiration growing up and why?
In high-school, a life-time friend of mine Marek Antos started his (very successful) business and influenced me heavily to try the same. That was perhaps my pivotal moment.
What was the inspiration behind Apiary? How did the idea come about?
In a previous startup, my development team was struggling with finding the right way to build APIs. Since we were partnering with a lot of Silicon Valley companies, I reached out to them and asked what infrastructure or outsourcing they used for building APIs. One-by-one they all answered that they built all the infrastructure in-house. That struck me as odd - it's a lot of development work, it's largely identical between companies, they all need it but it’s not their core business. I thought - somebody ought to solve this...
So Jakub, what is Apiary? What are you guys are trying to solve?
APIs (application programming interfaces) are the new linguaga franca of the web, it’s how software integrates together. It's the key behind social networks, mobile apps, SaaS products, cloud services - you name it. It is a hugely exploding market - going from 1.000 APIs a couple years back to 1.000.000 APIs in a couple years from now. Everybody does it. But the only tools available for this segment are huge, cumbersome and expensive enterprise software tools built a decade ago. We're disrupting that market - bringing world-class API infrastructure to companies large and small.
What were you doing before you founded Apiary?
I worked at another startup called GoodData and led the engineering team. Joined as the first employee, left when we had 50 people in Prague and 20 in San Francisco.
What was your biggest challenge during the starting up phase?
Everything is a challenge. Understanding your users, moving at speed, making strategic decisions, building out your business model, connecting with investors. For me with a traditional developer background, getting up-to-speed with business topics was important.
How have you been able to fund the business?
We went through a UK Cambridge-based accelerator Springboard in summer last year and have raised a pre-seed round of $120k from amazing investors in tech space like Esther Dyson and Neil Davidson.
What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
We're still starting out, still growing, it's too early to tell. In our specific market (developers) a total focus on the product is paramount. If you make an amazing product (not just good or great) then the news about it spreads like wild-fire. We have more interest then we can handle any day now - our biggest contraint is growing the company quickly enough, not growing the userbase.
Would you say the business has changed from the first initial idea?
First, we had a vague idea (something ought to be done about this). Then we had a head full of ideas (we could do all of these 50 great opportunities). Figuring out the right go-to-market strategy, picking our first goal and focusing on that - that was the most critical change we went through. Focus is everything in startups.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
I am writing it right now. I always was. Each year is better than all the ones before it.
What can we be expecting from your company in 2012?
We’ll raise another round, we’ll multiply our userbase by a factor of 10. We’re going to announce strategic partnership and a new product. We’re very excited about what the future holds and we’re rolling full-steam ahead.
What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Pick a co-founder you know well. Focus on what pain you solve, what value you bring to your customers. That’s the paramount. Over-service them at the start (we strive to respond to support requests even for non-paying users 24/7 max. within a couple hours).