Competitive advantage in the technology space can be achieved in many ways. With many ventures having limited capital resources, the challenge to rollout of services quickly, efficiently and with minimal capital outlay remains. This often results in companies – startups or not, plugging into other more established platforms in a bid to drive adoption, numbers and reduce time to market.
There are directory services that list available application programming interfaces that have been made available by various companies that allow for the creation of mashups.
One such popular service – programmable web has over 7,093 listed API covering a wide spectrum of services searchable by category. These API’s are available on both free and commercial use models as determined by the companies that make then available. Some of the more popular api’s used are Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Google Maps, Flickr and LinkedIn. No surprises here as these platforms have gone a long way in creating ecosystems that are powered by a large and active user base, reducing the cost and time it would take others to reach the same numbers or build out the technology and manage the attendant costs.
There have been many success stories of companies that have profitably leveraged other platforms but the downside to that dependence has started showing. The argument on who owns the consumer has cropped up with many of the platforms now changing their engagement policy. Twitter has been the most active in the recent past in this regard, throttling third-party access and tightening the noose on what third-parties are allowed to, as they try to switch on their monetization engine whose core collateral are the tweets that you and I put out, which as per their terms of engagement, belong to them.
The other big threat comes in the form of direct competition from the same providers whose api’s you use. These platform owners in a bid to monetize their networks may branch out into verticals where developers innovated on. This can be both a blessing or a curse. A blessing where a buy-out happens giving the startup, innovator or corporate entity a good exit and a curse where the platform provider dives right into the niche and within a short time obliterates the service using the given api’s from a business model perspective or simple audience attrition that throws the service into the dead pool. Local examples trending to this direction can be cited.
For the techpreneur, startup or enterprise innovating from within, the strategy should be to create your own community of users in a way that cuts your dependence on the platform provider. Using the access to migrate users to an ecosystem that you fully control and mange will go a long way in ensuring business longevity and fighting chance should the big boys decide to take a liking to your niche of choice.
Playing in a game where you’re not sure where the goalposts will be on your next turn is a big gamble with long terms odds that any techpreneur would do well to fully consider. That said, riding on the shoulders of giants will give you much needed advantage to scope the field and adjust appropriately. No hard and fast rules here, just be nimble and adapatable.