Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Striking The Right Balance With API Evangelist Partners

I get a lot of requests from individuals and companies who want to "partner" with me, with many meanings to what this actually means. As a one person operation I have to be very careful who I engage with, because it is very easy for large organizations, with more resources to drown me in talk, meetings, emails, and other alternatives to actually doing what it is that I do.

Another big challenge in partnering with new startups is that they often do not have a lot of money, lots of potential value, yet an unproven track record. I love believing in new startups, but in a world where they need me in the beginning, and not so much once they've made, I have to be wary any company that walks in the door. You may be a great bunch of folks, but once you pile on enough investors, and changes in executive management along the way--things change. 

I have a lot of startups, VCs, and other companies who love to engage with me, "pick my brain", "understand my expertise", "get my take on where things are going", "craft their strategy", and many other informal ways to tap the experience and perspective I bring to the table. Honestly I thrive on doing this, but after 5 years, and being screwed by numerous startups and open source projects, I am starting to get very weary about who I help.

I understand you are super excited about your new API idea, or service. I can easily get that way too! You see that excitement will fade once you get traction, become attractive to investors, and your willingness to work with me, share your ideas, tools, and resources with the community will fade. Twitter is the best example of this in the wild. No I didn't help Twitter get going, but I've seen the same syndrome play out with 50+ APIs and service provider startups in the last five years of operating.

Startups offer me equity to alleviate my concerns. Yawwwwn! Means nothing. I have a file in the filing cabinet of worthless options. Others offer me some sort of return on traffic I send to them, and conversions I generate. I guess this is a start, but it doesn't touch on the big partner deals I can often help in bringing to the table and educating, and general awareness I work to build in API sector. Traditional tracking mechanisms will only capture a small portion of the value I can potentially generate for an API startup, and honestly is a waste of our time.

This leaves me with just getting to know startups, and dating, as I like to say, for quite a while, before I engage too heavily. My only defense is to be really public with all my partnerships from day one. State publicly, that I am partnering with company X. Then tag each post, white paper, or research project that I do on behalf of a relationship. Don't get me wrong, I get a lot of value of this work I do, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it. However the line I want to draw in the sand, is just a public acknowledgement that I am helping this company figure out their strategy, tell stories, and help shape their layer of the API space.

This post is just me brainstorming a new tier of my partner program, which I'm thinking I will call "strategy and storytelling partners". When I am approached by, or discover a new API company that I find interesting, and I begin investing time and resources into this relationship, I will publish this company on my list of partners. These relationships almost always do not involve money, and usually involve a heavy investment on my part when it comes to helping them walk through strategy, and storytelling around their products, services, and potentially helping define and evolve the sector they are looking to operate within.

In the end, after several weeks of mulling over this subject I do not see any contractual, or technological solution to tracking how I help API startups in the space--it has to be a human solution. I will almost always share the existence of a partnership with a company from day one, and it is up to me to modulate how much "investment" I give, and as this benefits (or not) the startup, it will be up to the company itself to kick-back to me (and the community) as a payback. If you don't, and you end up taking or keeping the lion share of value generate by my work, and the community I bring to the table, it is on you. The timeline will be there for everyone else to judge. #karma

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Taking Another Look At The Tech Blogosphere

I used to be more immersed in the world of top tech blogs, when my partner in crime @AudreyWatters worked at ReadWrite, O'Reilly, and I knew more people on the beat. Over the last couple years, as I keep my laser focus on the API space, and often end up going directly to the sources of API news, I have reduced the the priority of major tech blogs in my feeds, and Twitter stream(s).

During thee planning of @APIStrat, and working with some of my clients at API Evangelist and APIWare, the question of other media sources, destinations, and voices in the tech space keeps coming up. As I'm crafting stories lately, I'm asking myself more and more, where should this be published? And maybe there is more value in some of this content being published beyond just my blogs.

To help me understand the landscape I went through the top tech blogs, and hand crafted a list of them, that I feel are relevant, and willing to sumissions, either as full stories or just as news tips. Here is the version 1.0 of this list:

While there are some other major publications with relevant tech news sections, these 24 represent what I'd consider to be the upper crust of accessible tech blogs, that would entertain tips, news submissions, and contributions from the space.

I'm not naive enough to just submit random stories to the list above, but with the right information, or possibly complete story, submitting to some of them might make sense from time to time. I have given quotes, information, and other contributions to some of these publications already, so I already have some inroads built.

In line with my approach to storytelling in the API space, I will also be working to profile, and built relationships with their editors and writers. I'm already used as the "API correspondent" for some writers at the publications listed above, so adding these companies to my monitoring system, where I can slowly add the writers for each publication, seems like a sensible approach.

It will take time, but I will hopefully be able to expand my information network, to include regular contributing, tipping, and sometimes just pointing more of these tech blogs to where I feel the relevant API stories really are.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

I Am Stumbling Just A Little Bit, Please Bear With Me As I Find My Way

I've been doing API Evangelist for a while now. Most of the time I can make this work, and honestly sometimes I just fucking rock it. Right now, I keep stumbling and falling on my face. I've written the same amount of posts I usually do, but none of them are worthy of posting.

I also find many of the conversations I engage in, I'm overly aggressive--which goes against what I'm about. I'm not apologizing for anything, cause I would ever do anything I don't back up 100%. I just am not my usual self, and I am having trouble figuring out why.

It would be easy to blame some corporate forces that are just pissing me off right now, and people co-opting my work, without any recognition. Honestly this has happened throughout the last five years, and I have nobody to blame but myself.

I always find a way to work through the doldrums, finding my way back tot he center. This particular moment the currents seem a little swifter than normal, and I cannot figure out why. I trust that I will figure this shit out, I just wanted to put out there that I'm working on it.

I cherish my readers, and thrive on shedding light on what is going on. I hope this is just me, and not a signal of what is to come. It is easier if I'm to blame. ;-) See you on the flipside.

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