Disruption is a core aspect of Uber’s business model and identity. Like many other businesses in this era of digital transformation and the API platform, Uber rose to prominence by giving an old service model—the taxi—a tech-forward face-lift. Now that ride-sharing is the standard service model, disruption means growing within and beyond their space—such as through their recent partnership with Cargo, which provides Uber passengers snacks to purchase during a ride.
Uber’s expansion into various side hustles is interesting on its face. But it also raises important questions for businesses wanting to make their own transformation. How can they benefit from partnering with third-party services? What problems come with total reinvention? And how can the right technology help?
What Can You Own?
Uber’s story has a key takeaway for businesses. While the enterprise world’s biggest players can conquer an amazing portfolio of goods—everything from home electronics and streaming video to shipping and logistics—Uber focuses more narrowly on evaluating the company’s space and strengths to identify possibilities for strategic partnerships. These partnerships help them own their place in the market.
There is no shortage of real-world success stories like Uber’s. Companies absorb others to upgrade some aspect of their capabilities without the legwork, expense, and toil of ground-up development. High-profile partnerships like the Uber-Cargo arrangement form when two companies wish to expand their presence or offerings without formally moving into the space of another. These businesses reap the benefits of growth without facing the challenges of full-on expansion.
That said, businesses don’t have to agree to partnerships, acquisitions, or mergers to tap their strengths. Smartly selected technological tools—often provided by a third-party vendor partner—can promote equivalent growth while the first-party company maintains its independence. This is where API platforms come in; they’re powerful, flexible tools that help businesses expand their technological capabilities with less effort and expense than the rigors of first-party development.
What Can the Right API Platform Do for You?
There’s clearly a reason the term “disruption” has become a business mainstay. Anyone familiar with modern success traits understands that disruption has become necessary for advancement.
APIs have features that can help companies be disruptive:
- Simplicity. Perhaps the defining top-level feature of an API platform is its ability to add flexible, powerful capability to a company’s current or upcoming slate of technological products. For many companies, this is transformative enough on its own: With a communications-focused platform, for instance, the ability to quickly add features like in-app messaging or calling (instead of building the tools themselves, establishing carrier relationships across region, etc.) is the ability to revolutionize internal and customer-facing tools with speed.
- Power. Even “minor” features on a customer’s side require significant technical architecture on the back end. Hence, tools that add major capability with minimal effort provide a faster path to disruption and space ownership. In the example of communications APIs, this could mean leveraging the API provider’s ability to carry messages over a network, letting customers or employees connect with others through the company’s newly updated app.
- Flexibility and scalability. Whether a business runs a small test of its expanded functionality or immediately rolls out to thousands of waiting users, APIs can help. They save the first party from the expenses and growing pains that come with start-fresh development.
Speaking of starting fresh, APIs offer another space-ownership perk for the companies using them. In almost all cases, they let companies avoid a total refresh or overhaul of their existing technical structure. At minimum, this reduces companies’ risk (and expense and effort) when trying to expand, disrupt, or capture a larger part of the market based on recognized strengths and capabilities. Depending on the need and situation, a company could use APIs to avoid a complete redo of an app they’re otherwise happy with. APIs could also save the company from expansive procedural changes on the human side and architectural expansion on the technical.
The Strategic Growth Potential of APIs
Ultimately, APIs can help businesses grow in any direction they wish (or that their circumstances allow). One company could leverage the technology to upgrade their internal communications capability, supporting the type of cross-location communication that helps any organization flourish. Another could use similar tools to expand in their space, bringing offerings similar to a competitor’s without building a competing product from the ground up.
Equally important, though, is the technology’s ability to support organizations as they look for realistic ways to disrupt. When treading water and rebuilding from scratch are both unattractive options, APIs can help.