My journey from thinking no one would ever solve the API demo problem to a Google search that changed my career.
Visualizing the Invisible
“There must be a better way to do this.”
This thought rang in my head as I was preparing to lead a demo of our API platform for a seven-figure prospective customer.
After experiencing customer complaints, issues, and poor engagement during API demos for nearly a decade, I wondered if I had to accept this as a permanent pain.
As the solutions engineering team leader at multiple API platforms, my team & I experienced countless scenarios when we needed to showcase our APIs, yet (not for lack of effort) we were humbled by a seemingly small but pervasive problem: How exactly do you visualize your APIs to a customer?
How had no one solved for this? Why was it so hard to show APIs to a customer?
I confirmed that I wasn’t alone. Every SE, sales, engineering, design, and marketing team at similar API platforms I spoke to knew this demo reality far too well.
API documentation, engineering tools, schematics, visual diagrams, slide decks, and custom (but not scalable) demos all attempted yet failed time and time again to address the most common pain point I have experienced in my career:
Buyers want to see the end-user experiences created by the API.
So what specifically occurs when a potential buyer needs to see the possibilities of what the API could power?
Here is a snippet of just a few ways I've observed teams attempt and consistently fail to solve for this problem:
- Custom Demo: A “SWAT team” of stakeholders from across the organization come together for the “Gold” customer and end up spending 100s of precious human capital hours on a stitched together demo that can only be used for this single customer.
- Schematics & Diagrams: Although these are highly valuable for designing technical architecture, they fall short in visualizing the end possibilities of an API.
- Engineering Tools: You can use developer tools to demonstrate the API code, however they don’t represent any of the end user possibilities with the APIs and are not purpose-built for API product demos.
- API Documentation: Sending API docs to a customer makes it feel like a homework assignment. Your API docs could be beautifully written, designed, and displayed, but you can’t see what the APIs could power or visualize the possibilities of the end product built on top of the API.
- Slide Deck Presentations: I’ve attended customer workshops where the most elegant & meticulous slide presentations were painstakingly built by an army of designers, marketers, solutions engineers, and sales executives, yet they fell far short of visualizing the APIs for a potential customer.
These square pegs never did the job for me as the SE and for the prospects evaluating the API.
Whatever it was about this particular day, something just clicked.
We needed an API demo for this large prospect, but I knew pulling up Postman or my Lucid diagram would put my audience to sleep. We didn’t have time to pull in designers or product marketing to build something completely bespoke.
After a quick Google search for “API demo product”, I found Coast.
Their product is a simple yet highly customizable and responsive demo tool that is purpose-built for showcasing an API.
Finally, I had my answer.
As a Coast user, I could create a customized demo of my API with my prospective customer’s logo, color scheme, styles, and use case in less than 5 clicks.
Equally as impressive, Coast’s product is designed for a prospective customer to interact with the customized demo, so they can see the APIs in action, along with a visual interface of how their end-user will interact with their product… as if it was already integrated. Magic.
In short, the Coast product created a story for prospective customers to follow alongside the APIs in action. It empowered me as an SE to create a powerful API demo by myself in minutes.
The potential value of Coast to an API firm was as immediate & clear as anything I’ve encountered in my career.
No more starting from scratch on demos for each prospect.
No more lost engagement during critical stages of the sales cycle.
No more trying to verbalize to developers and business stakeholders the possibilities of your APIs.
No more waiting on an internal technical resource to help move a prospect in the sales funnel.
With Coast, you can create & control a narrative to tell with your APIs by customizing the UI flow of each demo, all completely tailored to the prospective customer.
You can engage on a deeper level with your audience by displaying API calls that the prospects can interact with and see the responsive changes to the code alongside a sample UI.
You can educate your customers more effectively, accelerating time to contract, time to implementation, and time to ramp.
You can make selling API code exciting, engaging, and interactive.
You can truly show your API platform to the market.
All of this would have been enough potential alone to join Coast.
To my delight, the Coast team had already built strong relationships in the API market with several key customers across multiple industries including payments, card issuing, risk, banking, cloud authorization, HRIS, and many others.
Familiar API platforms with strong pedigrees in the market like Middesk, Sardine, Oso, Skyflow, Check, Orum and many other recognizable brands underscored the trust Coast has already built in the marketplace.
One of my favorite customer quotes came from Tyler Nix, the Founding Solution Engineer @ Finch:
“Every customer is blown away by the experience. It definitely solves the gap for us in trying to help people understand our request/response format of our API in a logical story format without making it look too technical.”
Additionally, multiple investors provided me with powerful insight into the value they see not just in the team, but in the Coast product.
A key investor quote came directly from Calvin French-Owen, Co-Founder @ Segment.
“Pretty much every API company struggles with implementation time. It takes anywhere from weeks to months to show a customer the value of your product. Coast changes that by offering customized demos from day 1. Instead of telling a customer what they will get from your product, you can actually show them. That’s incredibly powerful.”
Growth at Coast means many things to me, but here is a snapshot of my key focus areas in 2023:
- We want to give every prospective customer, regardless of their size, a “Gold” customer demo experience.
- We want to empower all teams, regardless of technical aptitude, with a tool to in essence become a proxy solutions engineer, designer, product marketer, or engineer.
- Traditional API demos are exceedingly boring, forgettable, and impersonal. We want to make API demos exciting, memorable, and interactive for your customers!
- At Coast, we want to focus on building best-in-class API enablement tools so that our customers and respective teams can focus on their core business.
- Leverage our customer’s analytics to continue to tell our joint story in the market (e.g. how is Coast improving our customer’s deal conversion, efficiency, time saved on demos, prospect engagement, etc.).
- Listen to our customers, who are our most vital resource to learning about new problems, product recommendations, and feedback.
- Education & Awareness. API platforms either (1) think the way they demo their APIs today is good enough or (2) they know their demo process is insufficient, but aren’t aware of an alternative. I’m passionate & driven about educating the market on the gold standard for presenting your APIs to the market.
Fintech has been my corporate home for seven years, but this won’t be my final chapter in the industry, as the Coast team continues to build strong relationships in the fintech community as part of our wider customer portfolio.
Finally, I look forward to publishing similar articles, customer case studies, and market reports in the subsequent months.
Keep an eye out for Coast!