An API-based startup is one of the best business concepts to build up using the bootstrapping method. Being able to retain total control over a fledgling firm rather than relinquishing any to outside investors is appealing for any entrepreneur, and you can get an API up and running with a little of your own capital, then perpetuate its growth with the revenue it generates.

Of course just because this is theoretically attractive as an option, that doesn’t mean it is easy to achieve in practice. What you need is the right approach, and some game-changing strategies to get you over the initial hump on the road to viability.

With that in mind, here are a trio of tips that can turn a basic API startup concept into a fully bootstrapped, potentially lucrative business.


Sell first, build later

It may sound bizarre, but with the way that APIs work, you can go out and sell the idea behind them before you’ve even built the nuts and bolts of the solution itself.

It’s all about finding a pain point that a potential client has, and offering to fix it for them with the automation-enabling power of an API.

You can even go so far as arranging a licensing deal and setting a price. Then, when you know you have at least one customer champing at the bit, you can get down to brass tacks.

And by using automated API tests, triggered upon a certain event like a repository push, the process of putting your concept through its paces ahead of launch will be easy as well.


Integrate existing APIs

When building a new service to act as the cornerstone of your startup, you don’t have to rely entirely on in-house creations. In fact, with the right combination of third party APIs and tools, it’s possible to make boundary-pushing products that require minimal effort or capital to get up and running.

It’s sensible to start with established, respected services that offer APIs anyone can license for their own purposes. This might be anything from the Google Maps API to the API of a CRM or VoIP platform; it really doesn’t matter.

What does make a difference in this context is that by turning to tools that are already tried and tested, you will be building your business on sturdy foundations.

Furthermore, it’s not just a relevant strategy today, but one which will pay dividends going forward.

The third party vendor will be putting in all the effort to update their service and keep their API up and running, so any products you make which use it will also have access to these improvements, with no extra work on your part.

While you won’t always be able to kick back and reap the rewards of third party integrations indefinitely, it’s certainly a sensible short to mid term solution to your startup bootstrapping ambitions.


Join forces with partner platforms

Making a marketing splash is tricky for any startup, especially one which has limited resources to work with from a funding perspective. This is once again where having APIs on your side is an advantage, since by making your products integratable by third parties, in turn you can benefit from any positive momentum that they are able to generate.

Likewise it will be in their interest to promote the availability of your products in conjunction with what they provide to customers, which will allow newcomers to gain recognition and attention without having to allocate any budget to advertising right off the bat.

This kind of strategy is obviously appealing to startups, and it not only works in an API-focused scenario, but also applies to all sorts of up and coming organizations across different industries and with different products and services to supply.

In short, there’s no need to be scared of working with third parties, because if a mutually beneficial arrangement emerges from your interactions, then it will clearly have been a winning move.


Final thoughts

If you are bootstrapping an API startup, the temptation to turn all your attention inwards on the product itself can blind you to the opportunities that are out there.

Conversely, a clever approach to sales, the use of existing resources, and a willingness to work with others will set you on a fruitful course.