Product Partnerships; Are API Providers Partners?
So in my last article about product partnerships, I gave an explainer of what partnerships are and how to go about them but then I didn’t get into how you can approach product partnerships. I will get into that later but first I want to try and focus on another area entirely, something I cannot get off my mind.
So the tweet above caused quite a stir and if you consider the context of the tweet’s author, you’d understand why that tweet may stand I will use a term popularized by the Kano prioritization model to lay some light.
Today’s delighters will be tomorrow’s must-haves
Maya works in the venture capital space where she gets decks or interacts with Startups who would probably use the line;
We are partnering with Paystack, Flutterwave, Teamapt etc.
For VCs, integrating Paystack or Flutterwave is a must-have unless you want to build a payment gateway for your product by yourself. These integrations power products but they aren’t strategic in the eyes of a VC. The product team building the product might consider them strategic for scale and functionality but they don’t really impress VCs.
The reason why I am writing this is that I had a number of people message me with screenshots of the tweet asking me if it was wrong to call Flutterwave their partner.
I am writing this article to find out if these API companies see themselves as partners to startups.
Let’s start from the beginning, what are partnerships?
To Quote Me:
Partnerships are when two or more parties come together for mutual benefit, it could be in marriage, it could be in a business, or in a tag team match 🌚.
If you were to relate this to tech products, partnerships would be two or more products coming together for their mutual benefit or to achieve a common goal.
A couple of things make a partnership and they are:
- The needs and goals of both parties.
- The commitments they both have to make to each other to achieve these goals.
- An agreement to ensure both parties are committed to making the partnership a success and to regulate their operations.
To make my case on whether or not API providers like Paystack, Mono, Flutterwave, and Onepipe see startups that leverage them as infrastructure I am going to provide some evidence of the fact.
Let’s look at how API providers actually see businesses that use their API.
The premise for this evaluation is that there must be an agreement stating that they are partners and other highlights that might actually give us some insights that they are partners.
Flutterwave positions itself as a partner for the merchants and businesses that use them so it was no shock that they referred to themselves as partners in their merchant agreement.
But apart from that, there have been other cases where Flutterwave refers to merchants that serve them as partners. A good example would be during the Flutterwave 3.0 event when GB referred to Odun as a partner, it doesn't take a genius to realize that he was referring to Piggyvest as their partner.
Paystack does not come all out as a Partner but as a contractor which is essentially the same thing as saying we deliver on this for you in exchange for this. They do not make it as glam as Flutterwave but they see themselves as a growth engine for businesses that leverage their infrastructure.
Another interesting thing about Paystack’s relations with businesses is a particular section in their terms that states that they have the right to publicize businesses that leverage their products but they do not endorse them. Other companies publicize businesses that leverage their infrastructure but Paystack is one that has been very clear on the terms of that publicity.
One thing is clear, Paystack may not come out to clearly state they are partners but they make it clear that they care about businesses that work with them which give off partnerships vibes.
Apart from that, major startups referred to Paystack as their Partner in their early days, there are a plethora of videos you can watch where they say this continuously but one that stands out for me is when Odun Eweniyi said it in an interview with Peace Itimi (Apparently, Youtube subtitles thinks Paystack means Please That).
Mono comes out directly about developers and businesses being partners. It refers to them as partners and even dedicates a section of its website and refers to it as Partner Stories.
You would find some popular African startups that Mono refers to as partners.
Onepipe has a unique way of approaching partnerships by using the term Integration which we discussed in this article as being a form of partnership between products to help one party build faster and the other make money from the infrastructure that they provide.
One pipe is actually a distinct case because it leverages partnerships with other financial technology firms and banks to offer other types of businesses and even fintech infrastructure to embed Finance on the platform.
Based on all that has been stated, one thing is clear. Startups calling API companies partners is completely accurate but it’s a whole different ball game when you start to look at the context.
By context I mean who are you telling Flutterwave is a partner.
Investors, Customers, or Internal Stakeholders?
Sure, Flutterwave would be happy to call you their Partner, they get paid every time you get paid but they do not move the needle for you in terms of customer acquisition and getting investment because they serve about 900.000 businesses in Africa.
Being one of those in Africa would not make you distinct and it would not make VCs thirsty for you. Information like that may make more sense to other strategic partners who leverage Flutterwave and would work with you because of that and in some cases, it might make sense internally, and depending on your type of business it might make sense to your customers.
I hope this clears your doubt on whether or not they are partners and hopefully in my next article I would touch on strategic partnerships.
I’d also look at why certain integrations are strategic, there is a reason why people leave Paystack for Flutterwave and vice versa.