by Scott Sandell, Andrew Schoen and Alex Sharata
In today's interconnected world, data is the lifeblood of business. The ability to share and integrate that data across different systems and applications is critical to success. This is where application networks come in; providing a framework for companies to connect their various systems, data, and applications in a seamless and efficient manner.
In 2017, we authored The Rise of Application Networks to illustrate our long-time belief in backing companies that benefit from network effects. We outlined the enormous potential of foundational integration-layer companies MuleSoft and Plaid, which enable enterprises to connect their various applications, data sources, and devices into a single unified platform.
The unlock from MuleSoft and Plaid in business productivity and application development cannot be overstated. MuleSoft's API-led connectivity has been at the forefront of the application network revolution, helping businesses create integrated systems that automate processes, improve customer experiences, and drive innovation.
Meanwhile, Plaid's robust API for financial data access and integration has revolutionized the way fintech applications are built, and Plaid has been the engine powering fintech innovation over the past decade.
API 1.0 companies have enabled businesses of all sizes to focus on what they do best: delivering exceptional products and services to their customers.
It is worth emphasizing the fundamental nature of the API 1.0 thesis, which has provided the bedrock upon which the next generations of APIs are built. Companies that pioneered this, such as MuleSoft and Plaid, have carved out a significant place for themselves in the API landscape. Their contributions in creating unified platforms that facilitated internal and external integrations were not only transformational when deployed, but will continue to have staying power and expanded reach for decades to come.
Even as we embark on the journey towards API 2.0 and beyond, the solutions that emerged from API 1.0 will persist, thriving in their roles as the foundational, irreplaceable, critical layers and systems. As the adage goes, we can only see further by standing on the shoulders of giants, and in the world of APIs, MuleSoft and Plaid unquestionably hold that mantle.
Merge offers one unified API platform for creating and managing integrations. Image Source: Merge, August 2023
Today, however, building and managing the proliferating array of necessary API integrations can be complex, time-consuming, and daunting—and these challenges persist with the continued growth in application networks.
This is true for both emerging startups and well-established corporations. Integrations make it possible for a company's offerings to interface with an ever-expanding network of third-party software suppliers. Yet the development, upkeep, and nuance of these integrations are not without their difficulties: inconsistencies in data fields, sudden changes to APIs, and a perpetually growing catalog of integration requests from clients all plague the developers that build and maintain these suites of integrations.
In today's digital age, the development of software necessitates integrations.
More often than not, despite the considerable investment of time and developer expertise, these integrations fail to function as expected, don't scale well, or produce erroneous data. The operational drag and developer fatigue associated with maintaining an ever-expanding and ever-scaling suite of critical integrations creates an immense burden for companies’ engineering teams.
Companies now need a unified system to manage API sprawl—one API to rule them all. This is where Merge comes in. Merge is a cloud-native platform that provides a unified, developer-friendly interface that simplifies the process of creating and managing API integrations. Merge offers a unified API for integrations with comprehensive coverage across their key categories, which today include: HRIS, ATS, accounting, ticketing, CRM, marketing, and file storage.
With Merge, businesses can easily create, deploy, and manage a suite of integrations without the significant expenditure of engineering resources on this non-core challenge, sparing them from significant operational drag and often providing a strong competitive edge. This speeds up product and go-to-market timelines, reduces expenditure on non-core engineering projects, reduces sales friction, and increases market competitiveness by eliminating their API sprawl though one unified platform.
The progression from API 1.0 to API 2.0 represents a paradigm shift in the way businesses interact with application networks. API 1.0 essentially centered around creating connections within an organization's internal systems, providing seamless integration and interoperability between various tools and data sources.
MuleSoft was instrumental in championing this API 1.0 revolution, allowing businesses to automate processes and enhance customer experiences through streamlined integration of their internal tools. Similarly, Plaid facilitated the connection of fintech products to consumer services, such as bank accounts, thereby enabling financial service providers to build more personalized and effective solutions for their customers.
API 2.0 addresses the potential of connecting a company's software to entire categories of external APIs provided by SaaS vendors, unifying those data, managing arrays of integrations, and creating connections across a wide range of B2B APIs. We believe Merge is the leading company pioneering this next chapter in the API space, with the most comprehensive, robust, innovative, seamless and high-quality product offering on the market today.
This shift to API 2.0 unlocks an array of possibilities for organizations.
Companies that leverage Merge can more efficiently and rapidly launch extensive, interconnected applications and products. Merge customers benefit from:
more rapid time to market
more comprehensive integration coverage
lower operational drag (particularly in the engineering org)
more seamless management of integrations
Merge automates many of the time-consuming tasks involved in building and managing API integrations. This includes everything from:
requesting and provisioning API access
configuring and mapping API-sourced data to the relevant customer use cases
maintaining continuity of these data models over time
managing security settings
detecting potential issues
By automating these tasks, Merge enables businesses to focus on their core operations, freeing up valuable time and resources.
Merge's modular architecture allows businesses to add or remove components as needed to meet their evolving needs. The architecture even allows for defining and mapping custom objects and fields. We believe this flexibility—paired with the assurance of continuity, security and stability—solves multiple critical pain points for customers.
The suite of unified API integrations Merge has built allows its customers to apply a single set of rules and business logic across all integrations, saving time and money on development resources that would otherwise be expended on building individual API integrations.
By integrating a wider range of B2B APIs and providing a unified API for these integrations, our view is that Merge is poised to become a game-changer in the application network ecosystem. This exciting shift in the API landscape aligns perfectly with NEA’s vision to partner with innovative businesses that are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the realm of application networks.
Merge offers API integrations across multiple mission-critical business systems, including:
This list continues to grow. By unifying APIs and providing increased coverage and compatibility, Merge's platform helps its customers win sales and better focus their engineering resources on building and shipping critical product features.
As we reflect on NEA's history of backing category-defining API-first businesses, Merge represents a significant advancement in the evolution of APIs and application networks. By simplifying the process of creating and managing APIs, Merge enables businesses to build more connected and efficient application networks.
With data playing an increasingly important role in business, the ability to integrate and connect different systems and applications is becoming more critical than ever before. Merge's platform provides businesses with the necessary tools to build and manage robust application networks that can automate processes, improve customer experiences, and drive innovation.
We have been proud backers of Merge since leading the company's Seed round in 2020, doubling down in the Series A, and most recently investing in the Series B. Merge co-founders Shensi Ding and Gil Feig, and the rest of the team have worked tirelessly to scale Merge's universe of integrations while serving an impressive roster of customers.
Merge has quickly established itself as a leader in the API space and we believe will continue to capitalize on the growing demand for API-first solutions. As Merge grows and advances, breaking new ground and transforming how businesses think about integrations and APIs, we continue to be in awe of the team’s abilities and honored to be their partners.
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