Why do we need another shipping API?

Thursday Postmen

Why do we need another shipping API?

Every Thursday, we will be talking about how/why/what for Postmen which you will learn about new features, updates or even team culture at Postmen.

Today I will talk about our reason of developing this Postmen product and struggles about the pricing plan.

Salute to awesome shipping APIs and apps:

There are quite a number of startups / companies providing shipping APIs (aka stripe for shipping since 2009, and we told ourselves there were no reasons that we need to be involved in this product as someone else can do a better job:
1. EasyPost (founded in 2013, $3.45M funding)
2. Shippo (founded in 2013, $2.28M funding)
3. ShipStation (founded in 2011, $50M acquisition by stamps.com)
4. Metapack (founded in 1999, $30.77M funding)
5. Temando (founded in 2009, $56M funding)
6. Postmaster.io (founded in 2012, $718k funding)
7. ShippingEasy (founded in 2011, unknown funding)

Begin with a user request

Weird enough, our users from time to time asked us if we can provide a more intuitive shipping API, and support more carriers in Asia or other countries. So we began an experiment in Sep 2014 for a well-known online retailer in the market as per their request, aiming to launch the API by Dec 2014 with a focus on carriers in Asia. Well..we did ship an alpha product but it was not good enough to introduce to the world.

Difficulties faced when building Postmen Alpha:
  1. Developers or business team find it hard to understand carrier's integration documentations as it is long (like 500 pages for fedex)
  2. The more carriers integrated, the shipping APIs get more complicated.
  3. No unified method to integrate different carriers as integration of each carrier is totally different (e.g. DHL need only one call to make label, some need 3 calls)

The experiment made us realize the difficulties of building a developer friendly and scalable shipping API and why other shipping APIs / apps may struggle to grow exponentially. We need a better plan for Postmen to become scalable - to integrate like 300 carriers+ and add a carrier in a lightning speed (say 5 hours each).

Rework and launch Beta Postmen

With thought of making Postmen scalable, we have spent 6 months to restructure the team (more hiring), system architect and most importantly.....spend tones of time to understand the carrier integration documents (especially ups, dhl, fedex, usps) so that we can set a revised skeleton and process flow to allow developer to add new carriers easily.

Improvements on Postmen Beta
  1. Simplified structure of Postmen APIs
  2. A beautiful API documentation and an explorer tool!
  3. Developers can integrate one carrier within a week with test cases (yes test cases)
  4. Postmen now support 23 couriers as of Nov 20

The team grows a lot too, which we can cover another time on how we build teams for a 30-people developer-focus startup.

Goal of Postmen?

We want to make a scalable shipping API that developers can add shipping capability to their apps easily. We welcome other shipping apps or even shipping APIs to integrate with Postmen.