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Pencil Banner aims to innovate faster by thinking 'API-first'

Anh Nguyen | Aug. 5, 2014 is speeding up its innovation cycles by using APIs to mock up new features more quickly. is speeding up its innovation cycles by using APIs to mock up new features more quickly.

The hotels website has recently started using an API management platform from Apigee, which is providing it with a range of benefits, as well as changing how the business develops mobile and website applications.

Using APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), code that grants access to each application in a system, allows to create new apps by simply configuring features rather than writing code.

"They can build stuff much quicker," said Stuart Hughes, CTO of the Manchester-based

"We can build mock versions of the service in a couple of days, trial a feature without having to build [the whole app]." is about innovating quickly, said Hughes, which is what Apigee allows the company to do.

"It drives the innovation cycle to have smaller feedback loops," he said, adding that the feedback cycle has gone from months to just days.

APIs are becoming such an important part of the business that Hughes wants his developers to "think API-first".

"We are looking at building the API in Apigee and the mobile development teams start to integrate with the service. We are putting APIs at the heart of everything we do, then you integrate everything with it." has created a set of micro APIs, each with a single function, and using Apigee to combine them to create a new feature with richer functionality.

Fostering third-party innovation

Another major reason why wanted to implement an API management layer was to encourage developers to choose to use its hotel rooms feed, to create apps that sell rooms on the company's behalf.

"If you're a small business, start-up or developer, that needs a hotel-level room feed, I want you to choose us because it's really easy to integrate with us, and because we have the best service," said Hughes, saying that "hundreds" of people connect to the firm's APIs, including Trivago and Travel Supermarket.

"We didn't have an API management layer before. It meant we had to be more diligent. We had to vet [developers using the company's APIs] more thoroughly."

Another benefit of the Apigee platform is that can use it to understand the activity going through its APIs.

"We can see error rates and performance levels," said Hughes.

"It gives the service team insight to ensure we provide a great service to our customers," Hughes said. Customers in this context are developers and other third-party users of its APIs.

Internal innovation

This week, as part of an attempt to create a "culture of innovation" across the company, ran its first internal hack day for anyone in the business, from the call centre to finance, to spend 24 hours building something new for the business.


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