APIs You Won't Hate

On this episode, Mike talks to cofounder of Merge, Gil Feig, about building a service that integrates with many APIs.

Show Notes

On this episode, Mike talks to cofounder of Merge, Gil Feig, about building a service that integrates with many APIs.

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Mike Bifulco: Hi friends.

Welcome back to API.

As you won't hate, this is Mike, your co.

For this episode, I'm chatting with
Gil , who is the co-founder of merge.

Him and I had a great time talking about
what he's been building with his team

at merge, what it's like to grow an
API centric product to the challenges

inherent in that some of the really
cool learnings that his team has come

across when they've been building
their product and what it's like to

grow an API centric product especially
one that was born during the pandemic.

I know it was a great discussion.

I hope you enjoy it.

Please check out the interview, send me
any feedback you've got at Reverend Mike

on Twitter or at API and you won't hate.

For our next episode, I believe
we'll be back with Phil and Matt

and myself, chatting about APIs
and catching up on some of the news

and latest goings on in the world

in the meantime, I hope you
enjoy this interview with Gil.

It was a fantastic discussion and really
think he's on something exciting there.

Love to see people in the API
universe, building interesting

products and sort of pushing the
limits of what's been done before.

And especially when it makes all of
our lives easier products like that,

really trying to sing their own tune.

Yeah.

And so before we get off to the interview
here's a quick message from our sponsors.

Thanks so much for listening and
I hope you enjoyed the interview.

All right.

And I'm here with Gil
five from merge, Gail.

How are you doing today?

Gil Feig: I'm great.

How are you doing?

Mike Bifulco: I'm doing really good.

Thanks.

Yeah.

So I appreciate you taking the time to
chat with us or wanted to talk a little

bit about you and merging your story
and how all that applies to API APIs and

the, the world you're kind of living in.

And so maybe we can start with, a bit
about yourself your background, perhaps,

and how you got to where you are today.

Gil Feig: Yeah, absolutely.

So I'm Gil.

I am a software engineer
through and through.

I've been been, so since I was pretty
young, I had a computer in my room

and started coding, but got serious
about it in college, made her majored

in computer science and graduated
and went straight into software.

So I worked at LinkedIn for a few years.

Then Wealthfront.

And then finally I joined a
startup called canvas now called

untapped, which is recruiting.

And while I was there had to
build a ton of integrations with

different applicant tracking systems.

And it was one after the next,
it was an insane amount of work.

We first built greenhouse then lever.

Then we had to build Workday and in order
to close new customers, we had to build

the ATS is that they were using because
we needed to be able to interact with

whatever data they had on their end.

And my co-founder who I, who I
actually met way back in college.

At the same time she had gone
into finance for a while, ended

up at a startup as chief of staff.

And there, she was building out
a lot of different integrations

with ticketing systems and they
ran into the exact same problem.

They had to build it every single
integration with every single

ticketing system, depending
on what their customer was on.

So we noticed this,
this very joint problem.

B2B companies when they want to
integrate with other platforms,

they have to integrate with all
the competitors that that space.

And that's ultimately how we came upon
the idea of merge, where we build unified

API APIs or one API to integrate with
all the competitors in, in each vertical.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, Got it.

Okay.

So it sounds like you were living
through the pain of something like

many startup founders do and kind
of saw that pain as an opportunity.

So how long ago was that?

When, when did you found merge?

Gil Feig: Yeah, we started murders
right at the beginning of the pandemic.

So it was around June of 2020.

Wow.

Yeah, dove right into the deep end.

Huh?

Mike Bifulco: We did we,
I mean, what better time?

The opportunity costs of starting
a company then was you either

sit there in your room and do
nothing or you start a company.

So.

Gil Feig: Yeah.

Okay.

So.

That, that's how you got to merge.

And you kind of said it already, but
what's maybe the value proposition

or the elevator pitch for why
someone would want to use merge.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, absolutely.

So when, when you're starting a company
and you know, you, you know that you

need to be data rich, I would say most
startups, these days have some sort of

data that they need to interact with.

And, and even existing companies,
large companies we sell to as.

Basically come up with
these product ideas.

Like we want to build X, Y, and
Z, but we need to pull in our

customer's data from their HR system.

Let's say we need to pull up all
of their employees and we need to

pull in all of their job titles.

For example, the, the current approach
is all right, well, we need to go ask

our customers, which HR platforms.

We're going to stack rank them based
on maybe contract value, maybe which

one the most customers are using.

And we'll just start tackling
them one by one in that order.

But building them out is not
just a simple fee, right?

It could take three to six months
to build out one integration.

Then you have three to six months of
long tail follow-ups and fixes, as

your devs are finding edge cases or
things you just couldn't have predicted

because you have customers who have set
up their HR system in some custom way

that affects how the API returns data.

So you're basically
assigning, you know, multiple.

Six months or more, plus you
have your support teams involved.

It's just a whole company,
problem, partnerships, everything.

So instead you can either do that go
one by one or instead you can choose

marriage integrate just once with us,
we offer for one of our categories, HR

and payroll, we offer 35 integrations
and we're constantly adding new ones.

Once you build that out, once you
don't have to do any extra work,

ask, merge to build one out, if
one's missing and we'll do it.

And it's just available to your.

Gil Feig: Sure.

Yeah.

So that, that seems like
a pretty easy call, right?

When the alternative is go ask one of
your developers to become an expert

on someone else's product for a little
while or long enough to be dangerous,

or maybe not even an expert, but to
just go try their best to figure it out.

And then maybe not have the time
later on to go keep up with changes.

Oh, when things break to go and
update the, the implementation and

have to worry about those details.

So you mentioned one of your, your.

verticals and it sounds like you've got
a few verticals that merged focuses on.

Can you, can you talk a little bit about
those and maybe how you chose them?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

Sure.

So we first started with recruiting,
which is ATS or applicant tracking

systems and HR and payroll.

Those were our two categories
that, that kind of launched HR and

payroll kind of being one joint one.

So it's HR payroll, and then
ATS, the reason we chose those.

We were familiar with ATS.

It's something I had built out
extensively before ATS also comes

with a lot of customizability and a
lot of variation between platforms.

So it was a good way for us to just
start out building a really robust

system that we knew would extend
to simpler verticals in the future.

So it was I would say it was a bit bold
to start with, but ultimately it's proven

to be really great because we've been
able to expand very quickly after that.

So after that we launched accounting.

So those are ERP systems, things like.

NetSuite and QuickBooks.

And then after that we did ticketing.

So JIRA sauna, that's a
mix of ticketing system.

So JIRA, sauna, Trello, those sorts
of things, but then also help desk.

And then we also have a new one.

We just launched was just CRM.

So Salesforce hubs.

Gil Feig: Yeah.

Wow.

All things that are in their own
way, very, very customizable and a

pretty significant problem to approach
from a development standpoint.

I think maybe the only way you could
have taken a harder route in would

have been to start with something
like electric health records.

But it sounds like you went with
a good challenge to start, and

it's cool to see that you've
found some traction and whatnot.

So for the API, you won't hate audience.

One of the questions that I like to
ask, because people invariably want to

know is can you tell us a little bit
about what you built and merge with?

Maybe languages, architecture
approaches, things like that.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, absolutely.

So I think for us choice of stack
was, was more about speed to market.

How quickly can we move?

What is something that a lot of
people are going to know coming in or

something that people can easily learn
as opposed to going for something that

is the most optimized, fast language?

So naturally we chose Python, which
I think as we grow now, it is a bit

of a slow language, but again, it
lets us move incredibly quickly.

We've adapted, we use a Django
backend and we've added typing since.

So, you know, we, we run
into fewer issues there.

Then on the front end,
we're we're fully react.

We have a pretty complex front end.

I would say it's actually surprisingly
for an API based startup, we probably

have a more complex front end than
most even non API based startups.

So yeah, that's, that's
sort of our most common.

Gil Feig: Yeah.

Got it.

And So on the other side of that, for
your customers who are consuming services

through merge, it looks like you ship
a few different client libraries and,

and a couple of different languages.

Which of those do you support them?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

So what we did early on was was
basically, we need to be able

to move incredibly quickly.

Everything we've done is about
how much we can automate.

And so we're using open API
for our APIs to document them.

I'm sure most listeners here know
this, but a sort of similar to

swagger or any model Jen that
you have at had a lot of bigger

companies where they build in house.

But we use open API.

Our open API spec itself is auto-generated
using something called Django spectacular.

So it looks at our end points themselves,
and then it generates our spec.

And then our spec is used by we, we
sponsor and we use open API general.

Which can generate the
client libraries or the SDKs.

They're not perfect.

Always, I would say.

And so we we've started to fork
those templates a bit to customize

them and support some of the
things that we need, but overall

it's helped us move incredibly.

Gil Feig: Sure.

Yeah.

That's probably the sign of a growing
organization that has, has you know,

multi-variable requirements to fulfill.

But also one of those things where
suddenly you don't have to go hire a

Python developer and a Ruby developer
and a Java guy and somebody who can

do C plus plus and all these other
things for people who want to consume

in every flavor under the sun open API
is a good way to scale that stuff out.

That's really cool.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, it's been great.

And I think, you know, there's, there's
obviously some, some elements of it.

Like when, when you stretch open API to
its max, or when you stretch in general,

like the rest spec to its max, for
example, we support the expand parameter,

which is a common rest, you know, sort
of thing where, where we have certain

foreign keys relations that come back as.

But if in the request to our API, you
say expand, and then that field name, it

comes back as a fully unwrapped object,
as opposed to the ID the generators

being able to in the SDK say the type
of this is either a string or an object,

depending on how that request went out.

They're not so great for that.

So those are some of the
things we've had to adapt.

We run into a lot of issues
as you get more advanced.

Gil Feig: sure.

Yeah.

I'd imagine as you get clients
using your tools that are running

more sophisticated organizations,
they want more of those things too.

And you kind of stress test those those,
you know, little edge cases of the API to.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, exactly.

But when you have, you know, when
you have 12 different languages

across five different API APIs, that
60 repos, it can be pretty hard to

stay on top of with a lean dev team.

So.

Gil Feig: Yeah, Yeah.

To that end.

How, how big is your team right now?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

So we are currently a total of 40 people.

We have about 12 engineers full
time, and then we have five people

focused fully on building new
integrations, using sort of a lot of

the internal tooling that we've built.

Gil Feig: Yeah, got it.

Got it.

so okay.

That's, that's actually a pretty
sizable team and it makes sense.

Given the number of integrations you've
got, like, I'd imagine you'd have to

have a pretty, pretty solid standing army
to just to build out new integrations,

let alone keeping up with the old ones.

When we're talking about the services
that you integrate with, I know you

mentioned that you started with sort
of the applicant tracking stuff first.

How did you prioritize the, even the
first API that you chose to integrate with

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, so we, we
totally focus on market share here.

We, we can obviously try to build
ones that we want to build, but the

most important is what people want.

So with ATS, there's.

Certain, I would say like looking
at different market sectors,

there's there's dominant platform.

So in ATS you have greenhouse
and lever that are really

common among tech companies.

But then we start selling
to tech companies, right?

So we might sell to a company that
helps you analyze that the diversity

of your recruitment funnel and that
company is selling to companies we've

never heard of, you know, so maybe some
oil company in Texas, or maybe they're

selling to taco bell of kid of Ohio.

Right, right.

You're now integrating with, with,
you know, greenhouse and lever

are relevant to those people.

It's, it's Oracle Taleo, it's
SAP's recruitment platforms.

And so we've really had to sort of
focus on what our customers are asking

for that being said, building new
integrations doesn't slow us down

because we spent our first six to eight
months building out that infrastructure

to be able to build new integrations.

So it's more actually the sort of
maintenance or dealing with edge cases,

as opposed to the initial build out.

That takes much time.

Gil Feig: Yeah.

Okay.

Okay.

You said something earlier that,
that I kind of grazed over pretty

quickly, but it's, it may be very
interesting thing about the way it

sounds like you run the company.

How are you discovering
what your customer is?

How, how are you picking
those next integrations?

Like, is there a strategy for asking
for feedback on those things or is it

something you're discovering through maybe
the sales process or, or I don't know,

help desk ticketing, something like that.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, absolutely.

So essentially with all of our, all over
our marketing pages, our landing page.

We show which integrations we support.

And whenever we do, there's always
a button next to them that says

request new integration on top of
that on our two premium plans or

two plans that people are committing
to annually, we include building

new integrations at no extra cost.

So we just say, get us an API key
from a customer or a, you know,

a sandbox key from a customer.

We're happy to go build
that out on your behalf.

And so people can sign with merge knowing
that any platform that they need, as long

as that bot form has an API, it's going
to be supported and basically say mergers.

Now our integrations team offloaded.

Gil Feig: Yeah, that's ambitious.

That is quite the strategy.

That's very cool.

Do you ever find, you're asked
to integrate with something that

is just not ready for the kind of
integration you're looking for?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

So there's, there's a few different
cases that happens in number one

is they don't have an API there
there's a lot of value in that.

And we do have some ways of like,
all right, we can try to integrate

with reports as a service.

And we, we do support doing that,
but some really don't have an API.

And if there's something that no
one's really requesting, we're just

not gonna, we're not gonna do it.

Other ones we've been asked to
actually help customers or help

companies design their APIs.

So we'll have, we'll have a
customer who's pioneering, let's

say some new HR platform or some.

Relatively new HR platform.

And they're hounding that HR
platform saying, get, we need an API.

We want to pull our data out.

That HR platform, sometimes
they'll connect them to us and

we'll help them design and figure
out what it should look like.

And then lastly, you do have ones
that are missing core functionality.

So we also work with platforms on that.

We integrated with an ATS.

Not to name names, but we, we didn't agree
with one recently that exposed a lot of

data, but was missing just key candidate
and application data and pulling jobs is

interesting, but most companies need to
know who's actually applying for the jobs.

So working with them to add that from.

Gil Feig: Yeah, I don't really cool.

Do you provide a backlog of,
of integrators that you're

hoping to implement next?

Mike Bifulco: We do,
but it's really funny.

I know, I know it sounds a little
hard to believe, but in general,

our backlog is not new integrations.

It's functionality.

We are, we have 12 engineers and they're
not even building integrations, right?

That's our, that's our platform team.

And they're just incredibly fast.

We've gotten to the point where
we can build most new integrations

unless we're heading something crazy.

Most new integrations in a matter
of a couple of hours, a record of

my, my co-founder actually built
three integrations in a day once.

The biggest part for us is, is
passing them off to our QA team.

They take a couple of weeks to
really, really test them out.

Gil Feig: Sure that for off the cuff,
having never really done this myself,

that sounds pretty mindblowing.

I would expect a scale of, I don't
know, at least a month, a two to a

couple of months for the integration
in QA and then release kind of thing.

So it sounds like you're moving really
fast and able to work with, I mean, loads

and loads of providers for good reason.

You, you must have a really
good process for doing that.

That's that's very cool.

That's super impressive.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, absolutely.

I mean, we like to say we've
seen it all at this point.

I eat like 15 different types of auth.

We've seen people implement ooff,
you know, oh, up to like 12 different

ways we found security vulnerabilities
and how people implement it.

So our tooling is basically.

If the company, you know, we have,
we have a pretty guided, I would

say process to help people on board.

And it's like, what is the name of the
field that the access token comes in?

If the company does not abide by
the spec and they call it something

else, enter that field name here.

So it's really guided.

It's really adaptable and kind of
just helps us move really fast.

Gil Feig: Sure.

Yeah.

Built from all the little scars and pain
points you've experienced in the past.

No doubt.

Mike Bifulco: Yep.

Gil Feig: Yeah.

Cool.

So let's talk a little bit about API APIs.

In general, I'm interested in your
thoughts on since you, your company has

integrated with and consume so many API
APIs what to you makes up a good API one.

That's good for developers to work with.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

I think thinking about.

First of all just being consumer first,
thinking about what applications there

are people going to use your API for
and creating good access patterns

around that data is, is really critical.

Anything to avoid people having to make a
ton of API requests you make end queries.

And of course, obviously I think,
I think before any of this actually

comes just really great documentation.

Yeah.

You know, there are preferences around
using coauthor versus using other

offers is security of, of those.

And there, there are merits each of
them, but if it's not documented.

I, yeah.

And, and I can tell you from our team,
who's built hundreds of integrations.

At this point.

We don't really have a preference
for what type of author you're using.

One might be a bit more of a pain
to implement, but if we can't figure

it out by immediately looking at
your dogs, that's, what's the really

annoying part having to get in touch
with your team and try to have, have

that team, you know, figure it all out.

So yeah.

Documentations number one.

Gil Feig: Sure.

Yeah, Often the special sauce when
you're implementing with anything

is kind of being able to read and
understand what you're looking at.

And honestly, frankly, kind of an
overlooked career path too, right?

Like really, really good technical
writers who understand the problems

that are being solved and can
eloquently describe what's going on.

And also accurately is it really, really
special when you're working with an API.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, it's true.

And it's so it's like great technical
writing is really important.

The other one is just the story
or the journey of your docs.

You know, it's, it's really underrated
and people aren't thinking about the

path that developer's taking there,
but if, how you, if, if the method of

authentication is the last thing in your.

You know, you're, you're kind of
guiding someone of path pathway having

to click all around and go all over.

So for us, we actually have our
designer and, you know, I would say

our product team really dedicated
to understanding the journey of our

customers within our documentation.

We treat that as a product really
intensely now to the point where, you

know, we, we think of user stories and we
say, all right, well, they can do this.

It's a really complicated action.

So we need them to be able to
find this, this detailed doc along

their journey at the right time.

But only if they need
it, otherwise we don't.

Slam to which information wants.

So we think really deeply about
that journey that the developers.

Gil Feig: sure.

Yeah.

I, I lack of sufficient term to describe
this, but almost the user experience.

Learning how to build with
something is underappreciated

in the industry in general.

There's definitely companies,
organizations with huge budgets who can go

And spin up a UX researcher just to work
on docs, but that's often not the case.

And so you really just need engineers
or technical writers with a lot of love

and care and patience for going and
rewriting and, you know, experiencing the

journey and watching other people do it.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

And it's funny because companies
are willing to invest big bucks in

optimizing copy on their landing page.

Just not people from, from bouncing.

But what about stopping developers from
bouncing as they go through your docs?

Gil Feig: Right.

Yeah.

Yeah, definitely.

Yeah.

We, we sometimes fund the wrong
things at the wrong time, I think.

So okay.

I'm interested in any challenges
that you've faced in sort of

building this unifying API service.

Is there something that stands
out to you along the way that

you, that you've taken away?

Um,

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

So I think you can, of course
look at all the differences in

authentication and pagination and,
you know, rate limits and all of that.

They're solvable, right?

You just build things around them.

I think what is hard is what we
describe as the mixed functionality

problem, which is that ultimately we
can't define one, the functionality of

the platforms that we integrate with
and two, what their API is exposed.

And so, and a lot of ways when you're
building a unified API, or when you're

saying we want to build integrations with,
let's say HR platforms, and it's important

to us to pull in everyone's title so that
we can show that in this spot, on our

site, You know, ultimately our customers
are like, we want that for all platforms,

but if a platform doesn't support it,
we have to be able to tell our customer

like, Hey, that that's not possible.

And I would say that's been a
really big challenge for us.

It's actually becoming better as we
be, as we grow in the market, we have

a bit more sway with API providers
asking them to add more data.

But ultimately again, if a doesn't
support it, they don't support it.

And so building a unified
API that perfectly claims to

normalize all data is tough.

When some firms just don't have certain
data and some platforms have way more.

Gil Feig: Sure.

Yeah.

Are you finding that you need to
demonstrate to people who end up buying

your services that they're getting ROI,
or is it something that is kind of proving

itself once they get into implementation?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

I mean, I think first of all,
for us, we only add value.

What merged does is revenue generating.

First of all right, you, you
need certain integrations.

You don't have the capacity
to develop them out.

You need those because you need to
support customers who are on them.

So by having merged, you're able
to close those new customers.

And then on top of that,
you're saving developer time.

So it's revenue generating
and it's costing.

It's, two-fold people come into our sales
calls and they're, they, they get it.

They know what they're buying into
before they even get on that call.

It's, it's pretty exciting.

I would say our AEs, our, our, our
salespeople who have been at multiple

companies before ours that are, that
are doing not similar things, but other,

you know, sort of like maybe API bays
or other tech companies have described

marriage as just the easiest product to
sell when they get on a call with someone,

because everybody just understands
it and viscerally, grasps the pain.

So.

Gil Feig: Yeah.

That's a perfectly into my next question
of how do you know in general, if you're

building something that people want.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

I mean, I think for us, it was a bit
easier because Shamsi, my co-founder

and I both came from backgrounds.

We would have used those.

Right.

And so, so there was a little bit
of bias of us coming into this

being like, all right, well, we both
needed this and we both wanted this.

And so we, we also spent about six
months before we started the company

talking to, we talked to over a
hundred different startups in, in

a bunch of different verticals.

So we were like, all right,
well, we don't want to just be

biased because we know this is a
problem in recruiting and tickets.

We want to tackle everything.

So let's, let's ask.

So we talked to companies
that needed HR integrations.

We talked to companies that needed
marketing automation and CRM and

ticketing, just so many different things.

And with that every single time we got on
a call, we were just like, if something

like this existed, would you use it?

Absolutely.

How much would you be willing to pay?

Honestly, anything we pay
a team of five developers.

It costs us a million dollars a
year, anything to take away the pain.

We even, even sometimes would flip
it and we would just say like,

how are you doing it internally?

And they'd be like, well, essentially
we have this one service that integrates

with all the different platforms and
translates it to a common language.

And we're like, okay, well you've
essentially built merge internally.

So it was either, they said they
needed it or they had done it.

Gil Feig: yeah, sure.

Along those lines then when you're when
you were first starting out, so you

talked to a hundred customers, you spent
six months kind of researching things.

Did those 100 startups?

Sorry.

Did they end up being your sort
of first customers or was there

something else you had to do to
kind of get the word out there?

That merge was open for business?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, they, they
definitely, I would say a good

number of them did for sure.

And we actually still have close them.

I think we, we fully remember it.

My co-founder tweeted about this recently,
but there were three out of those hundred

that were, were very discouraging.

That's always going to happen, but
we're like, this is a terrible idea.

Don't do it.

And I think it was as of like
two months ago, all three are

now signed customers emerged.

So very, very validating.

And then that felt.

Gil Feig: Yeah, that's amazing.

I hope you pop the champagne
or had a nice lunch that day.

Something like that.

That's really.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, it
was really exciting.

Gil Feig: For a follow on to
that is how has your strategy

for acquisition of new customers
changed since your initial launch?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

So, so we still continue
to do a bit of outbound.

We're more inbound and outbound though.

Word of mouth is a big one.

I would say we're hearing about, you
know, a lot of our customers are coming

in now saying, oh, we heard that,
that, you know, this company is using.

We have to a lot of competitors thinking
about how their competitors are building

and, and, you know, wanting to get
a leg up or wanting to at least have

the same advantage that they have.

Those, those are a couple,
we are really big on SEO.

So you do things like search for,
you know, any platform that we

integrate with search for that name,
plus API on Google, we tend to rank.

So we're, we're really trying to follow
the developer's journey, which in that

case is, you know, their CEO is going to
them saying, Hey, all of our customers

are asking for Workday API integration.

But in general, if you, if you need
a work day integration, you need just

works in bamboo HR and, you know, Gusto
and namely and all the other ones.

And so when you, when you click
on it, you land on marriage.

It says, get a, get a Workday
integration, but also get all

of these other ones sign up now.

And that's sorta how we're acquiring.

Gil Feig: Yeah, Cool.

That's really cool.

It's it's you've built a lot of
momentum inherently in the process here.

Let's say tomorrow you were starting
from scratch again and you were

gonna build a new API first company,
whether it was merged or something

else that was sort of APIs at its core

what are the things you would do first?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, it's interesting.

I want to say, like, I would choose a
more, more performant language, but I

actually don't cause, cause the fact of
the matter is we constantly had to just

pivot and change how we were building
and you know, doing Django and Python at

Elta enabled us to move incredibly quick.

We've been able to really scale with that.

So I wouldn't change, you know, choice
of language or any technologies.

I think one thing that we might might've
done is just do a bigger sort of survey

of the landscape, more research across
APIs and understand what the variability

looks like, because along the way,
we've enforced it just tack on things

like, you know, I kind of mentioned
that earlier, but if they don't call

this field the correct thing, then
what, what, you know, do they get.

But if we had just really gone and looked
at a hundred API APIs and spent the

time we could have, we could have really
planned out, like, all right, here's a

robust system, rather than having all
these flags that we have to deprecate

and be like, does the platform do this?

Doesn't apart from, and now the
flags are kind of confusing.

We've we've done some work to clean
that up, but you know, again, I

think doing a bigger survey, the
landscape would have gone on.

Gil Feig: Sure.

Yeah, For whatever it's worth from
where I'm sitting, that sounds like

a great optimistic task and also
something that would require you

to become an expert on a hundred
new APIs which takes a lot of time.

And you may never have been able to
get things off the ground, you know?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, it's true.

It's a balance.

And yeah, I say that now, going back when
we were sitting there with no product,

just sit there and spend potentially
two months going through a hundred

APS and deeply understanding our off.

Probably not.

So maybe getting an expert,
someone who's built a hundred

integrations, but that's also tough.

Right?

Who's done that.

I mean, I had, I had already built
several and I think we still,

we still just constantly see new
things that we haven't seen before.

Gil Feig: Sure.

Sure.

Yeah.

Oh, that's all very interesting.

You you've had quite the
journey kind of from gosh, 2020.

I mean it's two and a half years
or whatever, something like

that to this 0.2 years, roughly.

That's.

That's a lot of first of all, a lot
of implementation, but also a lot

of lessons learned that it sounds
like you're speaking from some

really good experience and have
built a really fascinating product.

What, what haven't I asked you about
merge that I should have asked.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

I mean, I think, I think one thing
that we find really interesting is

just how people actually use versus
what the customer use cases are.

They've been, they've been
really exciting for us.

I'm happy to dive into that a little bit,
but I would say they they're very varied

and I'm glad we went in with this mindset
of, you know, we want to provide the data.

We don't want to provide any.

Information on top of it.

Like let's say you're building a
diversity recruiting platform and

you want to help people analyze
the diversity of the candidates

throughout your recruiting funnel.

We didn't, we didn't focus on
that use case necessarily when we

were building, we more said, let's
give companies the data there.

Maximize the amount of data that's
normalized and return from our API

APIs and all the tools that developers
need to be able to pull it efficiently

and do what they want with it.

Let's not try to be experts
in data analytics or insights

or anything on top of it.

And so because of that, we've had some
really, really cool use cases on top.

And so a good example would be, you
know, a lot of credit card companies

like ramp and you know, some other
big ones that, that, you know, you've

probably heard of that, that startups
are using to power employee credit cards.

They, they use us for one really cool.

One is a lot of employees are
remote these days by companies

still want to give a lunch stipend,
give $25 a day to all engineers.

For a lunch if you're within the
engineering org, but if you're

in the partnerships org, you get
$200 a week for travel and meals.

Cause you might want to take out
a client or something, you know,

along there to take out a partner.

And so what, what ramp does is they
offer integrations with 35 different

HR platforms because they don't know
which HR platform their customers on.

So they're using merge.

Of course now a ramp costs were,
can just log in, connect their HR

system and then say, all right, we
see these teams coming in from merge.

Which team, and now give them a budget
and give them, you know, sort of

spending categories and employee joins.

They, we automatically send ramp a web
hook to say, Hey, an employee just joined.

This is their department.

Here's their address?

Here's everything ramp allocate to
credit card and automatically just

mails it to them with all the categories
that that's one great use case.

Another, another really cool one.

And then I'll stop.

There is, is cybersecurity.

So a lot of these soft to
automation platforms that are

becoming popular, vantage drugs.

That that helped you make sure
that you're in compliance.

They use us to monitor employees.

Are they contractors or full-time.

And with that, they're able to make
sure that if someone gets terminated,

for example, was there access, revoked
from all other services within 24 hours?

So many different use cases.

I've only gotten into a couple
and those are just within our

HR API, but it's been really.

Gil Feig: Yeah, those are really creative
and they, they provide some special,

like magical solutions to modern problems
too, that you definitely need to tie

into lots of things for it to make
sense, to even try something like that.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, absolutely.

And what's interesting also is just that,
that nowadays as, as a consumer, you

expect everything to be integrated deeply.

Like when when, when you're buying
a platform and they're like, all

right, well, whenever someone joins
come add them and invite them here,

or, you know, whenever someone does.

Whenever you close a sale, go
out in Salesforce, but also

go add it in our platform.

No one wants to do that anymore.

And no one expects.

Everyone expects that your systems are.

Gil Feig: Yeah.

Yeah what about other verticals?

So are there other other verticals
that you're dying to get into,

or that are interesting to merge?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, we do
have other verticals for sure.

And we can build very quickly.

What's important to us is that our
customers have a great experience.

So since we're B2B, we're actually
B2B to be all of our customers also

sell to businesses, of course, right.

Because these are B2B tools
we're integrating with.

And so it's, it's really important to us
to give them a good experience because

their customers are probably paying them.

Yeah.

Anywhere from 10 to several
hundred thousand dollars a year

for that, for that service.

And that means it has to be great.

And so we do spend a lot of time
on follow-up making sure that

the use cases are supported and
that the data is high quality.

But we do have a bunch of other
verticals we want to move into.

We're, we're, we're not publicly
disclosing get which ones, but

there's some really cool ones and,
and they definitely need unification.

But what we do is.

Analyzed demand.

Look at what our existing customers
want versus what new customers want.

Look at, you know, where VCs
investing, what are emerging markets.

There's so many different
factors that go into it.

Also, how fragmented is a market?

If there's one player that's dominant,
what's the power of a unified API.

Gil Feig: Yeah, sure.

Yeah.

I figured you might not be able
to share kind of what's coming,

but it couldn't hurt to ask there.

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, I think there are some
good ones and some ones that developers

especially will be really excited about.

Gil Feig: Yeah, Cool.

Cool.

Well, we'll have to keep
an eye out for news.

And along those lines if our
listeners developers are interested

in following merge and keeping an
eye on merger, trying out merge for

their product where should they go?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, absolutely.

So a merge is it's free to
sign up and just get started.

You can, you can go to merge.dev dev.

There we have, you know,
really good guides to get you

started to help you dive in.

And you can start with
any of our categories.

It's you get a hundred
dollars a month for free.

So it's really easy to just have.

Gil Feig: Yeah.

got it.

Are there interesting sort of
first integrations they can try?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

So a lot of our integrations, we
actually listed there, but a lot of our

integrations have free trials listed.

So like bamboo HR is a great example.

If you, if you go in and just sort
of look at a bunch of the platforms

there, you can just click on them and
we provide links to the free trials or

instructions on how to get a demo account.

And then also, you know, again, since,
since you know, any listener who'd be

interested, likely works at a B2B company.

You can also test with
adding your company's zones.

Gil Feig: Yeah.

Cool.

So there's, there's a value prop
in itself of just being able to

get in and try sort of the whole
full fledged thing with free tools.

That's really interesting and I'm
sure lots of the folks that will be

listening to this podcast are more
on the, Hey, we need to integrate

with this side of things as well.

What sort of things are you interested
in hearing feedback on from our audio?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, we, we
would love to hear, you know, we

are a developer first company.

We think that's why, you know, we're,
we're winning among developers is, is

everything we do is focused on deaths.

So we want to hear about the experience
we want to hear about onboarding was

anything confusing in the journey.

We want it to be as clear
and as simple as possible.

We're developers building for developers.

We feel fortunate that we can almost be
product managers of our own products,

because we understand what we're building.

But that being said, you can be, you know,
sometimes caught up in, in the internals

of something and take for granted
that you have some inside knowledge.

And so we just want, we would love
feedback on what the journey is like,

what the onboarding journeys like
and then any additional features

and things people are looking for.

Gil Feig: Yeah, you'll, you'll
be surprised to hear that

our audience is not shy about
sharing their thoughts on things.

So hopefully you get
some good feedback there.

What about hiring?

Are you hiring for.

any roles right now?

Mike Bifulco: We are absolutely hiring.

We are hiring for virtually
every role across the board.

We have grown incredibly fast.

We went from zero to 1700
customers in under a year.

So we, yeah, so we're really looking
to hire we're hiring back end

engineers software back at, sorry,
back end front end, full stack.

Definitely across the board there.

And, you know, even, even things like
technical solutions, engineers customer

facing things more on sales, and then
we're, we're hiring people to build

integrations on our platform team.

So I definitely everywhere in the
org and that's ed merged.dev/.

Gil Feig: Cool.

And just for sake of completeness,
cause I know someone will ask me,

are you hiring remotely or you're
hiring just in a specific location.

How does that work?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah.

So we're, we are in person we're in
New York and San Francisco and both

offices are where we're open to.

We were remote flexible.

I would say we, we, you know, we like
to say we're kind of pre COVID, you

know, your packages are, you want to
work remotely for a week here and there.

Totally fine.

But in general, we are in.

Gil Feig: Gotcha.

Cool.

Okay.

So that's a bit about merge.

How can our listeners find you if
they want to get in touch with you?

Mike Bifulco: Yeah, absolutely.

So you can feel free to
email me gil@merged.dev dev.

Follow me on Twitter, Gil FEI, G Gill fag
or, you know, also send me a LinkedIn.

Gil Feig: Heck.

Yeah, I will stick all of the relevant
links and URLs in the show notes

for this and make sure that they're
posted when the show goes live here.

It's been really fantastic talking to you.

I appreciate you coming and spending
some time with me and sharing

about your product experience.

Yeah.

Thanks for your time.

It was great chatting.

Mike Bifulco: Thank you
so much for having me