How SeatGeek Found the Ticket to Tackle API Sprawl
To take on API sprawl, SeatGeek evolved its API landscape by standardizing on Kong Konnect for API management. The result? Developer autonomy, faster innovation, and over 86 million monthly API requests — with a goal of 2.4 billion requests per month by 2024.
At API Summit 2023, João Mikos, Director of Engineering - Developer Acceleration at SeatGeek, discussed how SeatGeek embraced change and has positioned itself for continued growth and success by addressing limitations within its systems.
Founded in 2009, SeatGeek is a mobile-focused ticket platform that enables users to buy and sell tickets to sports, music, and theater events. The company has rapidly grown through both business growth and acquisitions, resulting in a diverse API landscape.
SeatGeek had a diverse and sprawling set of APIs that were difficult for customers to use and for internal teams to support. This friction was hindering SeatGeek's ability to fulfill its mission.
Barriers were preventing external and internal parties from using SeatGeek’s APIs. In addition, developers were dealing with headaches ranging from inconsistent tooling to limited composability. It reached a point where developers were going out of their way to avoid creating new APIs.
“We want to help people experience more live. And our system was simply letting us down in this mission,” Mikos said. “So we decided to take action . . . We decided to build a dedicated team looking after the API experience.”
Mikos led SeatGeek’s initiative to improve the API landscape. The journey began by establishing telemetry to gain visibility into API usage and performance. SeatGeek then standardized on Kong Konnect for API management to create a new foundation.
Mikos said if your people are eager to build, they should be empowered to do so without fear. The solution you pick may require customization, but building upon something existing is what gave SeatGeek the speed to build its foundation.
“When assembling your foundation, absolutely resist the urge to build components from scratch. Stand on the shoulders of others. This can be sometimes hard to hear, but your requirements are not as unique as you think they are," Mikos said. “We selected Kong Konnect to power our new API landscape as it was a good fit for our existing ecosystem and also leveraged a lot of our existing knowledge on top of the other features they also deliver. And for the parts that did not fit our ecosystem well, the Kong team was with us every step of the way, helping to remove blockers, and even building the things that we needed.”
With the Kong foundation in place, SeatGeek focused on converging teams and traffic onto the new platform. As adoption grew organically, SeatGeek refined the developer experience using user feedback.
Mikos explained that the new platform enabled developer autonomy and faster innovation.
“Autonomy is when people have the freedom to experiment without having to bug someone to do something for them or to clean up something for them . . . the friction for experimentation goes away. This is what lets the imagination fly. This is an open door for innovation. And this helps your business move faster and grow faster.”
The results speak for themselves with over 86 million monthly requests processed and counting.
By 2024, SeatGeek will be moving past 9 public APIs and growing and counting toward 2.4 billion requests per month through Kong.
“It was a long journey to get here, but we're reaping the benefits of it,” Mikos said. “We're seeing adoption growing. We're also seeing something new, which is teams taking advantage of our self-service setup to create brand-new APIs.”
For others seeking to follow SeatGeek’s path, Mikos said it’s important not to go the ivory tower route and build what you think people will need.
“Build in the open. Build with someone trying to use it,” he said. “ This will help to validate your thinking so you can get the right foundation in place and avoid wasting effort, building things that will simply go unused. Do not bulldoze your way through this alone.”
Early in the process, Mikos said they found the data team wanted to build a new API from scratch, so they paired with them to do just that.
“They went with us, hand in hand along the way — sometimes singing and dancing, sometimes kicking and screaming, But thanks to this partnership, we were able to find many holes in our API experience and where we needed to have something better.”
By embracing change and evolving its API landscape, SeatGeek is positioned for continued growth. The journey with Kong enabled SeatGeek to reduce friction and help developers focus on creating customer value.
Change doesn’t always come easy, but Mikos and the team at SeatGeek understand the importance of rising to the challenge.
“Evolving an API landscape is a journey. There is no silver bullet. It will take time, and you need to be prepared for it. Even so, it’s necessary,” Mikos said. “Most of us are trying to accomplish something and are being held back by our systems. SeakGeek felt this . . . You might be trying to disrupt your industry. You might be looking for ways to be cost-effective . . . And just like us, your own systems might be holding you back. This makes change necessary. Companies that don't [embrace change] get left behind — plain and simple.”