Tyk began as a side project, meaning founder and CEO Martin knows a thing or two about what it takes to turn a part-time endeavour into a fulltime enterprise. When he couldn’t find the ideal API gateway to meet his needs, he made his own. Now, companies around the world use it to meet needs of their own, served by a team of Tyklings spread across 26 countries (and counting!).
The Tyk Side Project Fund seeks to recognise those who have truly inspired us by throwing themselves into an innovative side project. We are delighted to announce that Bryan MacLean’s API designer project, RestPoint, is one of this year’s winners. Here’s Bryan to fill us in on the details.
Tyk: How did you come across Tyk?
Bryan: I’d heard of Tyk before because it’s part of the API industry. I was Googling one night and came across the contest so I thought I’d throw my project in there and see where it went!
Tyk: Could you tell me about your side project? Where did the idea come from?
Bryan: I’m a developer so I’ve had to deal with designing APIs in many different jobs. An API is another interface just like a website or a web app that goes into the backend. Just like a bad website or a bad web app, you can have a bad API. So, I know that the better an API is, the more people will use it and like it.
The hard part for me was when I had to design APIs – it’s hard to anticipate the needs of users while providing great usability. It’s part of the design process but, until someone has something they can really play with, which is usually at the beta stage, that’s when you get the real feedback.
Tyk: Was your side project born from your background as a developer?
Bryan: Definitely. As an API Designer, you put together these specs but as soon as you pass the document over to the dev team, it always comes back with issues. So my job was to try and minimise that and the disruption that comes from that. That’s where the idea of RestPoint originated.
Tyk: How did you validate the idea?
Bryan: I knew this was a problem everyone has. I’ve lived it and talked about it with lots of folks and it was something that I’ve always considered, on the side. I thought there must be something better than this. There’s a ton of mocking tools out there but I think most people would agree they can only do so much with respect to prototyping; they’re of limited use. So, I thought about how you would take a design you’ve made, click a button and the prototype is there so you can play with it and try it out. This is a concept that works in other industries. It’s prototyping, like a concept car in the auto industry. They build a car and let users drive it. RestPoint is that kind of a concept.
Tyk: What challenges have you faced along the way?
Bryan: The usual one, of finding enough time! I’ve had a little more time in the pandemic during lockdown as there’s not a lot open. So in the last year it’s been easier to find more time but it’s still not a lot when you work fulltime. Your real job comes first and extra time comes second.
Tyk: Have you faced any technical challenges?
Bryan: The tech side was a big challenge – to see if I could build this so it would work for any API and be real. The first obstacles are, let’s see if you can handle this API and all of these paths and different objects. That was the big challenge and I didn’t even know if it was possible when I started to work on it. So that was the fun part too – to see if it could be done.
Tyk: Where is the project now in terms of its journey? What are the next steps?
Bryan: It’s available online. It’s free. Anyone can use it. I use it in my day job and I keep pushing it along. There’s always a list that I want to get to, but I keep working at it, playing with it, and people keep using it. Now I’ve got to start thinking about where to go next with it.
Tyk: What difference has the Tyk Side Project Fund made?
Bryan: My current website was created from a free template off the web. I’m hoping to use the money to come up with a new look for RestPoint. That’s what I get the most feedback on – when people hit a website and don’t see things they expect to see. So I need to get someone to fix that up.
Tyk: What’s important to you?
Bryan: I enjoy lots of personal activities, particularly spending time with my family and engaging in outdoor activities here in Nova Scotia, Canada. I started to really miss the activities during lockdown.
Working on this side project is fun too, of course!
Tyk: What tips would you give to someone starting their own side project?
Bryan: You need to keep focusing on really solving the problem. Do it because that’s what you want to do. You need to stay with the challenge and keep at it. And where it goes from there? Well, you can never regret it if you really tackled something and tried to solve it.
Tyk: Where is your side project going to be in five years’ time?
Bryan: I hope it’s being used by lots of people! APIs are starting to get a lot of awareness now in the industry. There’s a lot of focus and investment in relation to them. The piece that I’ve worked on is really the early stage of the four stages of creativity. If your blueprints are right you can create the solid foundation you need for it to be good. Otherwise, you’re constantly going to be fixing it, paying money and losing time and opportunities. Or people even ignore it if it wasn’t that great.
It’s so much nicer when you can test drive something. If I want to try a car, I don’t want to read about it, I want to drive it. So this API is really that kind of concept. If you build it using RestPoint, it can feel like the real thing, depending on how much effort you want to put into it.