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API7.ai Story

2019

Ming Wen and Yuansheng Wang have worked in big Internet companies as engineer for more than ten years. However what really makes them proud and happy is to use their part time to build a charity which is the first open source software foundation in Hong Kong, and accepted 1 million RMB donation from Yonghao Luo and Smartisan.

They organized various open source community meetups, conferences, and communicate with engineers from different companies. In the process, they found that more and more engineers will develop around connections such as API and microservices, and they all have some common pain points such as API management, observability, and rapid product release.

Therefore, at the beginning of 2019, after the Chinese New Year, the two of them decided to start API7.ai, an open-source infra software company, hoping to use API gateway as starting point to help global enterprises to build digital platforms more efficiently, reliably, and safely.

Two months after the company was lanch (June 6, 2019), APISIX, a project still in the demo stage, was open-sourced to GitHub. APISIX has maintained the tradition of one release/meetup/live broadcast once a month.

APISIX has a clear picture from day one: becoming the world's most popular API gateway project, serving half of its API requests. Therefore, APISIX must and can only take the road of open source to have the opportunity to realize this vision.

For a year, they wrote code in a small office (no windows, and you can't even know rainstorm outside) and built the core and significant features of APISIX.

Also, this year, APISIX successfully entered the Apache incubator six months after being open-sourced.

The picture is Ming Wen and Justin, who is the chair of the Apache incubator, at the Huawei Connect Conference in 2019. At this time, Ming and Yuansheng asked Justin and Craig many questions about the Apache incubator and Apache culture.

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Apache APISIX had only 20 contributors when it became an Apache incubator project. Our biggest challenge is to get a more diverse group of engineers involved and become a global project. No matter how tortuous the process is, we stick to our bottom line: honesty. Every GitHub Star, every contributor, is natural growth through stupid methods like meetups and articles. Each open-source project has its own culture and flavor so that people who agree with it can be attracted to join.

In this year, there was no financing and no paying customers. Under financial pressure, the engineers' ideals and perseverance made these two engineers run all the way. The picture below is the first time the Apache APISIX logo appeared in print:

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2020

At the beginning of the new year, COVID-19 swept the world. It was also at this time that API7.ai started Angel round financing. ZhenFund, the most friendly VC for entrepreneurs, invested in us, and they deserved this slogan. ZhenFund did not talk to us face-to-face but communicated through zoom, which is impossible for other VCs.

After completing the angel round of financing, we changed to the office next door that can see the sunshine.

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We started recruiting more engineers to join, gradually from 2 people to a team. They are all from the open-source community of Apache APISIX. Thank you for your trust:

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In July of this year, Apache APISIX graduated and became a top-level project of the Apache Software Foundation. During this process, the Apache culture influenced not only APISIX, but also the API7.ai commercial company.Keep discussion open and public, transparency, and diversity are just as important to the open source community as it is for commercial company.

As more and more developers and companies start to try Apache APISIX, APISIX is becoming more and more stable and easy to use, which is a virtuous circle. This is the real magic of open-source.

We never focus on GitHub Star, we always focus on the developers themselves.

People ask what is the secret of the rapid growth of the Apache APISIX community and open-source commercial company? Here's the contributor-centric funnel:

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This funnel pattern lets us focus on Apache APISIX contributors and early adopters rather than commercialization and marketing. Further, this bottom-up model also makes it easier to do commercial conversion.

We also successfully closed the pre-A and A round financing, thanks to Zhencheng and Shunwei Capital for their trust.

2021

TBD