After 4 years and several iterations, Apio is ready! This next generation integration platform for retail and commerce allows businesses to seamlessly connect, transfer and integrate their data among various tools and platforms.
We spoke to Mark Slocock and Sam Ban, the two founders of Apio to get some insights into what this product is all about.
The story of Apio is actually the tale of two products or more aptly put, solving for two issues. While building sites on the agency side, Mark had the issue of providing a way to visualise efficiency and performance for all of the integrations our clients were using and Sam had to solve for the repetitive task of creating integrations for said clients.
It was those two aspects that needed to be dealt with.
The visualisation aspect: When we started building more complex integrations, one of the challenges that became apparent early on was that when things go wrong on an ad hoc basis (i. e. a stock update), it was very time consuming to look into and figure out what was going wrong. I also wanted a way to quickly fix what was wrong and resubmit it. That was the main premise for me:
“How do we build a system that can give full visibility of the data that's being passed around?”
Back then it was more of a warehouse integration, but as things progressed integrations helped us stitch together various different systems, it became a bigger issue, extending beyond the logistics sector.
What we wanted was to create a system that gives you full visibility of what’s going on with your data and analytics to quickly see when there is a problem and resolve it.
“How can we build a system that’s faster, better, quicker, more fun? That was the other challenge we set out to solve.”
The efficiency aspect: We had quite a few technical challenges to solve for as well, one example was creating modules to transfer data to Magento for every single integration. For instance, when a client introduced a new element, we would implement and test it and just as we were done, they would introduce another one. Thus we had repeating tasks and although we tried to learn from the previous ones, we faced new technical challenges when we tried connecting the endpoints and building them out. All these experiences made me realise I have to make a good decision when it comes to the technology this platform is centered around.
I remember we drew Apio’s first version on a plane ride, probably because it was the only time where we had two uninterrupted hours we could work in. We sketched out what we were trying to do and Sam went away and started building it.
That’s how we started...and we felt like building a massive spec and then we iterated. We’ve figured out what needed to be better and what didn’t work and changed it and ended up with a complete rewrite of the version we’ve been running for the past years.
“The launch version is the result of three years of iterations, hard work, deep thoughts and valuable use cases.”
The first version I created, I coded in December 2017. It was three months worth of working weekends and nights. It was crude, but it was working and we started putting clients on that version (...in fact, we still have one client on that version).
It’s been a fun journey, we have now achieved what we are trying to achieve. It’s taken longer than we thought we would, we have a lot of ideas of where we see Apio going.
Apio allows you to connect multiple systems and data sources together and send information and data to multiple places around your business, be that a warehouse, accounting system, ERP solution, CRM, banking, automation and reconciliation. It allows you to pull data from one source, do something with it and push it somewhere else in the format that you want and you can manipulate and send data around your business.
As the CTO, for me, the important aspects are always the small and seemingly insignificant ones at the first glance, but these are the factors that have an impact on the entire system. Take microservices for example, I didn’t want to build a system that would be huge and hard to maintain. Therefore I opted for really small microservices that are really fast and have amazing capabilities like firing up a web server by itself, and not needing anything else. With Apio, there is no need to run an engine to be able to serve requests for an API endpoint. You can easily connect to SFTP, FTP - these technical niceties came together and we created a powerful system.