Why I'm partnering with Balanced

November 21, 2013

My next venture will be joining up with Balanced, an API for marketplace payments, and I’m really excited about it. To the tax man, of course, the title of this post is “Why I’m going to be an employee of Balanced,” but I like to think about it as a partnership.

Why I Balanced

I first heard of Balanced almost exactly a year ago. You see, my friend Chad had started this project called Gittip. He was using Stripe to handle payments, but Gittip is a marketplace, and Stripe didn’t support marketplaces. So they gave Gittip a month to find another processor. So a Balanced employee came along and submitted a pull request. I thought this was super awesome. So much so, that I tweeted it:

@jordanmessina It was like ‘hmm we can't use stripe, who should we use?’ “oh hey, just swung by to integrate you with us. <3” — Steve Klabnik (@steveklabnik) December 1, 2012

I still told people that story, but didn’t really think a whole lot more about Balanced than that. But every so often, I’d bump into them again. The next time Balanced came across my radar was when they declared themselves an Open Company. Whoah. Now, don’t get me wrong: it’s not exactly socialism, but it is super interesting. The idea of doing feature development and discussion out in the open is really interesting to me. For example, if you’re interested in seeing when Balanced supports international payments, you can check out this Issue, and when the feature happens, you’ll know. That feature is obvious, but for less obvious ones, like Bitcoin support, you can see that there’s real discussion, where the users who want a feature can help explain their use cases, Balanced will ask questions, and (hopefully) eventually it’ll get implemented.

Anyway, so when I was looking for something new, Balanced seemed like a good fit. I dropped by their offices a few times, and met with the team. I was impressed when they included their intern, Matthew, in one of our meetings. Most companies I’ve seen treat their interns really poorly. When I mentioned that I was a Python newbie, Balanced’s CTO, Mahmoud, replied that that was perfect: if they only hired Python people, they’d only get Python answers, and monoculture is bad. During that discussion, I remembered my own startup, CloudFab, and remembered my cofounder’s issues getting us a bank account, because we were a marketplace. I had felt the pain Balanced is trying to solve before. At that point, I was in, but Mahmoud thanking me for my role in helping fight for equality in tech was extra icing on the cake.

My role

Anyway, that’s why I’m pumped about Balanced. So what exactly will I be doing? A few things, taken straight from my offer letter:

  1. Design Balanced’s API based on the needs of our customers and the feedback of the team
  2. Lead Balanced’s path towards HTTP and JSON-API compliance
  3. Move standards forward to support Balanced’s innovation
  4. Build tools to allow Balanced and others to create standards compliant APIs
  5. Promote and evangelize the benefits of the Open Company philosophy

To expand on these five steps:

You can reach me at steve@balancedpayments.com. I have uploaded a PGP key to the MIT keyserver if that’s your jam.

If you’re a Balanced customer and you have thoughts, good or bad, about Balanced, please get in touch.

If you’re not a Balanced customer, I’d love to hear why. Send me an email.

I’ve joined the W3C TAG mailing list, and will be getting even more involved in the web standards process than I already am, to make sure that Balanced is keeping abreast of the latest standards, and to make sure that Balanced’s use-cases are properly advocated for as part of that process.

I’ll be working hard on JSON API, both with Balanced’s customers, our team, and with others who want to use the standard. Some tickets have been a bit stagnant: it’s now a part of my job to resolve them.

I’ll be working on some tooling, hopefully with other companies that care about APIs, to build tooling that we all can use. If you’re in San Fransisco, I’d love to swing by your office and say hello. If not, email works too.

If you want me to come speak to your usergroup, meetup, or conference about APIs, web standards, Open Companies, or payment systems, let me know, I really enjoy it.

Expect to see a bunch of writing on the Balanced blog from me on all of those topics, as well.

I’m excited for the future. There’s so much work to do. Let’s all build some awesome APIs!