Meet Marcel Felder CTO Technology Lead
Tell us a bit about your career to date?
After finishing my diploma in informatics, I worked for 11 years for a consultancy company which focused on digital workplace solutions. I worked there in different roles – starting as developer, then system architect and later in technical project management. I spent my last years there primarily managing the business unit for custom applications with 40 people.
You’re now the Technology Lead at re.alto. What inspired you to join the energy start-up?
I’m passionate about product development and have been looking for just the right opportunity to focus on solely one product for several years. Historically my teams and I have worked on several projects at once, and re.alto was a great fit for me. Working at re.alto gives me the opportunity to balance the parts of the job which I enjoy the most – the technical and system architecture side along with management.
It’s particularly exciting to have the rare opportunity to work on a product from inception, and the re.alto marketplace concept really resonated with me from the very beginning. We have the chance to create something great, and we’re definitely having some fun doing it – the team here are fantastic!
You’ve just launched the beta version of the re.alto marketplace. Can you explain briefly what it is?
The re.alto marketplace is a platform for the exchange of digital energy products (services and data), mostly in API format. The energy industry is following rapidly in the footsteps of other industries and embracing digital transformation. Our marketplace is enabling that change; it provides energy businesses with the digital means to greater collaboration and smarter information flow from one end of the value chain to the other.
Is this version the final version, or will there be changes?
It’s constantly evolving. We made the decision early on to build the marketplace across several iterations, which gives us the ability to be agile and pivot easily based on our own learnings and any incoming feedback.
The very first version, which we’ve just launched, is the so-called MVP (Minimal Viable Product), which essentially is a simple API marketplace with a working basic end-to-end experience. The idea (and challenge) was to build a strong technical platform as a foundation but at the same time to create a first version of the product as quickly as possible so we could start gathering and incorporating client feedback. So to achieve that, we’re currently using standard technology in these early stages which we will replace over time with more bespoke components that we are building ourselves.
Looking at the technology behind the API platform, what makes the re.alto marketplace different?
We have a strong API gateway that can scale with the growing marketplace. A gateway is a central service that handles all incoming requests (from users) for a particular API, optimises these requests with caching, transformations etc. and finally forwards the request to the original API (on the provider side). So a strong gateway was absolutely crucial to our development – it handles the most important and fundamental transactions in the marketplace, the exchange of data between a provider and user. It is technically complex and really sets us apart.
As I mentioned earlier, getting the product to market quickly in these early stages was always important but we didn’t want to just create an initial standardized API platform like others on the market and leave it at that. We’re developing more complex technical functionality which delivers very tailored features for a bespoke system. For that, we use state-of-the-art cloud-native services in a microservices environment, which enables us to build new functionality fast and securely.
What’s the sign-up process for re.alto clients, and how do you manage the huge potential disparity in data formats in order to create an easy-to-use standardised structure?
Of course, we want to establish a standard for APIs in the energy sector, that’s the aim as we see ourselves leading the way in driving greater exchange of data across the whole industry by removing those complex barriers.
Initially though we want to enable and connect as many parties as possible. It is crucial for us that we support all potential providers on their journey through our marketplace, especially in the beginning.
In current sign up for API providers, we actively take care of the onboarding and help our customers to maximize the presence of their API on our marketplace, so they get the most value out of it. You have to remember that some energy businesses won’t have used APIs before, or perhaps they’ve developed their own but have never explored the idea of sharing it externally as a revenue source so need help on pricing or security, so we provide expert guidance at every step.
Data in the energy sector is extremely valuable, but notoriously siloed and not used to its full potential. How does the re.alto platform facilitate that exchange of data between organisations?
We provide a way to easily and securely present data (APIs) and to keep control over the usage of this data. By onboarding an API on the re.alto marketplace, the API becomes visible, standardized, manageable and controllable. We make it easier for businesses to make their currently siloed data available outside their own boundaries and use us as that new sales channel to market their products and services to third parties.
You talk about using ’state of the art cloud technology’ for the marketplace when it comes to security – can you tell us a bit more about that?
We handle valuable data – not only the data behind the APIs on our marketplace but also related data from financial transactions and registered user accounts. We are very conscious that such valuable data needs proper protection, and like all modern cloud-based applications, security is of course a primary principle of our daily work. We use modern but mature technologies and products, and have a supportive partnership with Microsoft. This core technical foundation enables us to actively implement a high level of security across all aspects of our platform.
What new technical functionality can we expect to see on the marketplace in the coming months as it evolves?
MVP was just the first iteration, and having successfully launched that this month, we’re now focusing on two priorities in particular.
Firstly, we want to incorporate as much feedback as possible into the product to improve user experience for our customers.
Secondly, we are adding technical functionality that makes the marketplace easier to use and takes it to that next level for both API consumers and providers. On one hand, we’re working to facilitate a reliable and fluent model for subscription management for consumers who want connect to APIs on the platform. On the other, we’re constantly adding greater functionality for providers to specifically control the use of their APIs and make them increasingly visible through improved search capabilities.
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