SurrealDB raises $6M for its database-as-a-service offering

There’s plenty of vendors in the managed database services market — and plenty that are well-financed. Take a look at SingleStore, which last October raised $30 million to bring its database tech to new customers. There’s also EdgeDB, which landed $15 million in November ahead of the launch of its cloud database product.

Tobie Morgan Hitchcock believes that there’s room for at least one more player, though. He’s one of the two co-founders of SurrealDB, a database-as-a-service platform that provides great flexibility when it comes to querying data.

Hitchcock might be biased. But there’s third-party evidence to suggest that companies are increasingly adopting fully managed, cloud-based database services. In a recent MariaDB survey, 61% of respondents said that they were either already fully migrated or working to complete a full database migration to the cloud, motivated by a shared desire to save money and “bridge the cloud skills gap.”

SurrealDB certainly appears to be benefiting from some kind of boom. After being bootstrapped for three years (and despite being pre-revenue), SurrealDB closed a seed round recently that came in at $6 million. FirstMark led it.

“In 2015, after years of building cloud-based software-as-a-service systems with real-time APIs, complicated security permissions and multiple separate database backends, my brother Jaime and I questioned whether there might be a platform for building and scaling applications quicker while still allowing for the storage and querying of data in a structured yet flexible manner — like a database rather than an API,” Hitchcock told TechCrunch in an email interview. “We began to conceptualize and plan the SurrealDB database requirements, taking inspiration from a range of databases which we had used on previous projects.”

Prior to co-launching SurrealDB, Tobie and Jaime had tried their hand at a number of ventures including an app that let golf courses track how golfers play each hole. They also co-founded Hire Insight, a service companies can use to assess, curate and select job candidates online, akin to LinkedIn Recruiter and Workday.

With SurrealDB, Tobie says that the goal was to improve the app development process by reducing the need to build backend APIs and database layers or use a cloud data platform or single data model. (A data model is an abstract model that organizes data elements and standardizes how the elements relate to one another.) To this end, SurrealDB supports real-time queries, security permissions for multi-user access and “performant” analytical workloads, Tobie says.

SurrealDB

SurrealDB’s online configuration dashboard.

Client-side apps can be built with direct connections to SurrealDB, while traditional, server-side dev setups can leverage the platform’s querying and analytics abilities. When setting up a data model, SurrealDB users can choose between simple documents, documents with embedded fields or related graph connections between records, Tobie says — depending on the nature of the data being stored.

“From the data and technical perspectives, SurrealDB offers … the ability to query one’s data in a multitude of ways,” Tobie said. “In addition, SurrealDB has the ability to handle business logic and user authentication right from within the database. Because of this, SurrealDB enables developers and organisations to simplify the backend tech stack, speed up development times and reduce the costs of complicated multi-inter-connected backend platforms.”

SurrealDB launched first as an open source database platform before transitioning into a cloud offering, although the open source package is still available and being actively developed. Current customers include “a number of” startups and “publicly-floated” enterprises, although Tobie wouldn’t name names; SurrealDB’s fully managed database service remains in beta ahead of a launch in early 2023.

“The money [from the seed round] will be used to grow the team and launch the commercial offering of [the SurrealDB cloud offering,] Tobie said. “The technology stack for SurrealDB has been purposely chosen so that SurrealDB can be quick to contribute to, easy to understand for new engineers and with as few different technologies as possible … With this in mind, SurrealDB is in a position to iterate quickly with new features and releases, whilst being able to do so with an agile and nimble team.”

For what it’s worth, FirstMark’s Matt Turck agrees. He’s an investor, of course, but he also cites the large and growing market for database-as-a-service offerings, which could be worth as much as $24.8 billion by 2025, according to Markets and Markets. Ambitiously, Turck sees SurrealDB competing not only with database vendors like MongoDB, Neo4j, Couchbase and DynamoDB but backend service providers such as Firebase, Supabase and Nhost.

“SurrealDB is an incredibly ambitious company, building a multi-model database that combines a lot of things that many thought were incompatible without major trade-offs. They’re propelled by major trends such as database abstraction, cloud and serverless,” Turck said in an emailed statement. “They’ve clearly struck a chord with the developer community — we’ve literally never seen any database open source project grow this fast. Last but not least, we loved the founding story of the company, which was started by two brothers who built the entire thing by themselves, and we see great potential in them as founders.”

SurrealDB has a three-person team at present, with the aim of increasing headcount to around 18 within the next year.

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