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

The market for managed database services is competitive, with several well-funded providers to choose from. Look at SingleStore, which in October of 2018 attracted $30 million in funding to expand the availability of its database technology. EdgeDB is another alternative; the company raised $15 million in November in preparation for the release of its cloud-based database service.

Tobie Morgan Hitchcock, though, thinks there’s always place for one more. One of the two creators of SurrealDB, a database-as-a-service platform with powerful querying options, he is responsible for the company’s early success.

One cannot rule out the possibility of Hitchcock’s prejudice. However, independent research shows that businesses are increasingly turning to cloud-based, fully-managed database systems. In a recent study conducted by MariaDB, 61% of respondents said that they had either completed or were in the process of completing a full database migration to the cloud. This migration was driven by a common goal of cost savings and “bridging the cloud skills gap.”

It would seem that SurrealDB is enjoying a period of growth. SurrealDB just completed a seed round for $6 million after being self-funded for three years (and without any income to speak of). Mark started it all.

Hitchcock told TechCrunch in an email interview that he and his brother Jaime began wondering in 2015 if 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. This was after years of building cloud-based software-as-a-service systems with real-time APIs, complicated security permissions, and multiple separate database backends. In order to “conceptualise and design” the SurrealDB database, we “took inspiration from a variety of databases which we had utilised in past projects.”

Tobie and Jaime had previously collaborated on many other initiatives, including an app that golf facilities could use to monitor players’ progress through each hole, before creating SurrealDB. Similarly to LinkedIn Recruiter and Workday, they also co-founded Hire Insight, an online tool that helps businesses evaluate, filter, and choose potential employees.

Tobie claims that developing backend APIs and database layers, as well as using a cloud data platform or a unified data model, was unnecessary with SurrealDB. (A data model is a conceptual framework for structuring and normalising data and the associations between them.) Tobie explains that SurrealDB allows for “performant” analytical workloads, multi-user access with security permits, and real-time queries.

Direct connections to SurrealDB allow for the creation of client-side applications, while the platform’s querying and analytics features may be useful in more conventional server-side development environments. Tobie notes that depending on the kind of data being kept, SurrealDB customers may choose from three different types of data models: basic documents, documents with embedded fields, and associated graph connections between records.

According to Tobie, “SurrealDB enables… the flexibility to query one’s data in a myriad of ways,” both from a data and technological standpoint. “Moreover, SurrealDB can manage business logic and user authentication locally inside the database. This allows developers and businesses to cut down on the complexity, effort, and money spent on developing and maintaining multiple, interconnected backend systems by using SurrealDB.

Although SurrealDB is now primarily a cloud service, it first debuted as an open-source database platform. The open-source package is still accessible and is actively being developed. SurrealDB’s fully managed database service is still in beta until its debut in early 2023, but the company already has “a handful” of startups and “publicly-floated” corporations as clients.

Tobie has said that the initial funding would be used to “expand the team and launch the commercial version of [the SurrealDB cloud solution]. Because of this, “the technological stack for SurrealDB has been purposefully designed so that SurrealDB may be quickly contributed to, simple to comprehend for novice engineers, and with as few distinct technologies as feasible… Because of this, the SurrealDB team is nimble and capable of rapidly releasing new features and improvements.

To be fair, FirstMark’s Matt Turck shares this view. Of course he’s an investor, but he also points to the huge potential of the database-as-a-service industry, which Markets and Markets predicts may reach $24.8 billion by 2025. SurrealDB will compete with Firebase, Supabase, and Nhost, among other backend service providers, according to Turck’s lofty expectations.