Ably is a Pub/Sub messaging platform that companies can use to develop realtime features in their products. The company just raised a $70 million Series B funding round co-led by Insight Partners and Dawn Capital.
Every day, you use various apps that push and fetch data in realtime. When you send a message in your favorite chat app, when you edit a document collaboratively, when you start a video call or when you look at financial data, you expect to send and receive stuff in a fraction of a second. It should feel instantaneous; otherwise it feels broken.
A popular system that lets you create realtime features is called Pub/Sub, as in publish-subscribe. As the name suggests, with that model, users publish and receive data through the same channel. Users who want to receive data in realtime establish a realtime connection saying that they want to receive new messages that are routed through that channel.
Whenever someone publishes a new message, the message is routed to subscribers as quickly as possible — ideally, the message arrives in a fraction of a second. Push notifications on your smartphone follow more or less the same logic, except that they eventually go through Google’s and Apple’s push notification services.
There are several realtime platform-as-a-service providers out there, including services developed by Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. And yet, Ably thinks it has the best technology platform out there and can build a large, standalone realtime API-based startup.
Existing investors Triple Point, Digital Horizon, Forward Partners and MMC also participated in today’s funding round.
“We thought realtime data would underpin experiences instead of enhance them,” co-founder and CEO Matthew O’Riordan told me. Ably customers currently contact the startup at different pain points. They may be using different services for their realtime features. Or maybe it doesn’t scale properly.
A good example of that is CRM, sales and marketing startup HubSpot. “They had realtime features across all their products and they were struggling specifically with the chat feature,” O’Riordan said. HubSpot looked at Ably to solve that problem in particular. And they’re now using Ably for all their products, from analytics to live chat and updates.
Ably has built a global network of data centers so that it can route messages as efficiently as possible. Just like content delivery network (CDN) companies try to minimize latency, Ably routes messages based on latency.
The startup also promises redundancy and reliability with a self-healing network. If a data center goes down, your realtime features still operate as usual. You can also store messages in a traditional message queue in case a user is offline and you want to deliver a batch of messages later when they come back online.
Clients include virtual event company Hopin, Bloomberg, Verizon and Tennis Australia (Verizon is also TechCrunch’s parent company). There are also some big customers in the social media space but Ably says it can’t disclose the names of all its customers. They pay depending on usage, such as the number messages, concurrent connections and channels.
Overall, Ably reaches 250 million devices per month. It currently has 65 employees. With today’s funding round, it expects to hire another 125 employees by the end of 2022.
The company’s vision is straightforward. It wants to build an infrastructure company that becomes an essential part of the services that you use every day. Ably could become the realtime network that delivers messages from point A to point B as quickly and as reliably as possible.