Recent TechStars graduate Appbase built what it calls a "Databases as a Service" product to handle database management and optimization for users.
Building a startup takes a lot of work. Once your idea is vetted and your product built, the hardest roads are still to come. The real trial by fire comes when a company begins to scale its product.
Unfortunately, this is where many startups get tripped up. They may have a fantastic product or service, but they can't handle exponential growth in the user base. Much of that stress falls on the backend of the product, especially on the database infrastructure.
Appbase, a startup based in San Antonio, Texas, alleviates some of the stress of scaling with its database service for search and analytics. The concept of database-as-a-service (DBaaS) has been around for a little while, but it typically only deals with a single database.
In contrast, Appbase has built what it calls databases-as-a-service, to work with the multiple databases developers use for different aspects of the backend such as the primary persistence layer, search indices, and the authentication layer.
"We are not tying ourselves to a particular database, we are tying ourselves to the end goals that our customers have, which is to perform fast search and analytics, and any kind of queries," said Siddharth Kothari, co-founder and CEO of Appbase.
As a service, Appbase handles your database backend for you. They select the databases for you and optimize them accordingly. However, they offer a transparent look at the stack and offer data modeling guidelines as well. This is different from similar services offered by Amazon that make you choose what pieces you want to use.
To access the databases, Appbase uses a REST (representational state transfer) API that can be used from any platform. The REST API basically acts as a two-way street to get data in and out of the databases. It queries the database and it also acts as the channel through which users send data or records back to Appbase to have them put into their databases. So, users can search through your data without creating another search database and migrating their data, etc.
"The secret sauce is what actual DBs we use underlying the REST API to actually power those queries," Kothari said.
Another differentiator is the platform's ability to naturally handle multitenancy, meaning it is designed to handle separate groups of users who share access to the databases.
One of the company's customers, Callinize, is a company that connects enterprise phone systems with CRM software. Callinize creates sales dashboards by querying call data for their customers so sales managers can see who on their team is making the most calls and other data on that call.
Callinize was adding more than 200,000 records a day, and had more than 10 million records in total. As part of their growing pains as they scaled, their query time — the time it takes to present the proper data in the dashboard — became problematic. Kothari said Callinize was losing customers because their queries weren't loading fast enough. Now, their call time is less than one second for the dashboard.
Numerous is another Appbase customer. According to co-founder Charlie Wood, it is an app that "allows users to search for other users and for any of the 80,000+ numbers (event countdowns, stock prices, weather, etc) those users have created." And, the Numerous team uses Appbase to power that search functionality.
"Appbase has already done two important things for us: It's improved our existing search by making it much faster, more efficient, and less expensive; and it's enabled us to create a better user experience for a new feature we're working on by supporting real-time search with autocomplete," Wood said.
Pricing is based on the number of API calls, the amount of storage, and the level of support you need. Currently, the pricing model exists in four tiers: hacker at $49 a month, startup at $149 a month, growth at $399 a month, and a custom tier for bigger enterprise solutions. According to Kothari, the pricing model isn't set in stone, they'll likely be adding more tiers soon.
Kothari worked with his co-founder, Sagar Chandarana, at another TechStars company working on educational games. They were hired to work on product, but they ended up having to spend a lot of time having to working on the infrastructure trying to shift backend architecture and scale the system.
In the beginning the pair chalked it up to inexperience. But, after leaving the company and doing a short stint at Google, Kothari and Chandarana encountered many other people who were having the same problems. So, they decided to tackle part of the problem by building Appbase.
Originally from India, they had trouble getting work visas to the US, so they went to Brazil first. Then, they go into the TechStars program and moved to San Antonio, Texas.
Appbase currently has 10 paying customers including Callinize, Numerous, and Knotify. The team raised $150,000 prior to TechStars and received $120,000 from TechStars. They are now working on raising an additional $500,000.