When it comes to data-intensive applications, setting up the infrastructure is expensive and time-consuming. You’re often paying for resources you aren’t using, even in the cloud. That’s where serverless plays best — you only pay for the resources when you’re using them, not when they’re sitting idle.
Upstash, an early-stage startup, is building a serverless data platform for developers of data-intensive applications using a consumption-based pricing model, which should help drive down prices. For starters, it supports Redis and Kafka, two popular open source projects.
As Upstash founder and CEO Enes Akar explained, just to set up the database infrastructure in the cloud costs hundreds of dollars a month, even before you start moving data through your system. While there are managed versions of these services, Akar wanted to abstract away even more of the operational overhead.
“In our system, you can have hundreds of Redis databases or hundreds of Kafka clusters, but if they’re not receiving any requests, then you will pay zero,” he said.
Serverless doesn’t mean there are no servers. They are there, but developers don’t have to worry about provisioning to meet demand. The serverless provider delivers exactly the amount of resources and no more (at least that’s the theory).
Another way Upstash is able to keep prices down is by balancing data requirements between memory and storage. “Our approach is we keep your data in both memory and on disk. And if you do not access your data, we remove it from memory and it resides on disk. So this is the secret sauce that enables us to give very flexible pricing,” he said.
The company, which is based in Turkey, launched at the end of 2020 with the product coming along last year. Upstash already has more than 13,000 developers using the product, according to Akar. There is a free tier available for up to 10,000 requests per day. After that, you have to pay, and if you exceed 1,000 commits per second, there is an enterprise tier.
It’s early in terms of paying customers with a small percentage of users paying for the service, but Akar is looking ahead and trying to decide if he wants to focus on developers and small and medium-sized businesses or on larger enterprise customers, which require more of a traditional sales motion. That is still being worked out, he said.
So far, the company has seven employees, all engineers, with plans to reach 10 this year, and then double again next year. He said so far his team is all men, but he recognizes the need to consider diversity as he builds his employee base.
“That’s important because the founders will set the culture. … Right now, all seven engineers are unfortunately male. So we need to think about diversity,” he said.
The company announced a $1.9 million seed round today from Mango Capital, AngelList, ScaleX Ventures and individual industry angels.