Ably nabs $70M for synchronized messaging across apps, devices, clouds

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Ably, a platform designed to handle real-time communications, today announced that it raised $70 million in series B funding led by Insight Partners and Dawn Capital LLP. The proceeds, which bring the company’s total raised to $77 million, will be used to support Ably’s growth and R&D of synchronization products designed for apps, devices, and hybrid cloud environments, according to CEO Matthew O’Riordan.

Real-time experiences pervade the digital realm, whether they’re virtual events, financial terminal dashboards, or vehicle performance data visualizations. The global real-time communications market is expected to climb at a compound annual growth rate of 43.4% from 2020 to reach $40 billion by 2027. But while  synchronized data is becoming increasingly important across the enterprise, building in-house systems can be time-consuming and expensive.

Ably claims to solve this with APIs that can be used to build, extend, and deliver a range of different event- and message-driven apps. The company provides a network with 15 geographically distributed core routing datacenters and 205 edge acceleration points-of-presence to deliver low-latency, real-time data for chat, data and analytics, internet of things deployments, and updates and notifications. Ably automatically translates between messaging protocols, offering managed integrations that connect with existing cloud services including Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. And it delivers what it calls “feature-rich” messaging, with additional guarantees for ordering and delivery, telemetry, and efficiency for large data payloads.

“[We] had a clear vision that real-time interactions would underpin rather than just augment our everyday digital experiences,” O’Riordan, who cofounded Ably with Paddy Byers in 2016, told VentureBeat via email. “Ably is the platform to power synchronized digital experiences in real time. Every day, we reach more than 250 million devices around the world.”

Real-time synchronization

Interest in real-time communications technologies is accelerating as companies embrace digital transformation during the pandemic. According to a report by analytics firm SAS, 60% of UK organizations believe that engaging with customers in real time can deliver an increase in revenue between 10% and 40%. But businesses are struggling to deploy real-time communications because of the aforementioned challenges, notes SAS head of customer intelligence Tiffany Carpenter.

“[Most] organisations are struggling to embrace real time. As consumers become ever more demanding of personalised experiences, organizations must bridge the gap by truly harnessing real-time customer engagement strategies,” Carpenter wrote in a statement accompanying the report. “The strive for real-time communication is really focused on delivering at the right time.”


Above: A diagram outlining Ably’s architecture at a high level.

In an effort to address these blockers, Ably has channels, which allow customers to publish events, messages, and more to a number of apps and devices simultaneously. Beyond this, the platform offers “exactly-once” delivery, ensuring published messages are only processed once even if client or connectivity failures cause a publish to be reattempted. Ably makes an effort to reduce bandwidth by sending only the changes from a previous message each time there’s an update, instead of the entire message. It also delivers push notifications to iOS and Android, whether a device is offline or connected, allowing companies to act on data by triggering actions and executing business logic.

Ably competes with startups including MessageBird, Sendbird, and PubNub, but O’Riordan claims that there isn’t a rival offering the same breadth and scale. Rather, he sees the biggest competition in developers trying to build their own real-time capabilities using an existing technology stack. “Today, you’d be called crazy if you wanted to build your own email service or content deliver system,” he said. “The same thing is happening with real-time now.”

Currently, Ably, which serves 500 customers across 80 countries, is being used by HubSpot to power live chat, updates, and analytics for millions of users. BlueJeans taps Ably to initiate calls, while Toyota uses it to make performance adjustments to race cars mid-race. And the Australia Open leverages the platform to deliver live scores “in milliseconds.”

“Digital has disrupted every industry and real-time synchronized experiences will do the same, Ably aims to empower both digital leaders and laggards across every industry vertical,” O’Riordan said. “Our growth is 200% year-over-year from a revenue point of view — as of January 2021, there has been 13 times annual growth in the usage of the Ably platform. [And] Ably is on track to reach one billion devices per month by 2023.”

Existing investors including Triple Point, Digital Horizon, Forward Partners, and MMC also participated in London-based Ably’s latest funding round.


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