PlanetScale, the serverless database company founded by the co-creators of the Vitess open source project that powers YouTube, today announced that it has raised a $50 million Series C funding round led by Kleiner Perkins. Existing investors a16z, SignalFire and Insight Partners also participated in this round, together with GitHub's former CEO and co-founder Tom Preston-Werner, Lattice CEO and founder Jack Altman and Instacart co-founder Max Mullen. With this, the company has now raised a total of $105 million, including a $30 million Series B it announced only five months ago.
In addition, the company also today announced that its hosted enterprise platform is now generally available. Even though its service was only available as a private beta since its launch in May 2021, the company's customers already include the likes of YouTube, GitHub, New Relic, Slack, MyFitnessPal, Square and Affirm. "We have major websites -- top 4,000 websites -- that have already moved to PlanetScale and that are hosted on PlanetScale right now -- in beta," PlanetScale CEO Sam Lambert said. "You can't keep people off it. The beta flag did nothing to deter them."
Lambert, who was previously the VP of Engineering at GitHub, took the CEO position in July after nine months as PlanetScale's chief product officer. He replaced co-founder Jiten Vaidya, who stepped into the chief strategy officer role and continues to serve on the company's board.
As Lambert told me, PlanetScale is expanding quickly and the number of employees tripled in the last six months. "We are now being spoken about as the default serverless database, especially if you're using platforms like Netlify and Vercel. Serverless is growing as a piece of the industry, but it was growing in areas of less complexity [ … ] and there were a few people putting databases together for the serverless world. But we showed up -- and I think we brought something completely new: We brought the database that was the back end for YouTube.com, the second-largest website on planet Earth, and we brought it into a serverless world," Lambert said.
According to Kleiner Perkins partner Bucky Moore, transactional databases like PlanetScale are "the premium market opportunity in all of infrastructure." Yet while the big cloud providers are generating billions from these services, investors have remained cautious. "A lot of investors, frankly, have been hesitant to want to compete with the cloud providers on this axis because it is such a near and dear business to their heart and strategy," Moore said. "The way I think about it, though, is quite different. You have these two megatrends in the need to deliver software at a web scale to global user bases, which of course the public cloud makes a lot easier. But at the same time, they really haven't innovated all that much on how you solve the database part of this. And that's, of course, why Vitess is such an interesting piece of technology and why so many great companies are running it at scale."
Meanwhile, Lambert argues, serverless is finally getting to the point where it delivers on many of the original promises of the cloud. "The cloud eventually just shifted to, 'well, you don't put plug servers in anymore.' But companies now have teams of people, hundreds of folks just managing their AWS and it's like, 'wow, we didn't move far enough to where we need to go.' I think serverless is picking that up and it's accelerating. It's such an extreme pace. And it brings about human progress. It brings about the fact that there will be a five-person company worth over a billion dollars because they will just leverage serverless tools -- and they will just pull these things together."
And while PlanetScale sits on top of open source projects like MySQL and Vitess, neither Lambert nor Moore were worried about the major cloud providers taking the code and launching their own competitors.
"One thing the clouds cannot clone is taste," Lambert said (and I should note that I've met few people who bring as much enthusiasm and passion to a discussion about databases as Lambert). "It's absolutely true, right? You look at the licensing debate, the licensing war right now. Many, many companies and many database companies are hiding behind BSL licensing because of that fear that the clouds will just pick their tool up. We do not fear people being able to take our tastes, we do not fear. I sat at GitHub while major companies started up their competitor to GitHub and then closed it down. And it's because of our incredible ability to build things that emotionally resonate with people through beauty and design and incredible taste. [ … ] We do not fear the clouds having a go, because truly, the magic that we bring to the conversation is extremely unique."
As for the company's future plans, Lambert noted that, so far, PlanetScale has only laid the groundwork for its roadmap. In his view, the company has only shown about 10% of what Vitess can do, but the team needed to put in the basics like login systems and audit logging before it could work on these next steps (though with database branching, it has already launched a number of highly innovative features as well). In the view of the PlanetScale team, a lot of the work in the database world has been around taking roles away from the database itself and working with data outside of the database. But if you have a robust and highly scalable system like Vitess, you can simplify your architecture and, over time, bring a lot of the primitives that have been built outside of the database systems back into them.
With the GA launch today, the company is already offering a new database import feature that allows users to move any existing MySQL database to PlanetScale with just a few clicks. This should make it easier for new users to test the service with their own data before they make a full transition. The service is now also integrated with the new Prisma Data Platform, allowing developers to create PlanetScale databases in Prisma.