Yesterday (International Women’s Day!), Xata announced its Series A raise and an all-woman board of directors. We’ve been wildly impressed by Xata founder Monica Sarbu since early last year, when we were eagerly awaiting her to incorporate the company so we could invest. We couldn’t be more proud to continue to back her vision — to make databases a joy to use and increase diversity in tech.
The company: Xata
Xata has created a serverless database service for Jamstack apps that just works. It combines the power of a traditional database with the usability of a SaaS spreadsheet app, all behind a single API. And since it was built to work with developers’ workflows, Xata makes it dramatically easier to securely store, manage, and consume data — freeing developers up from common backend development headaches so they can focus on building great apps.
Back in 2013, Monica co-founded Packetbeat, a popular open-source project that now has 300M downloads. It was acquired by Elastic, where she eventually led four teams as director of engineering. After Covid-19 hit, Monica decided she wanted to parlay her own personal success in the tech industry into something that could help others. She launched Tupu.io, a free platform to connect women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community to mentors.
As she built the nonprofit’s app, she ran into a hurdle: finding a serverless database service with a good developer experience. Recognizing there was a gap in the market, she built it — and Xata was born. She notes that being your own first customer has tremendous advantages. Monica said, “We deeply believe in dogfooding our products, and we do it with every opportunity. What better way to improve things for your customers than by improving things for yourself? Tupu.io is a great source of ideas for Xata and keeps us grounded.”
Why you should pay attention
Of course, Monica isn’t the only developer with backend frustrations. Tech teams everywhere are looking for easier, faster, and more scalable ways to build new apps. Most are turning to Jamstack architectures, serverless platforms, no-code/low-code development, and edge computing to develop all kinds of digital experiences. However, these powerful technologies can be hampered when the underlying database is overly complex and hard to manage (think scaling nodes, maintenance downtime, caching, monitoring, etc.), or overly simplistic and unable to scale (due to rate limits and lack of schema constraints).
Monica believes it’s time to think differently about databases, and she brings just the right vision, technical expertise, and developer network to flip the script. Her deep experience in the open-source community gives Monica a unique perspective. She shared, “Three of the key values I bring with me are providing as much value to our users as possible, genuinely caring about the problems our customers are solving, as well as maximizing the number of people for which our product is useful.”
The benefits of this approach are getting noticed across the industry, including by Jamstack platform providers such as Guillermo Rauch, founder and CEO at Vercel. He noted, “When I started Vercel and Next.js, I dreamt of a data layer that’d be friendly for devs and non-devs alike. It’s finally here: Xata delivers on a great developer experience and a gorgeous admin UX.”
How it works
The Xata service basically runs your database for you and turns it into a powerful API so you can query and update it from a serverless app. It also provides a simple, spreadsheet-like user interface so you can interact with your data directly, via a web browser. This no-code/low-code approach makes it easier to iteratively build a database schema as you add sample data. And after adding new tables, columns, data, queries, or views, Xata creates code samples ready for use in your application.
Xata gives developers flexibility in the early days of building an app, while ensuring a strict schema that will keep data safe and correct as the app grows. It combines a document database with relations, an analytics engine, and a free-text search engine. And the enterprise-class service is designed to effortlessly support preferred development workflows, such as creating on-the-fly database branches; pushing to deploy, preview, and test; or merging to deploy to production.
Why we’re obsessed
Because enterprise databases take a lot of work, many developers start out using a simple online database, like Airtable, as their first backend when prototyping a new project. However, that data management model quickly hits rate limits and isn’t able to scale indefinitely if your app’s user base explodes all of the sudden. Xata’s developer-centric database, on the other hand, is as easy to use as newer online spreadsheets, yet scalable, secure, and production-ready so developers can rely on it over the long term.
Just as important, we’re inspired by Monica’s thoughtful approach to building the company from her home base in Berlin. When asked how she’s cultivating Xata’s culture in a globally distributed, “work anywhere” context, Monica says it’s all about learning how to make decisions and share knowledge in an asynchronous environment, while making space for video meetings where possible. She explained, “In the end, if you use the tools right, you will get more inclusive decision making, better documentation for past decisions, more thoughtful conversations, and ultimately better outcomes in the long term.”
She’s also committed to making sure diversity and inclusion are part of Xata’s DNA from the start as she firmly believes that friendly, diverse, and inclusive environments make the best teams. Monica is the kind of leader that top talent wants to work for, because she hires people who believe in the mission, gives them autonomy, and lets them experiment.
Xata is currently available as a private beta and will be released more broadly later this year. If you’d like to try Xata, sign up for the developer waitlist in the meantime.