Powering our real-time world: Why we invested in Ably

Norman Fiore
Dawn Capital
Published in
4 min readJun 30, 2021


by Shamillah Bankiya and Norman Fiore

Ably co-founders Dr Paddy Byers and Matthew O’Riordan

Real-time went prime-time during Covid. Going into the pandemic, we would argue, the average Jane and Joe happily lived their ‘real’ lives, from which they would take time out to dip into their digital lives — paying bills, shopping online, replying asynchronously to emails — before returning to normal life. Fast forward to today, and the pandemic has merged our physical and digital lives inextricably and permanently. Our business life went digital overnight, and so too did our time spent on education, entertainment, working out, and even tasting wines with friends. But we live our lives in real-time so we expect our digital lives to be upgraded to real-time too — from collaborating with colleagues across documents, to live tracking delivery drivers, or moving business meetings from simple webcasts to collaborative and interactive experiences.

While increasingly ubiquitous, real-time experiences are cumbersome to deliver. They require the transfer of millions of data points, often across dispersed locations, in a specific order, within milliseconds. Currently, developers are spending thousands of hours building and managing real-time applications, and using open source solutions that simply don’t scale to the new requirements. It’s often impossible for teams to understand the reasons for failovers, driving customer frustration, revenue loss, and wasting precious developer time. It’s not, and definitely shouldn’t be, a core competency for a developer to figure out real-time infrastructure — no more than they would be expected today to figure out elastic cloud scaling, or payment gateways.

The opportunity

This complexity is Ably’s opportunity — and a huge one. So we are delighted to have co-led their Series B alongside our friends at Insight Partners, and be partnering with their extraordinary team led by co-founders Matthew O’Riordan and Dr Paddy Byers. This revolutionary real-time data infrastructure platform is transforming what Gartner believes is a $2.5bn market, set to grow 3x over the next three years, propelled by the shift to cloud, and the advent of distributed devices and tech stacks which require sophisticated connective tissue to transfer data across and within organisations.

The company’s growth so far has been phenomenal — it’s currently powering real-time experiences for 250 million people a month — which has been matched by a world-class list of customers across every sector: including the likes of Bloomberg, Hubspot, Hopin and Verizon.

Best-in-class tech with a developer-first mindset

At Dawn, we have long-championed developers as the real rockstars of software — and Ably shares our sentiments: it has focused on developers since day one. Its platform provides them with a suite of services to abstract away the delivery of real-time applications to their end users. And their technology is the best we’ve seen in the market. The platform is stateful, ensuring that end users can always pick up where they left off, and that messages are reliably delivered. It is highly scalable, with the capacity to ramp up quickly to millions of users whenever needed, and its highly reliable, predictably guaranteeing 99.999% uptime to customers. It also orchestrates both open-source and proprietary protocols, constantly adapting to new standards when required.

And because of the strength and reliability of its platform, Ably can offer its customers strict service-level agreements (SLAs), which their competitors simply cannot match. Its infrastructure is self-healing, decoupling components and making it easier and quicker for them to diagnose and solve underlying issues. Furthermore, its team has built out integrations with existing developer workflows to provide ultimate flexibility, and they are constantly building new features to ensure that developers can always turn to Ably for all their real-time needs. With strong documentation that also decreases time-to-value, a true win-win for all developers.

Powered by a world-class team

We had been tracking Ably for a number of years before we met Matt and Paddy. From our first meeting discussing the challenges and opportunities of the real-time market and infrastructure, we were blown away by their vision and rigour, and it was clear that they were a founding team like no other. Software engineers by background, they founded Ably after noticing the difficulties of building real-time infrastructure and forecasting the exponential growth to come in this space. They had realised that Ably, and real-time infrastructure more broadly, wasn’t just about delivering data to hard to reach places, but rather a paradigm that powers mission critical infrastructure for businesses and enormous number of use cases. Their unique insights into the pain points for developers and businesses alike, arising from their first hand experience, alongside their technical capabilities and clear vision for what the future could look like, meant that right from that first meeting we knew they would be the team to solve them.

Over the coming months, we will be supporting Matt, Paddy and the Ably team with hiring, as they look to expand by almost 100 people over the next year, with some fantastic roles on offer across every area of their business. And we’ll be working alongside them as they continue to scale globally, attracting increasingly larger opportunities by interacting with CTOs and CIOs and sharing the business-wide transformation Ably offers.

The whole team’s ambition is vast: to power every real-time experience, reaching billions of users globally every month. With a huge market opportunity across real-time, with consumers increasingly addicted to immediate experiences, and developers requiring more and more support to meet this accelerating demand, we look forward to an extraordinary journey with Ably.

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