Utilizing the cloud, San Francisco-based startup PubNub enables app developers of all types and sizes to add massively multi-user capabilities quickly and effectively

By Editor April 6, 2012

Pubnub_logoA Q&A with PubNub co-founder and CEO Todd Greene. The San Francisco–based company was founded in 2010 and recently raised $4.5 million in Series A funding. Investors include Relay Ventures and Silicon Valley’s TiE Angels.

SUB: Please describe what PubNub is, and the value proposition you offer to mobile app developers.

Greene: PubNub is the leading cloud service delivering real-time messaging and data synchronization for mobile, web, and server. We make it easy for developers to add massively multi-user capabilities to their applications without learning to be a real-time communications expert.

PubNub is enabling a fundamental change in the way humans interact online. For the first time in human history, we can be connected to everyone else in the world with less than a quarter second latency; in other words, all can be connected in “real-time”. Yet our online experiences are barely beginning to catch up with that fact. Until now, only companies who invest millions in building proprietary real-time technology can build real-time apps like Skype, World of Warcraft, WebEx, real-time financials apps, and SecondLife. PubNub democratizes the ability for every software developer to add massively multi-user experiences to the apps and websites they develop.

PubNub is a cloud service so there is no operational expertise required and zero system management effort. Developers simply connect their apps to PubNub and we take care of the rest—monitoring and managing the servers, networks, security and administration. We ensure the scalability and reliability of the service and provide our customers with a guaranteed service level.

PubNub is amazingly fast, globally scalable, and designed for devices to send and receive millions of messages in milliseconds without any excess overhead. PubNub developers have optimized the service to be the fastest real-time communications cloud available. Our distributed architecture is deployed worldwide in multiple datacenters to deliver local access speeds across the globe. Any device can publish or listen to any other device anywhere in the world with amazing performance.

SUB: Who are your target users?

Greene: Our users are developers building or upgrading apps that need to synchronize data in real-time. PubNub delivers massively multi-user app capabilities to mobile and web games, business collaboration apps, social media experiences, and multi-user audio and video apps and sites. PubNub supports every popular development environment, including iOS, Android, Javascript, Flash, Silverlight, PHP, Python, Ruby, Java, Erlang, and .NET, to name a few.

Some examples include “Social TV” apps that want to synchronize a live TV show with every phone and tablet simultaneously, multi-player games that synchronize players’ positions via PubNub, and real-time video, audio, image collaboration and sharing apps. PubNub allows developers to bring their real-time solutions to market much faster and at much lower costs by providing a fully managed, global and scalable real-time messaging infrastructure.

SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?

Greene: There are basically three ways that customers attempt to solve the challenges of building and deploying real-time apps. With a large enough budget, some companies will develop and maintain their own infrastructure, customizing a solution specific to their own applications. However, with shortage of core development teams combined with the demands to ship product quickly and support infinitely large user bases, most companies are no longer taking this approach.

Another option is for companies to leverage open source codebases like Socket.io and others to prototype and deploy small-scale solutions. Because these open source solutions are challenging to scale and to maintain in production environments, these customers are perfect for PubNub, and often migrate to PubNub once deployed. Finally, there is a new class of cloud-hosted companies that are addressing this solution in various ways. However, PubNub is the only one developed in C for high performance, deployed in nine data centers worldwide for low latency, and is supported in every popular programming language and development environment.

SUB: What differentiates PubNub from the competition?

Greene: Beyond the differences mentioned above, PubNub also takes a long-term view to cloud hosted solutions for the new “real-time stack” that is beginning to emerge. Our product roadmap is defined around a vision to enable developers to quickly and cost-effectively build apps that help change the world, making it easy for users to collaborate, share, communicate, and play in real-time, with global-scale audiences. Our team is focused on the long haul, having previously created software infrastructure companies generating over $3 billion in value.

SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?

Greene: The genius behind the PubNub platform comes from Stephen Blum, our CTO. Stephen founded PubNub in August 2010. The company was incubated as the service was optimized based on our customers’ inputs and the macro-trends of cloud, mobile, and real-time social apps. Stephen has been a successful software entrepreneur his whole life, starting his first company, LTSun, at age 17, and joining Microsoft after its acquisition. Stephen was the also the chief architect for TrustedOpinion.com, a 50-language social recommendations site that grew to over a million users across over 100 countries.

SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for PubNub? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?

Greene: Stephen created PubNub initially based on his personal experiences with the significant challenges he faced in building a large-scale, real-time infrastructure. Stephen then bootstrapped the company for a year and half, refining the technology and growing the customer base. There have been many “aha” moments that have helped define our uniquely scalable architecture, which allows us to solve a broad class of real-time problems. In the Fall of 2011, the customer base and product vision had grown to the point that we began looking for outside investors.

SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?

Greene: With any startup, the biggest obstacle is getting past the “concept” stage and actually building, launching and growing the company. PubNub was fortunate to get to market quickly with a very strong focus on execution and iterating the technology over time, rather than try to get everything perfect on day one. Now, after three major platform upgrades and over 1,000 customers, the innovations in the technology within PubNub are game changing, but what’s been equally as important has been making our service easy to adopt and understand. Thanks to everything from great documentation and downloadable demos, a vibrant and active community of PubNub developers, and even a viral PubNub hit song and music video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZgcEj_qKLU). we have been able to nurture a growing list of dedicated customers.

SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future, and what are your goals for PubNub over the next year or so?

Greene: PubNub is currently well capitalized, and we have no immediate future to raise further outside funding. There are some exciting products and services on our immediate roadmap, all of which are under wraps for now. More immediately, we are focused on continuing to provide amazing customer “real-time” support, and ensuring we’re embedded and integrated into every popular development framework on the market. Our goal is to be the de facto choice for developers building real-time massively multi-user apps.

PubNub – www.pubnub.com