The Founders Story - Raising a Seed Fund

Huckletree's Editorial TeamThe Editorial TeamHuckletree5/10/2023

We sat down with Jaime and Tobie Morgan Hitchcock, brothers and founders of the fastest-growing database to exist, SurrealDB, to chat about their experience raising their $6m seed round. This groundbreaking startup is part of the founding community at our Oxford Circus hub, designed for innovators building the future of Web, Tech and Digital. We’re thrilled to have welcomed them. Read on to discover insights from these two brilliant founders about what it’s really like to raise your seed round. 

HKT - So tell us a bit about yourselves and SurrealDB…


We’re brothers, Tobie and I, and we've worked together for some seventeen years now. Together, we conceptualised SurrealDB back in 2015 when we were working on a complicated SaaS product using lots of different back ends. We thought there had to be a simpler, all-in-one tool that does it all. But there wasn't. So, in 2016 and 2017 we started building it.

In 2018 we put it into production internally and knew that it would be bigger than anything we would build on top of it. So, we rewrote it in the rust language. In August of 2022, we did a public open beta. It went crazy. It's now the fastest-growing database of all time. We had an amazing seed round, found a VC that we really clicked with, and closed on $6m at the end of last year.

The trajectory is strong and yeah, we’ve had an amazing few months.


HKT - That’s incredible. We’d love to hear more about what the experience of raising your seed round was like for you as founders. Can you share with us some insights on that?



We took quite a different route to the average startup — which typically looks like building your MVP, getting pre-seed funding, angel financing, building some more, getting your seed, and something like that. For us, we had to take a different route as building a database requires years of research. I sometimes wonder if we’d be in the same position had gone incrementally with those early stages.

We may have unconventionally gone about this, but it meant we could spend seven years building and iterating our database internally without the financing. And now that it’s ready, our approach has enabled us to grow as the fastest online database so far. And you know, has led us to raise a brilliant seed round.



To add to what Tobie said, SurrealDB is not an MVP. We have companies all the way from Series A to Series F using it in pre and post-production, we've got FTSE companies using it for their billion-dollar companies with thousands of users and staff… and we're still in beta.

The main thing for a seed round is to speak to as many people as possible. We didn't just go with the first offer that made sense. The average relationship with a VC lasts longer than the average marriage. You want it to be a very good relationship. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your VCs, you know, they’ll be sitting on your board down the line. You want to be friends with them.

So we had a lot of meetings, a lot of people were very interested, but we took our time.



Coming back to that point, in a two week period, I think we met close to 85 VCs. We had zoom calls with VCs from Europe all the way to the West Coast of North America, so our calls were spanning seven in the morning through to midnight. It’s important to meet as many people as possible, not only to get as much interest in your round possible, but also to find the right person for you.

We spoke with some great people. And I think we were fortunate to be in a position where all of those VCs came to us. We spent so much time working on the product beforehand, it wasn't like it was a small product with potential — it was already in use and demonstrating its power. That put us in a very different position to the traditional route of going solo from the beginning.



Another piece of advice we can talk to is the importance of growing a community. There are other databases out there. We have the fastest growing out there not just because it’s an amazing product, but already, we’ve grown a great community.

We've got 3100 people on our Discord channel and 17,200 Plus GitHub stars. We make sure we’re relatable and we reply to nearly all the comments we can on our socials, even as this community grows larger.

We help people out on our channels, we follow people back, we engage. If people spend time and money using SurrealDB, we've got to show that time and love back. You never know who’s going to be the next top engineer or CTO at a major company wanting to use your product.



And that's from a customer perspective. From a VC perspective, we were fortunate in that we had some very big funds talking to us, but we also took the time to speak to every single person that came through our inbox - the angels and small European funds all the way up to the top twenty funds in the world.



Yeah, and because we spoke to every single person, even those top funds who actually either didn't put in an offer in or we didn't go with, they said we still want to chat to us about our Series A. We’ve already got amazing interest in our next round, because we kept communicating with them and even if we didn't go with them. We're still chatting, you know, it's very important to keep relations going whether with VCs or anybody.



And one thing we’ve noticed as we're new to the venture capital world, is that there’s a lot of cross-pollination. Everybody's worked at a different fund or knows someone from a different fund, they push deals to each other. You can't treat someone differently because they all know each other.



Our last ever call with a VC, he called and said, “congratulations on your X number of term sheets”. We never met the guy before.

What we also haven’t done that’s the norm is going with lots of VCs and angels. We followed the advice of making sure we had lots of people at the table fighting for it. But we went with one VC for the full amount of our round, because at the end of the day we trusted them, we went with what was best for us.



This also makes it easier for our board composition down the line, and makes it easier for our future rounds as we won’t have to get a whole bunch of signatures.

There are obviously still pros to going with a variety of VCs as they can bring different areas of expertise. But when you’re going with a VC like FirstMark, they have that knowledge already, we don’t need to add it into the mix.



Our top advice is to just go with whatever you feel. If another startup has gone down a particular route that doesn’t feel right to you, don’t do it that way. Because at the end of the day, I always trust my gut. And if I've got a certain feeling, and it's not feeling right, I'm just not gonna go with it.

We’re living proof that you can buck the trends and take a very human approach and still come out on top of your goals.

Thank you so much Jaime and Tobie for sharing your insights about raising your seed round. It’s been brilliant chatting, and we’re so pleased to welcome you to our Oxford Circus hub. 

We’re especially looking forward to the SurrealDB team launching their TECH+TUNES series at Huckletree. It’s set to be a tech networking event – with a difference! Featuring TEDx style talks, live music and lots of time to network, the tech and tunes series promises fun, inclusive & informative evenings that are not to be missed, merging the world of tech and startups and creating a powerful ecosystem of opportunities. Tickets are limited, so don’t delay in grabbing yours here.

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