YC-Funded Parse: A Heroku For Mobile Apps

If you’re a mobile developer designing applications for iOS or Android, you’re probably intimately familiar with Objective C and/or Java. But there’s a decent chance you’re not so experienced with the backend server code that’s required to enable things like data syncing or authentication. Now Parse, a YC-funded company that’s launching in private beta today, has a solution: it’ll take care of all of those server-side features, allowing you to focus exclusively on making the mobile client better. And the first 200 readers to sign up here with the code ‘techcrunch’ will get in. And yes — they own Parse.com.

Cofounder Tikhon Bernstam — who was a cofounder and COO at Scribd up until three months ago — explains that many mobile app developers aren’t deeply familiar with the server-side code required to manage databases, user authentication, notifications, and other common features. Granted, they can usually figure these things out, but the time it takes to learn and implement these features is far from trivial.

Which is where Parse comes in. After dragging and dropping the Parse SDK into your IDE, you can access features like mobile data storage, push notifications, and user management with a few lines of code (you can see a rundown of the current features right here). Bernstam says that one common usecase for the service is to integrate syncing, so that users can access the same content across multiple devices. You can choose to build your app from scratch with Parse integrated, or you can import existing applications and use it to layer new features on top of existing functionality.

And Parse is only getting started. Bernstam acknowledged that Parse can’t build out the server-side features that will be needed by all developers, but he thinks they can get 90% of the way there. One other important thing to note: while Parse will take care of all of your server-side data for you, it’ll let you export it if you ever want to leave the service.

The Parse team has four cofounders, all of whom have been involved with (or cofounded) YC companies. The team includes: Tikhon Bernstam (Scribd cofounder), James Yu (second engineer at Scribd), Ilya Sukhar (formerly at Etacts), and Kevin Lacker (Gamador founder). The company has raised $1.1 million so far, with investors including YC, Start Fund, Google Ventures, Menlo Ventures, SV Angel, Yuri Milner, Aaron Iba (Appjet founder), Ray Tonsing, Garry Tan (Posterous, YC), Chris Fanini (Weebly), and Sean Knapp (Ooyala).

So far the service has been integrated into popular apps including Hipmunk, Scribd’s Float, and Socialcam.

But Parse isn’t the only startup looking to help mobile developers solve these issues. In fact, we just wrote about Kinvey, a TechStars company that just raised $2 million and is in the same space as Parse.