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Scaling a Fat Startup: MongoDB CEO Max Schireson (Part 1)

Posted on Wednesday, May 14th 2014

The technology startup market is red hot in 2014, and private company valuations have sky-rocketed. MongoDB has raised over $200 million, and is trying to disrupt the Database market. The company they see most often in deals is Oracle. A very interesting case study of a company with huge ambition.

Sramana: Max, let’s start at the beginning of your story. Where are you from and what were the circumstances of your upbringing?

Max Schireson: I was born and raised in Canada until I was 7. My parents were hippies living in a commune and I spent the first year of my life in a tent. I lived in Boston from the time I was 7 until I was 12. Since then, I have been in the Bay area most of the time although I did spend a second stint in Boston while my wife was finishing medical school.

Sramana: What educational path did you pursue?

Max Schireson: I definitely charted my own educational path. I have never graduated from anything. I never graduated from kindergarten and I took a high school proficiency test when I was 14 that allowed me to go to college. I went to Berkeley to study math and somehow spent five years there without graduating. After I took some time off, I started working in the tech industry and never ended up going back to school.

Sramana: Chronologically what year was this?

Max Schireson: I was in Berkeley from 1985 through 1990. When I took time off, I worked at a record store where I had been working while I went to college. In 1992, my tech career began when I went to do product testing for a publishing company. In 1994, I went to Oracle and my career took off from there.

Sramana: What is it about your personality that drives the instinct of not finishing school?

Max Schireson: It is a combination of a few things. First, I am a bit impatient. That was particularly true in my younger days when I was particularly eager to get on to the next thing. I was generally bored with school before college and when I got to college I was there without good study skills and habits. I did not have the discipline to work in an unstructured environment.

I entered college thinking that I would be a mathematician or a physicist. As I got older, my interest started to broaden a little bit. Working in a record store contributed to that. The job grounded me in the practical realities of the retail business.

I think overall it was my impatience mixed with a diversity of interest along with the natural progression of time that was required for me to figure out what the right path was. It was very important for me to figure out what the right environment was. That continued for the next 15 years. I have still been finding my path, and I think that now I have found it.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Scaling a Fat Startup: MongoDB CEO Max Schireson
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