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Scaling a Fat Startup: MongoDB CEO Max Schireson (Part 4)

Posted on Saturday, May 17th 2014

Sramana: When you were looking to join MarkLogic, what did you feel was the killer app opportunity for the company?

Max Schireson: At the time that I joined, they had one customer who was a really good customer Elsevier, who was the world’s largest scientific, technical, and medical publisher. The idea was that the initial market would be in publishing where companies made their living on content and that we would give them new ways to exploit their content. One of the early applications that they had analyzed was the citations in scientific papers. They were able to query into the structures of documents in a systematic way which made that process much easier. The thought was that publishers would be the initial market and that the company could expand from there.

Sramana: Did that hypothesis pan out?

Max Schireson: Mostly yes. Publishing proved to be a good initial market. We were able to build a strong market in governance as well. We were able to get a little bit of traction in financial services. In my time there, we were not able to create a broad, horizontal market for the product where it became common for development infrastructure.

Sramana: What happened for the company from there on?

Max Schireson: The company is still around. I think they are still doing very well. They have a strong set of customers who are happy with the technology.

Sramana: What did you do?

Max Schireson: I was there for about 7 years. I had a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Close to 7 years into my time there, the CEO who I worked under for 6 years moved on. I really liked him and I had to think about emotionally recommitting myself to a number of years with a new CEO or decide if I wanted to look for something else.

As I was thinking about that, I encountered another one of those friend of a friend situations. My wife’s running partner’s husband was doing some consulting for MongoDB and he knew that I did something similar in databases. We had some coffee to discuss what they were doing and he asked me for some advice. He wanted me to meet their team and I eventually met Dwight Merriman who was the founder and CEO of MongoDB and we really hit it off.

It turned out that he was looking for someone to run the day-to-day operations of the company so that he could spend more time with the technology. I felt that this was a great opportunity. I had believed that the world needed a new kind of database for seven years already. I believe that even more strongly now. I had learned that the enterprise direct sales model going head-to-head against Oracle was hard when the other player was a thousand times bigger than you. I felt that open source, which was how the founding team had developed MongoDB, was potentially an asymmetric model that would let us get broad adoption in the marketplace and let us be a great development platform.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Scaling a Fat Startup: MongoDB CEO Max Schireson
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