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Scaling a Fat Startup: MongoDB CEO Max Schireson (Part 6)

Posted on Monday, May 19th 2014

Sramana: When did you join the company?

Max Schireson: I joined just at the beginning of 2011.

Sramana: Did you join the company as the CEO?

Max Schireson: I joined as the President. I did that for a while and then I was appointed CEO.

Sramana: What were the highlights of 2011 to 2014? What were some of the key strategic decisions that you have made and how have they impacted growth in the company.

Max Schireson: It has been a period of tremendous growth. When I joined the company three and a half years ago, the company had 20 some odd employees and today we have 400. We had a couple of dozen paying customers when I joined and now we have over 1,000.

Strategically, there were a few big decisions that we made. One, we were in the big market and we had an early lead so we had to go fast. We prioritized growing faster and building faster, even if that meant burning through cash and raising more money. We have been pretty aggressive over the past three years in expanding the company. Not long after we joined, the company raised $11 million, and then another $20 million. A year later, we raised $50 million and another year later, we raised another $150 million. That has given us the ability to invest aggressively in the product and in the company.

Sramana: How much money has the company raised so far?

Max Schireson: The total amount is around $230 million.

Sramana: Has the revenue grown commensurate to that kind of investment?

Max Schireson: The revenue has grown very, very quickly. The priority has not been profitability. The second important strategic decision that we made was making MongoDB ubiquitous. If there was a trade-off between monetization and adoption, then we had a strong bias towards adoption. We felt that if we could make MongoDB ubiquitous, over time, we would get better and better monetization opportunities. The revenues have grown tremendously and sales are up 50 fold since I joined.

Sramana: You and many of your peers are raising a lot of money in the private market. Obviously, investors put money in with expectation of getting serious returns. There seems to be some parallels with what happened in the late 1990s and with what is happening now. However, in the late 1990s, the public markets were rewarding the private market bubble. Right now the public market is not in a bubble itself, and that seems to be the big difference between then and now. How do you bridge that complexity and financial dynamic? How are your investors going to get the kind of returns they are looking for unless you pay attention to revenue?

Max Schireson: The good news is that revenue is growing faster than we planned, which is something the investors like. The investors also believe that if we can create the next data platform, then we will have an enormously valuable company. It feels like we are doing that. We have great investors and they have given us the space to grow the product and capture the market. That strategy has been working. My job is not to know when the public markets are or are not in a bubble. My job is to build a great company that is worth a lot in any market condition. All I can do is build appealing technology and a strong company based on a strong monetization model. If we succeed and our new database becomes as popular as relational databases, then our investors will do very well.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Scaling a Fat Startup: MongoDB CEO Max Schireson
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