Hating on MongoDB the technology apparently is still a popular thing
, but most people with a stake in enterprise IT startups should probably be hoping that MongoDB succeeds as a public company. Its first day was certainly a success – shares ended up more than 30 percent
and the company matched its private-market valuation of $1.6 billion – but Day 1 excitement isn’t exactly a sure predictor of future performance.
People should root for MongoDB because the futures of their companies might very well hinge, even if indirectly, on how fast MongoDB is able to grow and how happy it can keep investors. It is, by my math, only the fourth open source enterprise vendor to IPO (the others being Red Hat, Hortonworks and Cloudera), and it’s probably a more natural comparison for up-and-coming open source companies – of which there are a lot – than are the other three. Especially with its latest batch of paid products
to complement the eponymous free database, MongoDB touches on freemium, SaaS, open source and bottom-up adoption in ways the others do not.
If it starts publicly floundering, a whole host of startups (especially database startups) built in its image are going to have to answer to their investors and customers about why they are different. The open source awakening of companies like Microsoft and even Amazon Web Services will only complicate things for startups competing with their services. Yes, they’re validating the importance of open source, but real commitment and a huge budget can turn a company from a follower into a leader really quickly.
If, on the other hand, MongoDB soars, I think it will make life a lot easier for a lot of startups currently trying to figure out the right balance between what’s free and what’s paid, and how quickly to flip the switch between targeting developers and targeting the folks with checkbooks. When I interviewed MongoDB co-founder and CTO Eliot Horowitz in early 2016
, he acknowledged that the company’s business model was still evolving and that the company hadn’t yet mastered the art of monetization:
First off, we don’t have a hardened philosophy on this as of yet. I think it’s evolving and it’s still a little bit of a gut check on big decisions. But there are some core tenets that are definitely true. If you’re a startup, you want the open source database to work great out of the box. It should be easy to manage, easy to use and make everyone productive. That’s total table stakes. That’s completely obvious.
On the other side of the spectrum, you’ve got integrations with very “enterprisey” tools. For example, Kerberos. I don’t know any startup that’s ever interested in Kerberos authentication for their database. That is something that only big enterprises want. That one makes sense. Maybe we should monetize Kerberos.
Everything else in the middle is kind of a gut check. One of the things we would like to do is figure out a better answer for that but, frankly, there isn’t one.
Depending on how fast MongoDB is able to grow, this is either an argument for taking it slow letting growth happen organically, or for rushing to find religion on sales.
Oh, you should also check out this Intel Capital press release
highlighting 15 startups into which it has invested a combined $60 million. There are some interesting-sounding companies here, many of which focus on AI and a few on managing huge datasets.