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Outlier’s Path

Visit to MongoDB

A week ago, many on Sequoia’s investment team convened in NYC to experience the vibrant NYC ecosystem. We had an exhausting week filled with many events and highlights. My personal favorite was our MongoDB visit.

MongoDB (fka 10gen) was founded in 2007 by Dwight Merriman, Eliot Horowitz, and Kevin Ryan and developed initially to be a platform as a service project. In 2009, MongoDB released its first open-source, NoSQL database management system. We became partners with MongoDB in 2010 thanks to Roelof.

Seven years later, on October 19, 2017, MongoDB completed its IPO, which priced and closed at $24/share and $32.07/share, respectively. As a public company, customers, revenue, and stock price/share have increased more than ten-fold because a transformation transpired from an open-source company to a database as a service company (their Atlas product).

The transformation required creativity, leadership, and boldness. This would be true for a private company, but incubating a startup within a newly minted public company required conviction. In 2017, MongoDB generated revenue from subscription licenses billed annually, but less than 1% of revenue came from Atlas. Today, more than half of MongoDB revenue comes from Atlas.

CEO Dev Ittycheria and his team achieved these results by making Atlas a company-wide transformation, not a side project, even if the financial impact was tiny at the time. Since Atlas was the most important initiative at the company, MongoDB put Atlas in the hands of a single-threaded leader to drive alignment and the direction of the product and incentivized senior leaders on the success of Atlas to promote teamwork. From there, MongoDB took a phased approach:

  1. Validate product-market fit focused on startups and solo developers through a self-serve model.
  2. Experiment with an inside sales motion to refine their pitch.
  3. Expand the go-to-market to the enterprise and develop a partnership motion.

Whether you are a seed company finding PMF, a growth company scaling GTM, or a maturing company in search of a second act, these principles remain the same:

  1. Focus on the most important thing.
  2. Make sure you have the right single-threaded leader.
  3. Ensure incentives promote the right behaviors.
  4. Start small and find product-market fit.
  5. Experiment with sales messaging and expand GTM from there.

Thank you, Dev, for the reminder that if we are building for the long run, the cycle of company building never ends. If everything goes right, today will be the slowest day you’ll ever have.