MongoDB, the leading NoSQL database company that has raised about $220m in venture funding so far, announced a change at the helm today. Max Schireson who has been with the company for 4 years, first as President and then about two years ago taking over as CEO from founder and chairman Dwight Merriman, is stepping up to be Vice Chairman of the Board. Taking his place as CEO is industry veteran, Dev Ittycheria (pronounced Dave).
Ittycheria was the founder and CEO of BladeLogic which had a successful IPO and then was acquired by BMC. Ittycheria then served in an executive role there before moving over into the VC side of things. He was involved with Greylock Partners and OpenView Venture Partners. Many industry insiders thought that he would not want to come back to an operations position, but the opportunity with MongoDB was too hard to pass up. The next step for the company is probably an IPO which would say investors start cashing out on the hundreds of millions of dollars they have invested.
Schireson posted on his own personal blog that he was “stepping out and up” for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that he has 3 young children and being away from home so much was painful. Max’s family is based in Silicon Valley where is wife is a physician and Stanford professor. MongoDB is headquartered in NYC. So the bi-coastal routine plus regular CEO duties had Max logging airlines miles at a 300k annual clip. That is a tough number to live with for an extended period of time.
I spoke with Max today about the news. I have been spoken with Max several times over the years about MongoDB and knew how instrumental he was in the companies success. But Max realizes that MongoDB is about to move into another phase. While the growth has been phenomenal, a different skill set is now required for this next jump to warp speed.
This same lesson was taught to me many years ago by a man named Len Fassler. You may never have heard of Len, but Len was one of the smartest men I ever met in business. He had done multiple roll ups in several industries. My friend Brad Feld counts Len as a mentor. Len actually bought Brad’s first company, Feld Technologies. Anyway, Len used to tell me that anyone can get lucky and catch lightning in a bottle, starting a company and building it up to a $4 to $6 million dollar run rate. But it takes a whole different skill set to build and manage a team that can take a company to 25 to 35 million dollars in revenue. To make the next leap to lets say $100m in revenue takes a whole different set of skills. To go beyond that yet another set of skills involved. It is rare that one person has the spectrum of skills to take a company from near start up all the way to billions of dollars.
I told Max today when I spoke to him, bravo to him for recognizing this fact without making MongoDB and its investors pay the price. He has done a tremendous job making MongoDB a near household name in the tech world. Now it is up to Dev Ittycheria to take the captains chair and steer this star ship to its next destination.
Opportunities to lead a company with the trajectory of MongoDB are rare indeed. Schireson believes that the future is even rosier though. He thinks MongoDB may be just hitting a place where revenue starts to hockey stick up. The foundation is laid for good things to continue.
It will not be easy, it never is. MongoDB still has to overcome some growing and scalability issues. There are other NoSQL and other databases gunning for them. But I would rather be playing their hand of cards then any of their competitors frankly.
In the meantime congratulations to Max for a job well done at MongoDB. Another thing I learned from Len Fassler was that building any company into a success is not easy and anyone who does so should be congratulated. So Max be proud of all you have accomplished here.
Now lets see where Captain Dev can take MongoDB on the next phase of its 5 year mission to boldly go where NoSQL has gone before!