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People told the MongoDB founders they were 'completely crazy' and now the company is worth $1.6 billion

October 20,2017 00:23

A decade ago, people told the MongoDB founders they were crazy to try and build their tech company in New York instead of Silicon Valley. On Thursday, MongoDB proved the naysayers wrong with a successful IPO. It's been a "surreal" experience for one of ...


MongoDB's IPO day. MongoDB IPO
A decade ago, people told the MongoDB founders they were crazy to try and build their tech company in New York instead of Silicon Valley.
On Thursday, MongoDB proved the naysayers wrong with a successful IPO.
It's been a "surreal" experience for one of its founders, 36-year-old Eliot Horowitz, he tells Business Insider.
On Thursday, MongoDB pulled off a successful IPO, opening at $24, higher than its initial target range of $18 - $20 and raising $192 million.
MongoDB's shares leaped 33% by day's end, valuing it at $1.6 billion, on par with the last valuation it had as a private company. And that's good news for the crop of other unicorns, startups valued at $1 billion or more, waiting in the wings for their own IPOs.
The New York-based database company has been a darling of the VC world and raised over $311 million from private investors. But it wasn't always that way, recalls one of its cofounders, CTO Eliot Horowitz.
Horowitz helped cofounder Dwight Merriman write the company's bread-and-butter product, the MongoDB database, when the company was founded in 2007. They were joined by cofounder Kevin Ryan. Merriman and Ryan were already known in New York for creating a hit tech company, DoubleClick, sold to a private equity firm for $1.1 billion. (Google later bought it for over $3 billion).
But DoubleClick was an adtech company and New York is the hub of advertising. The database world was centered in Silicon Valley.
"We started ten years ago and people thought we were completely crazy for starting a database company in New York. The early VC meetings where like, so when are moving to California? And Dwight and I were like, 'uh, never,'" he recalls.
For a good four years people continuously told the founders that "you can't build a database company in New York," he said.
MongoDB cofounder Eliot Horowitz Twitter
But they did.
Although MongoDB did eventually bow to pressure and open an office in Palo Alto, California, New York remained the hub.
"When we started to hire people out of college and gave them the choice of do you want to go to New York or Palo Alto, they were like, 'Well, New York. Because New York is more fun," he said.
The New York home base even caused the company to lose its CEO Max Schireson in 2014. Schireson, a former Oracle exec from the Bay Area, was living an exhausting bi-coastal lifestyle. He quit the job to see his kids more, a decision that set off a firestorm of analysis on work/life balance for men.
The company hired Dev Ittycheria as CEO who led them to this IPO on Thursday. By day's end, Ittycheria's 6% stake was worth $88 million.
Even from New York, MongoDB became a leader in an entirely new kind of database market. MongoDB is a free and open source database for holding messy types of data, the types generated by and used by internet applications. It fills a different technical need than the traditional databases sold by Oracle and Microsoft that store more rigid types of data.
Its free version has been downloaded 30 million times and it has 4,300 paying customers, it says. It's the fourth most popular database on the market, according to market watching site DB-Engines. Today, MongoDB employees 820 people in 29 offices.
For Horowitz, the best part of MongoDB's success is seeing how companies use this new kind of database. For instance, he says Bosch uses it with special screwdriver drills that can measure the torque of the screws as they install them in airplanes. By tracking torque, they can "make airplanes safer, and I fly a lot so that’s cool," he said.
It's also cool that Horowitz's nearly 6% stake was worth $77 million by the close of market on Thursday.
How does that feel? "The day's been a little surreal," he says.

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