MongoDB Wizards Work to Make 10gen the Red Hat of Databases

9/27/11Follow @wroush

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10gen’s core community still lies: “You have developers voting with their tie and downloading the product and advocating its use at meetups around the world,” says Luis Robles, a Sequoia Capital partner who handled the firm’s recent investment in 10gen. But now larger enterprises like Intuit, which is rolling out a variety of mobile and cloud-based personal financial services, are also dipping their toes in the NoSQL water. “The use cases for big data span across many different verticals—Web companies, media companies, gaming companies, medical, telcos,” says Robles.

Today, MongoDB is the best-known NoSQL database, at least judging from Google’s statistics—searches for MongoDB are about twice as common as searches for the closest competitor, CouchDB. To meet the demand for support and ongoing development of MongoDB, the company has expanded bicoastally; it now has 80 employees, half in New York and half in Redwood Shores. (Merriman says it’s interesting doing business from both places: “As a pure technology company, we’re an outlier in New York, but in Redwood Shores it’s completely normal.”)

I asked Merriman when he thought 10gen would hit its inflection point—when the gradually rising adoption curve would begin to look more like a hockey stick. “In theory, that is happening right now,” he says. “Adoption is great. Customers are super happy. Enterprises are using it. People are willing to pay.” The NoSQL market is still small compared to the overall database market, but within three years, Merriman says, it will be clear whether 10gen was a “home run” for its investors. “There are a whole bunch of risk gates that we have already gone through. The thing I focus on now is execution—doing a good job for our customers and users and not messing that up.”

What would “messing up” mean for 10gen? “A bad bug would be a perfect example of bad operational execution,” Merriman says. “Also, bad marketing, or bad sales, or bad hiring. The next 200 people that we hire—are they engaged? Can we get good people?”

Fortunately for 10gen, there aren’t many other places yet where young NoSQL wizards can go for a Hogwarts experience. “The good thing is that it’s a cool product to work on,” says Merriman. “If you want to work at a pure tech company, this should be one of the more interesting ones.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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