MongoDB started life as an open-source database company, but it’s evolved into a B2B behemoth now deriving more than half its revenue from its Atlas cloud product, which delivers a multicloud database service.
The steady evolution of MongoDB’s business, and its success with Atlas, offers plenty of lessons for other cloud entrepreneurs trying to scale their companies today. In this episode of the Billion-Dollar B2B podcast, Battery General Partner Dharmesh Thakker chats with MongoDB’s Chief Product Officer Sahir Azam about the company’s product evolution and overall business strategy—and the specific moves that have pushed MongoDB’s annual revenue to nearly $600 million. Azam has been at MongoDB since 2016. Previously he cut his teeth at enterprise-technology companies including Sumo Logic*, VMware and BMC Software. Here are some key takeaways from the interview:
A great product gets you only so far. It may sound like strange advice coming from a top product executive. But according to Azam, even the best products can’t create large, scalable organizations by themselves. “It’s not good enough in my mind to be just a great technology company with a lot of disruption and innovation—or just to be a great sales engine,” Azam says. “You really need both of those things coming together in a cohesive way.” MongoDB’s go-to-market organization is focused on data, constant iteration and “experimentation to keep growing the size of that funnel,” he says.
A product delivered as a service in the cloud doesn’t have to cannibalize your existing business. The base of MongoDB’s business continues to be its free, open-source product, and the company continues to promote it, Azam says. Even if a customer is “13 years old and may not build a commercial application on MongoDB for many years, we want to make sure we’re constantly driving this new way of working with data into the market,” he notes. An open-source business model continues to help drive adoption broadly, though MongoDB also focuses on providing customers with an on-ramp to the cloud.
MongoDB also has an integrated go-to-market and customer-success organization focused on making sure customers are getting the specific product that they need for their business—including, of course, paid cloud products. This includes “digital marketing programs, experimentation, web optimization, broad-based developer demand-gen programs, global developer events, hackathons, developer relations” and other activities, Azam noted.
One product—and sales motion—doesn’t fit all customers. Some companies might view their SaaS product/service “is the down-market technology or product,” Azam says, while larger, enterprise customers still prefer more-heavyweight, on-premise technology that they run themselves. But “that was never our belief,” according to Azam. Instead, MongoDB focuses on evangelizing the benefits of cloud delivery and a consumption-based pricing model for companies of all sizes.
As Azam noted: “You hear a lot . . . of conversations in our market like, ‘Oh, are you a PLG company or an enterprise company or a developer company or an enterprise company?’ We never think of those things as at odds with each other. And so even from the early days, we constructed both a product roadmap and a go-to market strategy that allowed us to think about the entirety of the $75 billion market that we’re going after, which is companies of all different sizes, all different geographies–and we needed a very diverse go market strategy to attack that.”
Consumption may be king. A consumption-based pricing model can be beneficial for technology providers and customers alike—and it doesn’t mean a lack of commitment from customers. “We just wanted the commitment to come at the right life cycle for the customer, and we want to remove all that upfront friction of customer acquisition and say, ‘Listen, if you’re not ready for a commitment, don’t worry about it. Get started easily, whether it’s an enterprise or on a credit card, on an invoice or on a credit card. Just get started, get using the product,’” Azam explained. “And then as the economics start to scale, we’ll talk about the right agreement to get in place to make the discounting and the commitment levels work.”
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