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(Author here) As part of this three part series, MongoDB’s CTO, Eliot Horowitz, was gracious enough to spend two hours chatting with me.

In our discussion, we touched on 10gen’s early marketing strategy, which I've combined with notes from my research:

- 10gen’s Marketing Focus: Eliot noted that much of 10gen’s marketing message was meant for large enterprise CTOs and engineers who made database decisions. If you’re trying to build a database company, this is where most of the money is. But many startup engineers I knew didn’t realize this, and seemed to think the message applied to them. 10gen’s explicit focus on sponsoring hackathons and and targeting startups also encouraged these issues.

- Anger on HN: Eliot and I disagreed where some of the MongoDB anger on HN comes from. In his view, a fair bit of it stems from competitors and their supporters. In my view, much of the anger came from 10gen’s fanciful marketing message that outstripped the product in the early days. I believe that if the marketing message had been more thoughtful and the product more mature when the marketing ramped up, the community anger would have been much less (but it likely would have significantly hurt MongoDB's adoption, which is a challenging problem).

- 10gen’s Marketing “Strategy”: Eliot argued that 10gen didn’t have much of an early marketing strategy. In my view, their marketing team made some smart decisions that really set them apart from competitors. First, MongoDB’s Javascript DSL, JSON data store, and onboarding experience were critical differentiators - and their product was early to market. Their marketing team then used this as they built the MongoDB user groups/conference network, pitched NoSQL and the MEAN stack as the future, and brought industry allies to their side.

- Engineers and Marketers: We debated how much role CTOs should play in dev tool marketing. At 10gen, Eliot noted that he was rarely involved, instead focusing on engineering and product. My own view is that engineers should be involved in the marketing message in highly technical products - and have some input into marketing. I also believe that marketing a database is very different from other tools in the engineering stack such as a frontend framework.

Much of this debate stems from the differential objectives of engineers (making the right decisions for their teams) and marketers/founders (convincing customers to use your product, sometimes at any cost).

I let Eliot know that I would support him in sharing any follow-up thoughts, with the hope of spurring a thoughtful debate in our community.

Finally, I won't argue that 10gen's marketing and product was enough on its own to explain the growth amongst startups - the usability of MongoDB was a key reason for it's success in startups. Less discussed also was the marketing undertaken by training programs, bootcamps, and conferences (see the marketing around MEAN that inundated Hacker News and Reddit in the early-mid 2010s, as NodeJS was growing).




In his view, a fair bit of it stems from competitors and their supporters

LOL no. 99% of it comes from actual, working DBAs and others with production responsibilities.


"Default settings" and "DBA with production responsibilities" should never coexist in the same post. Since >50% of the complaints are about "default settings", you know the rest.


Also lost to history is 10gen's original intent of being more of a complete platform, with Mongo just being the storage layer. Business Insider ran on that platform. Some details in https://www.usv.com/blog/10gen

(A friend of mine was VP Eng there and was trying to recruit me to work on the larger platform, but as Mongo started gaining traction they dropped the other parts to focus on that)


Hey, just an FYI, there's a typo in the first sentence:

> In 2013, 10gen — the company behind MongoDB — moved into a large 30,000 square foot office in NYC's SoHo neighborhood

That should be midtown, not SoHo (the previous office that they moved from in 2013 was in SoHo, but I'm pretty sure that one was not 30,000 square feet).


Thanks so much, fixed!




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