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Max Schireson, family guy and former MongoDB CEO, goes back to work

Max Schireson, the former chief executive of MongoDB who stepped down to spend more time with his children, at home in Stanford, Calif.Max Schireson, the former chief executive of MongoDB who stepped down to spend more time with his children, at home in Stanford, Calif.
Max Schireson, the former chief executive of MongoDB who stepped down to spend more time with his children, at home.Photograph by Noah Berger — The New York Times/Redux

Max Schireson, who stepped down as chief executive officer of database software provider MongoDB last year to spend time with his family, is back at work.

Schireson has become executive-in-residence for venture capital firm Battery Ventures, where he will focus on enterprise IT-focused startups alongside general partner Dharmesh Thakker.

The two have history. Thakker was at Intel Capital (INTC) when that company invested in 10Gen, which later rebranded as MongoDB, in 2012. (Today, MongoDB is valued at more than a billion dollars, securing it a place on Fortune’s Unicorn List.)

Though much of Silicon Valley has focused on consumery startups—it is the app economy after all—Schireson said he sees big opportunity in enterprise technology while acknowledging the profound changes in the business models of the last computing era that helped create such giants as Oracle (ORCL) and Microsoft (MSFT).

“The whole enterprise infrastructure world is being turned upside down… everything is changing to open-source and cloud and is leveraging hardware in different ways,” he tells Fortune. “Big companies are acting like Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB) and that impacts how they buy hardware and software.” Companies like Google typically buy fleets of low-cost commodity hardware, rather than pricier name-brand systems.

For one thing, tech is now all about open-source (a.k.a. free or low-cost) software, as well as cloud computing and commodity hardware. And that means that it’s unlikely that there’s another Oracle on the horizon.

Oracle built a huge and profitable business based initially on its relational database but then on a conglomeration of other proprietary, licensed software that customers need to upgrade and maintain. The software licenses, plus the upgrade and maintenance fees, add up to a profitable business—but customers have balked at rising fees. Open-source software itself is typically free, with customers paying service and support fees taht are typically less than those charged by commercial software companies.

“I don’t see how, in this current day and age, you can create another Oracle because the margins are so high, it only works as a sort of monopoly and that is not a win-win for customers,” says Schireson, who used to work at Oracle.

However, he notes, no one should write off this enterprise tech category. “I still think great businesses can be built. Will they be 50% margin businesses? Maybe not, but maybe there’ll be 20% or 30% margin businesses and you might have to think more to create a win-win for customers.”

“I want to work with entrepreneurs to create compelling technology and help them figure out a business model that works. It’s not going to be easy, but this is a big shift and there is tremendous value to be captured.”

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