When IBM agreed to pay $34 billion for Red Hat in late 2018, the deal marked a watershed moment for open-source software, proving that companies could package free tools into highly valuable products.
That purchase price may soon look like a quaint relic of the past.
On Friday, MongoDB’s stock price surged roughly 25% after the open-source database developer beat analysts’ earnings estimates and gave an optimistic forecast. Founded in 2007, almost 15 years after Red Hat, MongoDB’s market cap has swelled past $32 billion, putting it within reach of becoming the most-valuable open-source company on record.
But that’s only on the public market.
Earlier this week, Databricks, which is only eight years old, said it raised $1.6 billion at a $38 billion valuation in a private financing round led by Morgan Stanley’s Counterpoint Global. Databricks was created just eight years ago to commercialize the open-source data processing platform Apache Spark, helping companies store vast amounts of data.
Open-source software has underlying code that’s available developers to use and, in some cases, modify with few or no restrictions. Open source software is generally available free of charge, but companies build commercial businesses around it by offering add-on services such as customization, consulting and support, or by packaging disparate open-source tools into proprietary product suites.
Companies like MongoDB and Databricks, which have developed market-leading products that work rapidly across the major cloud vendors Amazon, Microsoft and Google, are thriving as customers invest in moving their data and applications from traditional data centers to the cloud.
MongoDB said second-quarter revenue climbed 44% to $199 million, while its Atlas cloud database grew 83% and now makes up more than half of total revenue.
“What we’re hearing from customers is they need to move fast, because they’re feeling a lot of pressure, either from people who are trying to disrupt their businesses or disruptors who are trying to disrupt the large incumbents,” said MongoDB CEO Dev Ittycheria, in an interview on Friday with CNBC’s “TechCheck.” He said the company now has 29,000 customers, ranging from stalwarts like Toyota, AT&T, Morgan Stanley, and Verizon to “cutting-edge start-ups” like UiPath and DataRobot.
MongoDB said revenue for the full fiscal year will be $805 million to $811 million, up from its previous prediction of revenue up to $784 million. At the middle of the range, that would represent growth of 37% from the prior year.
MongoDB was worth just $1.2 billion at the time of its IPO in 2017. It’s now the only publicly-traded open-source company valued at $30 billion or more.
But plenty of other stocks in the space are rewarding investors handsomely.
Confluent, a data analytics provider that spun out of LinkedIn in 2014, is worth over $15 billion after climbing 64% since its IPO in June. Elastic, which commercializes open source tools for enterprise search, is valued at about $15 billion and has almost quintupled since going public in 2018.
But there are exceptions.
Shares of JFrog, which provides a platform for software development, have fallen 13% since the company’s IPO last year. Cloudera, which focused on the Apache Hadoop data analytics framework, agreed to sell to private equity firms in June in a $5.3 billion deal. Cloudera merged with rival Hortonworks in 2019, as both companies struggled with the move to cloud.
By contrast, Databricks was built for the cloud era and, as of this week, is the most valuable venture-backed enterprise software company in the world, according to CBInsights.
With annual recurring revenue of more than $600 million, Databricks said it will use the fresh capital to invest in its open-source project called Data Lakehouse, which helps companies take the messy data that sits in various repositories and clean it up.
Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi said that during the Covid-19 pandemic, companies saw the necessity in being able to pull all their data sources together and apply artificial intelligence to the analysis.
“Post-pandemic something has happened, and I think data and AI, cloud-computing, open-source technologies seem to be more top of mind for leaders of different enterprises,” Ghodsi told CNBC’s “TechCheck” after the announcement on Tuesday. “These are secular trends that are going to remain for a long time to come.”
He also said Databricks will eventually join the ranks of the public companies, but right now there’s plenty of private cash available. In February, Databricks said it raised $1 billion at a $28 billion valuation.
“We’re kind of going public six months at a time,” Ghodsi said. “In each of these fundraises, you’re kind of reshaping the cap table and you’re brining in the big mutual funds, the big investors you want to build relationships with over the next decade.”