Entrepreneur Journey / Enterprise

How Mission & Values Set the Foundation for Couchbase’s Success


Couchbase is on a mission to empower enterprises to develop, deploy, and maintain their mission-critical applications by delivering a high-performance, flexible and scalable modern database. Today the company listed on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol “BASE.” I sat down with Couchbase President and CEO Matt Cain to get a little more insight into how leadership and culture paved the way for Couchbase’s journey to IPO.

Congratulations on Couchbase becoming a public company! What role do you think culture plays in a company’s success?

I believe that the foundation of any leading company is its world-class team, a combination of industry leading talent and a set of values that enables those people to do the best and most fulfilling work in their careers. Culture is the product of those values in action, and leaders must be the stewards of ensuring the company is living consistently with them. When it comes to teamwork and communication, I have tried to create as many opportunities as I can to ask what’s working, what’s not working, and where the team needs help. At Couchbase our culture is a sustainable competitive advantage as we attract, develop and retain the highly-skilled talent necessary to execute on our business growth strategies. The leadership team and I work relentlessly to make Team Couchbase feel valued so they can then work together to create value for our customers, partners and shareholders.

Describe your leadership style and approach as CEO.

Several early-life experiences shaped my approach to leadership. First, my parents raised me with strong Midwestern values. I also developed a love and passion for teamwork and collective goals through competitive team sports. And going through a Jesuit education reinforced the concept of leveraging your talents to make the world a better place and act as a “person for others.” Roll all of these together and you get a servant leadership style with an emphasis on teamwork. I’m about the “extreme ownership” and “servant leadership” philosophies to drive the best results while building a culture that is durable– and wins. In this model, the leaders are ultimately responsible, but teams make the difference. My goal has always been to build, reinforce, and model a culture of openness, transparency, and trust that delivers results. And we have to have fun along the way!

Couchbase was founded in 2011 and you came on board in 2017 as a first time CEO. What was that like, stepping into a new role to lead a company?

So one of our company values is Attack Hard Problems, and that’s sort of the approach I took head on when I arrived at Couchbase. I think there’s a razor-thin edge that elite performers must balance between self-confidence, or a willingness to try new things, and humility, or knowing that you will get things wrong. With this mindset and when facing challenging times as a leader, I try to stay calm and work through things as a team. I also try to remember that I’m in service of others, like employees, customers, partners, and shareholders, to derive motivation to work through hard things. I can’t fix problems I don’t know about, so I work hard to maintain a genuine connection with as many of our team members and possible. As an example, in my first 100 days I committed to setting up at least 100 meetings with employees, customers, investors, partners, vendors and analysts to listen and learn. I’m a true believer that people can do amazing things when they work together and put the team first. I’m very proud of what we have accomplished so far as a company, and I think you can see some of that reflected in things like our Glassdoor rating and also in our business results which allowed us to become a public company today.

What advice would you give another CEO as they begin to prepare for the IPO process?

Surround yourself with a world-class team. No one person can go through this rigorous process alone– it really does take a tremendous amount of teamwork and collaboration. Invest in your people and your culture because at the end of the day, the results the team delivers are what are going to help position the business to go public. That and get ready for the grind! In all seriousness, it really does require a super talented team to pull it all off. I’m grateful for the team’s continued dedication and passion for our business, even in the face of a global health crisis. It inspires me every day.

Congratulations again to Matt and the entire Couchbase team on their IPO, which marks the latest milestone in our decade long journey – looking forward to all that is to come.

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