Pass The Popcorn: MongoDB University Alumni Creates Start Up to Revitalize and Manage Indie-Movie Events

Many of the largest and most sophisticated companies in the world rely on MongoDB, including over a third of the Fortune 100. In addition to established businesses, innovative start ups from around the world rely on the modern database, and put MongoDB at the heart of their data strategy.

This blog series highlights three UK-based start ups transforming their industries with MongoDB. In part one of this series we looked at innovative ticketing site DICE and in part two it was city-blogging platform Urber. This week, it’s Pass The Popcorn.

Keeping your skills up to date is important in any industry, but the speed of change in technology has put a particularly heavy burden on developers. Every day there’s a new must-learn tool or list of ‘10 New Languages YOU MUST LEARN NOW’. It’s daunting. Though for many of us in tech, education and problem solving are what got us excited about this industry in the first place.

There has also never been a better time to learn. I went from being somewhat inexperienced with NoSQL technologies to building an entire business strategy with MongoDB at its center. All it required was a bit of hard work, weekend study and some excellent, free MongoDB University classes that allowed me to follow along at my own pace, from the comfort of home, using my own laptop.

Pass The Popcorn

My company Pass The Popcorn is an online event management tool that connects charities and independent film-makers with venues and businesses to organize popup cinema events that are interactive and immersive experiences.

The project is a social enterprise and we want to work with grassroots charities by helping them to organize free popup movie-nights for inner-city children. It’s also quickly developing in other areas as we’ve had interest from corporations looking to work with us and roll out their own Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

When my partners and I decided to build a platform that would revitalize the indy-movie scene, we thought very hard about the tools we were going to rely on. First, we needed a database that was robust and scalable. It also had to be flexible enough that we could pivot or change direction, add new functionality or adjust our strategy on the fly.

As an events platform, it must handle massive peaks in traffic.

Having worked with a number of databases, I had come across MongoDB but never had the chance to get deeply immersed in it. On reputation alone it was exactly what we needed:

  • Simple and quick to set up a deployment
  • Functionality to easily scale across commodity servers
  • Flexible enough to alter schemas as the direction of the company evolved
  • Robust and reliable
  • Geo-awareness to build out location-based aspects of the product

Open standards have always been important to me too, so the fact MongoDB was also open source was a big plus. Initially we did consider developing the project on another NoSQL database called Couchbase. But there was some key functionality we required, such as spherical geospatial queries and indexes, which was only offered by MongoDB. This was the database that could offer Pass the Popcorn a scalable future.

We knew we wanted to work with MongoDB but I didn’t yet have the skills to take full advantage of the many benefits it offered. And at that stage, we certainly couldn’t afford to pay an external contractor.

Everyday is a school day

Fortune favors… those who Google the answer. A little bit of searching revealed the company had launched a laudable new initiative: MongoDB University.

Requiring a fully rounded understanding of the tool that was going to sit at the heart of my start up, I registered for both the Developer and Database Administrator courses. Classes were perfectly paced, the video lessons were well put together and the content was easily digestible. By putting aside a bit of weekend time, I found finishing the courses was achievable.

Gaining those vital skills meant we were now in the position to start building the platform that would become Pass The Popcorn. As an aside, I’ve also found the MongoDB certification to be valuable in its own right and have recommended the courses to many friends, purely to help them advance their career. MongoDB skills are in high demand, and the online university course means they couldn’t be easier to get.

Back to the Future

Pass The Popcorn’s platform is now built and MongoDB is at the heart of our data strategy. We don’t know what we will come next as the company develops and grows and we’re under no illusions as to how difficult Start Up life can be, particular when it’s a social venture. However, with MongoDB underneath everything we do, I have great confidence that we’ll be able to change our industry for the better.

Gaining the skills to put us in that position wasn’t rocket science either - just the powerfully simple act of enrolling and turning up to class.

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