The Download: Peter Zaitsev, CEO and Co-Founder, Percona

Peter Zaitsev leveraged both his technical vision and entrepreneurial skills to grow Durham-based Percona from a two-person shop 15 years ago to one of the most respected open-source companies in the business.

A serial entrepreneur, Zaitsev co-founded his first startup while attending Moscow State University where he majored in computer science. He is a co-author of High Performance MySQL: Optimization, Backups, and Replication, one of the most popular books on the open-source database MySQL. He has also been tapped as a contributor to Fortune and DZone.

  1. What is in your pockets?

I have a phone in the right pocket, and a wallet and car keys typically go in the left pocket.

  1. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?

Personally, I recently got into running and I completed my first ultra-marathon run. What is particularly interesting about Percona is that we are a remote worker organization. We have been since beginning 15 years ago. People will tell us, “Hey, you know what, probably nothing changed for you, right? You’ve always been remote,” but it did. Before, when you worked remotely you could go out if you liked. Now you are forced to work remotely with your kids who do not have daycare. So even though we have this remote work, it’s still impacted us.

Specific to Percona, it would be an open-source database on Kubernetes. That is probably something super-geeky. For me, a geek in the heart, it’s a very exciting topic. What is happening in this ecosystem. What opportunities it opens for having much more efficient data-management practices for many companies.

At Percona, we help people to run open-source databases. We have both software and support services, managed services, consulting, training. We don’t have one particular Percona database as some other companies do. We have our own improved version of the most popular, open-source databases, such as MySQL, MongoDB, and Postgres. A lot of our focus is pushing the boundaries of open source. All our software is open source, but it often includes enterprise-level, very advanced features, which you would only find in commercial software from our vendors.

We celebrate 15 years this year, so we’re not a startup. We have about 270 people from 40 countries, a very distributed and diverse team. We are a bootstrapped company, so we never took any venture capital. Percona is now entirely owned by our present and past staff members. So, I think that’s a differentiator from a majority of tech companies.

  1. What is your favorite coffee spot?

In theory, that would be Bean Traders Coffee, which is close. In practice, it’s more often the espresso machine at the kitchen most days. We are fully remote, which is handy during COVID, because nobody would want to go to the office anyway.

  1. What keeps you up at night

I’m a pretty good sleeper, generally, so in the literal sense I’m not laying awake at night, stressing out about things. A lot of that is because of the Percona management team we were able to build up through the years.

Two years ago I went trekking in Nepal for three weeks. You do not have an everyday internet connection. I came back and everything was great and in better shape than I left it. So I can sleep well at night.

If you’re looking for more of a big picture, I am always thinking about what I can do to be the best CEO for Percona I can possibly be. For me, I think it is especially a tricky question because I’m not only the first-time CEO of Percona, but I never really worked for a large-scale organization. It’s dealing with organizational growth and change in organizational needs. Every day is a new set of challenges for me.

  1. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?

I like Kanki Sushi. That is a chain. But the location in Durham by the Home Depot is a pretty good one. That is sort of a casual place. If you want a restaurant to go out, all the good ones still keep closing on me. After Covid we’ll canvas the area to see what else comes back. Also, I like Talulla’s, which is a Turkish place in downtown Chapel Hill. If you’re in the mood for kebabs that’s a fantastic place to go.

  1. What is next for you or your organization?

The focus for us continues the same—to help companies to do more with open-source databases. That really can help companies escape the clutches of cloud vendor lock-in. Now, as we see open source in the cloud, it really becomes integrated, or fused together with that vertical infrastructure provider. It’s not really as free anymore.

About Brooks Malone 63 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and Raleigh Founded.