What Makes a Freedom Fighter Join a Giant? or Ten Reasons to Get Acquired
February 17, 2008 Leave a comment
An interesting inside look on what went into the MySQL end of the acquisition decision from Mårten Mickos has recently been posted.
At MySQL there were few things we loved as much as the thought of being our own masters. We had always been contrarians and we prided ourselves with not following what we saw as outdated ideas from big companies. We made the dolphin on our logo jump surprisingly from right to left (as opposed to the typical left to right) – because we wanted it to be clear: we were not afraid to be different. We decided that people can work from home so we can hire the best and brightest anywhere in the world – not just Stockholm, Seattle or Silicon Valley. We cherished heated debates in the company – and there were many. When other companies dictated alignment, we celebrated dissonance and accepted that there could be multiple viewpoints. When others gathered their staff at a prestigious hotel somewhere in the USA, we summoned our engineers to a primitive sanatorium outside St. Petersburg, Russia. We did it our way. At times it was difficult –even chaotic, but we loved it even more for that reason. It created a passion and strength inside the company.
So why did we change our minds in a few short weeks? What made us think that Sun Microsystems would be a good home for us? What made this better than an IPO? Why did we abandon our revolution for a stable nation? What was it in Sun Microsystems that attracted us? And, most importantly, will we be able to maintain the passion that has driven us to where we are today?
Let me start in a typical Scandinavian contrarian way: Perhaps we will be unable to maintain our passion within Sun. And at the most extreme, perhaps we should not have done this deal. The reality is it will take many years before we can judge this decision to know if it was the right course.
But let me also state that there is probably no better place for this “dirty dozen” (or perhaps “fanatical four hundred”) of MySQL than inside Sun Microsystems.
I’ve always really liked and had a huge amount of respect for both Mårten and the MySQL founders. They built a great company and a great product, and have been open and transparent the entire time. How this acquisition pans out has huge implications for Open Source IMHO. MySQL AB was on target to become one of the largest pure play Open Source companies in the world. With more and more Open Source companies being scooped up by traditional players and consolidators, it remains unclear to me how many pure play Open Source companies we’ll see in 5+ years. I think the ramifications of that are still not well understood (or given enough attention for that matter). Only time will tell.