MySQL takes the Red Pill§
by Russell Dyer
published: january 18, 2008; revised: january 18, 2008; readers in past month: 87
As a current employee of MySQL and having worked in the investment industry for over twelve years in a previous life, I’m able to see the larger picture of the acquisition of MySQL by Sun Microsystems for a billion dollars. My vision is that we’ve been like a pig on a farm bragging about how fat we’re getting. It’s only a matter of time before someone eats us. I’ve seen this happen to many companies over the years.
Going from where MySQL is in the market, to where Oracle is financially is not possible without a major change of ownership and funding. Although going public was a logical necessary next step to MySQL’s growth, becoming a publicly traded company would have made us vulnerable to a hostile take over by a company like Oracle or Microsoft — not desirable choices in my opinion. Not going public would have made us vulnerable to losing our chance for market dominance and vulnerable to competition from a company with the money to finance the creation of a new open source database system — many of us may remember Microsoft being accused of this as it grew to it’s current enormous size. The only other alternative is to find a company in the computer industry with the ability to pay a billion dollars for MySQL. Again, there’s Oracle and Microsoft. However, they probably would not appreciate us or what we have to offer. They might only buy us to squash us. Whereas, a company like Sun is probably the best choice for MySQL from the ‘billionaire computer company club’. I believe they see value in MySQL as it is and will finance major growth following the path MySQL has already begun. There will be somes changes, but the community and software will continue. So, given our choices of staying private, going public, or selling the company to a complimentary buyer, I think we have ultimately made the best choice.
As a side note, I’d like to point out that it took a lot of courage, strength, and self-confidence for Marten Mickos (CEO of MySQL) to have made this decision to cancel the public offering and to sell the company to Sun. I know it grew to be the decision of the board, the stockholders, the founders, the C.F.O. and others. However, for Marten to be charging the way for the past year and then to stop himself this close to the public offering and admit that it might not be the best choice wasn’t an easy act — especially when you consider the money involved and how much it affects all of us. Most people couldn’t have done it. I’ve seen many companies in which the management made a decision which proved to be an extremely costly one, but they refused to admit their mistakes or to change their plans. Marten Mickos’ decision and leadership is very admirable.