Monday, September 13, 2010

Founding SkySQL

To be part of the MySQL journey was a great privilege in my life. Working for almost six years with great developers, energetic sales-guys, devoted support engineers and a management team capable of executing remarkable growth while driving good team spirit was a huge personal experience. I am grateful for the valuable learnings I got over the years from some of the best in the industry: The technical geniuses behind the technology and open source strategy, my fellow management colleagues, the top leadership (above all MÃ¥rten Mickos) which was impressive, and last but not least all the co-workers many of which became good personal friends over the years.

It was a sad day, when I about two years ago decided to leave the company. However, I noticed that after MySQL AB was integrated into a very large company, the flexible, effective and unproblematic culture that originally inspired me in the fast-moving MySQL AB was gradually disappearing.

This development can hardly be criticised; it was to be expected. New growing businesses inevitably go through a painful transformation when maturing to be integrated into mainstream corporations, many times their size.

Yet, it was simply not for me.

Being part of the MySQL AB success story made me realize that start up business was what really inspired me, and thus I decided to focus on working with start ups after leaving the company. I went forward to create a new VC operation together with 3 other partners, Open Ocean Capital, which manages funds collected from investors in Europe. For two years, we have now helped startups with cool products build communities and grow their businesses in a disruptive way.

After the first year at Open Ocean, I felt MySQL was something I had now left behind me. My focus was completely on building other new businesses.

However, in our VC practice, we naturally track the industry very closely, and gradually it became obvious that MySQL was not just an experience that helped me grow other businesses: the MySQL technology itself got further traction, leading me to believe that the peak of the MySQL impact is still to come. With the huge growth of online devices, and with the cloud and SaaS simply exploding, it has become evident that MySQL as the leading online database technology still has a lot of growth to go for.

This situation lead to a development during the last six month, where gravitation simply brought equal minds together. One day we noticed we had six key individuals around the table who were strongly involved in MySQL AB, and who all felt that the glory days of the MySQL technology is still in front of us.

At the end of June 2010 SkySQL was born. The purpose of the company is simple:
  • Serve customers with what they want around MySQL and its derivatives.
  • Reassemble much of the core team behind MySQL AB, that has reached out to us. We want to provide a superior service, and have the best skills that exist around the product directly available to the customer, and through us customers can be certain to receive the best technology to meet their needs.
  • Re-create the warm, flexible, effective and forward-looking culture we all remember from the good old MySQL AB years.
  • Naturally also learn from the past: improve some processes and add new, attractive business opportunities.
  • Be a technology and service provider, whose strategic interest entirely focuses on making the MySQL technology strive everywhere, for all customers, long term.
Some parties have already confronted us with the question, how we see the competitive landscape. Here my view is positive and simple:
  • We want to make the customers happy. Hence, we regard very positively all the companies, organisations and individuals who work to develop the open source MySQL technology forward to help customers. We are willing to enter into close partnership with those who advance the technology.
  • In some parts of the market, there is a competitive situation when others would like to serve the same customer we want to. In such situations, it is normal healthy competition that plays. The customer is free to choose, and we naturally hope they will see the benefits in choosing us, and we will do our utmost to keep them very satisfied. Secondly, we do foresee that we can play the leading vendor in certain market segments, simply because these are not the focus area of other vendors. Also, we see that gradually over the future years, we will move our products into other directions than other vendors, giving us a technology/service advantage in certain, even new, markets.
  • Finally, we see very strongly that we want to be a good member of the community and ecosystem. We will thus always view other vendors with the highest of respect. Of course, at many of the key players we still have a lot of friends, who we will continue to see as friends, despite the fact that perhaps in some sales situations we might both want to win the deal. But this is just normal business, and should never be mixed with emotions.
Another question presented to us by many is what our relationship is to Michael "Monty" Widenius and his company Monty Program. To ease some curiosity, let me explain the situation.
  • Monty Program will be a close business partner with SkySQL, and provide deepest-level engineering backing to the MySQL part of SkySQL's product offering, and provide SkySQL with access to top development talent on the product.
  • However, both companies are completely separate and have different owners and goals.
    • a) Monty and his company are focusing on future community development of MariaDB. The company is practically owned by the personnel, and has the goal of i) being a great place for engineers to work, ii) ensuring long term survival of the MySQL technology in the world, and iii) not be driven by outside investors, but share profits to personnel and not to owners. (BTW: number iii is the main reason why Open Ocean is not an investor in MP).
    • b) SkySQL Corporation Ab is a commercial, for-profit company. It focuses on serving customers with MySQL and MySQL-related products and services, to enable the customers to be successful in using the products in all their needs, at affordable cost, long term. As indicated by "MySQL-related" we plan to expand both the technology (through own development and through partners) and the service offering beyond what MySQL AB did, in line with how the industry and customer needs have developed and are expected to develop.
  • Monty himself has no active role in SkySQL. Yet, as a close partner through Monty Program, he is logically very supportive of our operation.
Now, the work begins.

We have some very hectic days in the months to come, to get everything ready to launch, and to then start entering the market with a strong presence. But the train is moving, and very soon you can expect to hear more about us.

On a final entertaining note, we chose on purpose to select a name which preserves part of our joint heritage. With SkySQL you are absolutely free to decide for yourself, if you pronounce it Sky - ess - que - ell, as Nordics do, or Sky - see - quell.

(To receive future information about SkySQL, we welcome you into our LinkedIn group.)


Mark Callaghan said...

It is good for the MySQL community to grow like this. MySQL Support sets a very high standard for others to follow, but SkySQL apparently has some people who know about that and may have been part of that.

I am curious about what type of development work you will do and will wait for more news on that.

Patrik said...

Thank you Mark for your kind words.

Yes, we will definitely aim to meet and when possible try to exceed the very high Support standard we had at MySQL AB.

Regarding development plans we are not ready to share them yet, but you can expect us to listen carefully to customers and the ecosystem throughout the process, to make sure we focus on the right things, and do the things right.

Mike Hillyer said...

Nice to see more former MySQL employees succeeding by supporting the MySQL ecosystem. Best of luck!


Patrik said...

Thank you Mike!

I hope you also still get to do fun stuff around the MySQL product in your current role.


Rohit said...

This is great of the MySQL ecosystem.

Best of luck!

hingo said...

Mark: I agree that more diversity will be helpful. I agree even more about the level of MySQL Ab support - it was a key strength when selling MySQL to talk about it. Sadly one of my favorite rock stars to use in a sales pitch was Domas, and where did he go now...:-)

Anyway, I think once the people joining SkySQL are free to blog about themselves, I'm sure you'll find that they should be able to meet that standard...

Anonymous said...


Good luck with your new adventure. My experience is that the ecosystem around MySQL continues to grow, we see this via Drizzle everyday.

I am looking forward to seeing what you all make of SkySQL.


Patrik said...

Thanks Rohit, Henrik and Brian!

Henrik: Yes, I am hopeful you will not be disappointed when our initial team presents itself and starts to be active.

Brian: Yes, the ecosystem is very important for us, and we are naturally closely tracking your good progress with Drizzle. Many customers will certainly find good benefits in it, and increasingly so over time.

GNU-Linux said...

I think your doing is a good way.

My question was. Why is supporting SkySQL a better way for the community than supporting MariaDB ?

Patrik said...

Hi Gnu-Linux,

SkySQL Ab is serving customers with product subscription, 24x7 support, consulting, training, and other services around both MySQL and MariaDB, as well as other closely related technologies.

We do not have an own open source product around which we rally community support.

SkySQL is serving the open source community through the commercial relationship we have with Monty Program. This means: We pay to them for development services and for supporting the future development of MySQL in the form of MariaDB, a product provided free and open source to the Community.

Hope this answers your question on MariaDB vs SkySQL.