We were pleased to read the news this morning that Sun Microsystems tendered a $1 billion offer to acquire open-source database provider MySQL. The deal has significance in a number of ways, not the least of which is the financial windfall to founder Marten Mickos and the company’s investors, Index, Benchmark, IVP, Intel and SAP, who put a reported total of $39million into the MySQL.
First, it’s further evidence that open source plus services business models can work, and that is no doubt as important to Sun as is the position MySQL gives Sun in the $15 billion enterprise database market. Sun demonstrated its commitment to free and open software when it turned the foundations of Solaris, Java, StarOffice, and other component technologies over to Open Source. But somehow, the acquisition of MySQL is a grander “money where your mouth is” gesture and solidifies Sun’s commitment to Open Source in the enterprise.
Here’s what CEO Jonathan Schwartz wrote in his blog this morning:
The good news is Sun is already committed to the business model at the heart of MySQL’s success – first investing to grow communities of users and developers, and only then creating commercial services that attract (rather than lock in) paying customers. Over the past few years, we’ve distributed hundreds of millions of licenses and invested to build some of the free software world’s largest communities. . . . Free and open software has become a way of life at Sun.
. . . With this acquisition, we will have . . . positioned Sun at the center of the web, as the definitive provider of high performance platforms for the web economy. . . This creates enormous potential for Sun, for the global free software community, and for our partners and customers across the globe. (Read the entire post here.)
There’s a second and more subtle — but extremely important — impact of the MySQL acquisition and that is the impact the announcement may have on European technology startup communities. Throughout Europe, technology entrepreneurship remains an oddity, and success stories are relatively rare. We’ve worked within the European technology community for nearly a decade and can still count on our available digits the number of grand-slam exits for tech startups there, and the social and cultural risk of entrepreneurship remains high.
Perhaps, Mårten put it best during a keynote speech at Guidewire Group’s Innovate!Europe 2005 conference, as he accepted the award as Entrepreneur of the Year. Society’s values, he said, are reflected in the heroes it chooses. “We must celebrate entrepreneurs and turn them into heroes in order to build a society that values and honors technology and business innovation.”
Mårten and MySQL have become heroes.