How the co-creator of MySQL came to love databases

MW: Investing, or working with it? I mean, with MySQL I have been investing my time since '94. When I got money from Sun, I created an investment company, so we are now investing in community-driven technical projects, which can be open source or not; and I've been doing that since 2008.

LXF: How has that worked over the years? Are you seeing better ideas? Are you seeing a consistent movement of people wanting to get funding for community-driven projects?

MW: We are one of the unique investment companies that invest into community-driven projects, so we get lots of ideas. We get about three proposals a week. But most of those are ideas, and being an investment company where we've got some money from the European bank, we have a kind of commitment that we want to be sure that we at least have a possibility to get the money back.

So we can't just invest in ideas, because our expertise is not creating the community but enhancing the community. That's what I did at MySQL. I was creating it, but that takes time so we want to invest in companies that have already proved themselves. And there are not that many that have active communities who are growing. We have been able to find those 15 companies to invest in or look at investing in it.

LXF: What changed when Sun bought it? Why didn't Sun leave you to carry on as before, because it was obviously working?

MW: The problem was that MySQL was a company of two different kind of brains. You had many who were planning to do an IPO and then start to do closed-source system as well. They couldn't do that before they did the IPO or the company was sold, because I had to share the agreement.

LXF: So there were people within MySQL who wanted to do closed source software?

MW: Yeah, well this agreement said they can do that, and they kind of twisted and they did MySQL Money Administrator on the side that was closed source that they shouldn't have been able to do, but they kind of got the board to agree to that. So I was not happy with that.

LXF: This was before Sun?

MW: This was before Sun. I did know that when they got sold we would have to start pushing closed features, and I was not happy with that, but when you get investors, as the founder, you only have your say until the company is sold or there's an IPO. After that, your say is gone. So I was very happy when Sun bought us, because I hoped that the conflict between the management would go away, or at least would diminish.

Then you had our developer organisation, which was mostly pro-open source. They wanted to work on an open source project that did good for the world and still made enough money to pay our salaries. Some of these management influences had started to work on the developer organisation because they put people in charge of driving away people like me who worked for open source, so that they could start to do more closed source.

So emotionally I ground almost to a halt. I thought that, as Sun was a company that knew how development was done, they would keep the developer organisation separate from the management organisation, and basically have those as two things, and they should take the developer organisation and take it into Sun and let them handle it the way that open source projects should be done. But they assumed that everything was perfect, and all of the conflict that I hoped would be solved kind of escalated.