Book on Finnish startups includes chapter on MySQL AB

Tekes, a Finnish government agency funding R&D in Technology and Innovation (including MariaDB) has recently published a book on Finnish startups, (PDF), which contains a whole chapter on MySQL AB.

It seems to be a well researched chapter and references many past interviews over the years, as well as being based on interviews of at least Mårten, Monty and Kevin Harvey of Benchmark. This is the most comprehensive narrative I've ever seen of items like "InnoDB Friday", a phrase I thought until now was company confidential, since talking about it would have revealed there was something negative about the day Oracle bought InnoDB (no kidding?). It also reveals what MySQL (AB) thought about the fact that PostgreSQL at one time was more popular than MySQL in one country in the world: Japan, or how much it raised VC capital. On the other hand it still only mentions some issues anonymously or only between the lines and reader is left guessing whether he should fill in "Oracle", "SAP" or something else in the gaps. (And I'm too much a coward to blog the right answers... Ok, so Google will tell you Oracle is the one who tried to acquire MySQL several times before.)

I was also left wondering if the irony in this comment is intentional, or purely prophetic:

Letting go off an IPO dream is not an easy decision. Going public is a manifestation of a company’s success and sustainability. In most cases, an IPO is the way for founders, the board and the CEO to stay in control of the direction of the company. For employees, a public listing is the big dream in the horizon. Reaching it, they get the satisfaction of having been part of building something lasting and unique

It is of course written from a Finnish perspective, which may or may not be interesting to some. Culminating in:

MySQL’s Nordic character seems to have been more an advantage than a handicap. Kevin Harvey
says the company always had a kind of an underdog character, a ”we will take on the world
– attitude.”
“I sense that might be a Nordic trait. I am not an expert on Nordic culture, but that was certainly
part of this company.”

My take: yes and no. I wouldn't say this is a common Finnish trait. More likely a defining Finnish trait is to lose a Hockey or Football game in the last minute. (We once lost 6-5 to Sweden after having been up 5-1. It's a skill of its own only Finland can do!) But it is a trait of good Finnish leaders. After all, we are a small nation, you are by definition the underdog. Great leaders learn to live and thrive with that.

This reminds me of something supposedly said by another great Finnish CEO, Ensio Miettinen of Ensto. At a dinner some Swedes had had the guts of questioning what great things Finland ever did. His take: "Well, I think a good example of Finnish sisu is our achievements in World War II. We first stopped Stalin's Red Army at our borders, having finished that we drove Hitler's army into the Arctic Ocean. So tell me, what did Sweden do in the war?" (While being a colorful statement, it is true that Helsinki, London and Moscow are the only European capitals participating in the war that were never occupied. There's underdog for you.)

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