MariaDB: Eat your cake and still have it

Some people say you can't make money with open source or Free software. But there are many exceptions to that. Red Hat is one of the most prominent exceptions. Well, MariaDB is apparently another one, and a special one at that.

You see, MariaDB is a fork of a software called MySQL. MySQL is a Free software (GPL licensed) that was developed by MySQL AB. In 2008, MySQL AB was sold to Sun Microsystems for US$1 billion (Sun was later bought by Oracle). MySQL AB held the original copyright of MySQL source code and that right was sold to Sun (along with other things like the name, trademarks, etc).

But being Free software, one can take MySQL source code, and "fork" it, i.e. make modifications to the source code and re-distribute both the modified code and binary programs for others to use - without any (financial) obligations to MySQL AB (or Sun or Oracle) as long as the original (GPL) license requirement is met.

"MariaDB" is one of such fork. To "support" and "maintain" (and also "promote") MariaDB, there is an organisation called MariaDB Corporation AB. This organisation has received many funding rounds from venture capital (VC) companies. We are not talking about $10,000 individual donation, or $500,000 kickstarter campaign; we're talking about US$20 million direct VC funding: the last round being in Feb 2015.

We all know that VC companies are not charities. They expect returns on the money they invested. In other words, they expect returns from the money they gave to MariaDB AB. The usual way to get this returns back is to wait for MariaDB AB to get sold to someone else (to the public by IPO, or to other larger companies through private deals). Depending on your VC math, that $20million funding translates to a company valuation between $200m to $2 billion - not too shabby at all.

With me so far? OK. The punchline: the person who created MySQL, MySQL AB, MariaDB fork, and MariaDB AB is the one and same person. He created MySQL and MySQL AB and sold it (in 2008). Not long after that (in 2009) he created MariaDB fork, and later on he also started MariaDB AB; and by the looking of it, MariaDB AB will probably get sold too sooner or later.

I don't know about you, but I feel this is a proof that you can indeed eat your cake for breakfast *AND* still have it (so you can eat it again for lunch - and perhaps still have it even after that, for dinner? ). And this is only possible if you're doing Free software.

Posted on 8 Aug 2015, 10:05 - Categories: General
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