MariaDB Raises $9M More, Michael Howard Named New CEO, Monty Widenius CTO

Some more big news for the world of open source. MariaDB Corporation — the startup formerly known as SkySQL and building for-profit solutions on the SQL fork managed by the MariaDB foundation — has raised another $9 million in funding and announced a new CEO, Michael Howard, a veteran executive from the enterprise world. The funding brings the total raised by MariaDB to just over $40 million, and this round comes from previous investors Intel Capital and California Technology Ventures.

And on top of this, the company is announcing another key executive appointment: Michael “Monty” Widenius, the man who originally created both MySQL and MariaDB, is now joining the startup as CTO. As part of the move, he will stay on as founder and open source advocate at the MariaDB Foundation.

Howard — a Silicon Valley resident who cut his teeth at places like GreenPlum and C9, acquired by InsideSales — replaces Patrik Sallner, a Finn who was with MariaDB since 2012. In an interview, Howard told TechCrunch that this latest cash injection will be used for marketing, to launch new products, and to help further shift the startup’s center of gravity to the U.S. market from its home country of Finland.

“I’m looking for a more quality residence in Palo Alto or Menlo Park,” he told TechCrunch. “Over time, the idea is to make it more of a US-based company and that is why they have brought in an American, to make a stronger entry into the US market, especially since our main partnerships are in Silicon Valley.” (I’m not sure if it will be changing its seal mascot, pictured above, to something more West Coast.)

MariaDB is not disclosing its valuation but Howard described this investment as a “stepping stone” before a much bigger funding round that it expects to close in the next 12 months.

In the context of raising a big, new round, it’s telling that Monty has been brought back into the commercial fold. The man who created MySQL and then sold it to Sun Microsystems (which in turn was acquired by Oracle) went on to create SkySQL, the predecessor to MariaDB Corp. (MySQL and MariaDB were named after his two daughters.)

But in 2013, he stepped away from the commercial organization to found and run the non-profit MariaDB Foundation to ensure the project would remain “open source forever,” in his words. So why the return? Because Monty (and presumably the startup and its investors, present and future) said he could see a benefit to the founder being involved more directly at the startup rather than the over-arching foundation, as a way of developing those commercial opportunities more efficiently, while remaining connected to the foundation.

“MariaDB’s success as an open source technology goes hand-in-hand with its growing popularity in the commercial market,” he said in a statement. “As part of the MariaDB team, I will be able to create innovative data management capabilities more quickly, and ensure these are open and accessible to the global development community by continuing the close collaboration with the MariaDB Foundation.”

The foundation notes that use of MariaDB has been growing at a steady pace since being founded in October 2011 (although a rather steep decline in the last two months suggests perhaps that a huge customer has migrated?). This points to an opportunity for MariaDB the startup to monetise that usage with its commercial implementations.

MariaDB the startup has picked up some 9 million users and 12 million downloads of its software with “a magnificent increase in revenue velocity”, Howard said in the interview. “Millions are coming to the website, and with the distribution on Linux I believe there is a new mandate for open source. Not just the business model but a strategic decision to have it in your infrastructure, and be a part of the community.”

Indeed, the amount previously-proprietary software that has been open sourced has surged in recent years. And large enterprise companies are also making significant investments in open source to make sure they too are meeting the demand.

As for the new products at MariaDB, Howard was intentionally vague but said they would be in the areas of database and security, temporal processing and the Internet of Things. IoT is also an area where the company is likely to make its next acquisition, he said.