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Marten Mickos departure expected IMHO

on Sat, 02/07/2009 - 16:59

Looks like Marten Mickos, one-time CEO of MySQL is leaving Sun.  Matt Asay talked to Mickos, and had a sense that they key motivating factor was "(Mickos') frustration at Sun's bureaucracy."

I have no doubt this was a strong contributing factor.  I've had my own experiences with Sun over the years, and while I love the technology they produce (which apparently enough other people like to keep them a big company), the <em>business side</em> of Sun can be maddening.  Getting something done with Sun is typically a big exercise in patience.

But in contrast to Matt, I don't think the bureaucracy was really it.  Though I only know Marten through very casual, infrequent conversations, two things show up for me:

  • Behaviors don't change, so long-term stability in a role requires matching behaviors to responsibilities. Earlier in the game, this is called "Behavioral Hiring" (these guys first taught me about it.) People are who they are - no matter what company they're in or what position they have. The thing that made Marten — and MySQL — so successful was Marten's ability to be the guy in charge. The last word. Not being that was a behavioral mismatch. The MySQL acquisition may have been an emulsifier for a time; but like many emulsifiers, it only works for a while. IMHO, it is natural, and was only a matter of time before Marten's oil and Sun's water simply separated.
  • It's a normal post-deal story. In the large majority of acquisitions, the CEO of the acquired company is usually gone within 12-18 months after the deal. They stay immediately post-deal because there's knowledge transfer required for the acquiring company to get up to speed (and sometimes because there are financial earn-outs required before all the deal compensation is paid). But once those hurdles are passed, CEOs usually leave - and go do it again. It's the engine of technology industry innovation. We in this industry need these kind of departures to happen, so the next company that has a real shot at success can get the Grade-A talent needed to make it big. IMHO, this CEO-cycle-out is a Good Thing™.

My best wishes to Marten, and fortunate indeed will be the company where he lands next.

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