A Q&A with SkySQL co-founder and president Ulf Sandberg. The Finland–based company was founded in October of 2010 and raised $2.5 million in additional Series A funding in late May. Investors include California Technology Ventures.
SUB: Please describe what SkySQL is, and the value proposition you bring to the database market.
Sandberg: SkySQL was formed by establishing a close relationship with the original creators of MySQL, early MySQL investors, former MySQL executives and veterans. In addition, SkySQL and MariaDB have an agreement where Monty Program is delivering Level 3 support to SkySQL, and MySQL co-creator David Axmark is an advisor to SkySQL. As such, SkySQL has established itself as the alternative provider and steward of MySQL. It will be near impossible for any other entity to claim the same space due to these deep relationships.
When we started the company, our strategy was threefold: become the spider in the web for anything MySQL related, expand offerings with our partner ecosystem, and evolve into a product company with complimentary database offerings for the cloud space. We have already established ourselves with the first two objectives and now work toward bringing cloud products to market in the near future.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Sandberg: Any company that is managing data with MySQL in traditional enterprises, as well as in the cloud.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Sandberg: Our main competitor is Oracle. There are other smaller players, but they focus more on consulting opportunities than delivering services around a subscription model.
SUB: What differentiates SkySQL from the competition?
Sandberg: The combination of SkySQL, with our deeply experienced team of 40-plus employees, and the core engineers at MariaDB, with Monty behind it, gives us a unique advantage. We can handle any type of customer need from startups with small budgets to large enterprises with tight and demanding SLAs, and our fast growing customer list is evidence of that. Oracle has seen the expected dilution in MySQL skills since the Sun acquisition while we expand on our team and depth. It would be virtually impossible for any other entity to repeat what we are doing due to the one-of-a-kind relationship between SkySQL and MariaDB.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
Sandberg: SkySQL was formally launched October 15, 2010, so we are getting close to our second anniversary. We launched as an alternative to Oracle for any company using MySQL and instantly closed new business, even with large enterprises, due to the documented experience, long standing relationships and customer focus of our team prospects were used to receiving over the years.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for SkySQL? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Sandberg: Concerns about the stewardship of MySQL by Oracle, as well as the echoed apprehensiveness by the front-line users and companies using MySQL, were trigger points for us. Both groups do not think Oracle has much interest in open source long-term, and the expected concerns around single vendor lock-in, price hikes, close sourcing features, etc. got us started.
So far we think Oracle has done an okay job in meeting commitments they made to the EU as part of the approval for the Sun acquisition, but they have made some changes related to the committed items. This makes customers nervous and is also a boost to our business as they look for alternatives.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Sandberg: It was easy for us to bootstrap the company by bringing on board a core team of original, senior MySQL people. The onboarding process, including getting all systems up and running, was trivial as we are using the same open source support system, tools etc. that both we and our customers are familiar with and love. We literally went from plan to 24-by-7 support readiness in a period of a calendar month. So we had an easier path from idea to launch than most startups experience.
SUB: You recently raised $2.5 million in new funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Sandberg: We will use the latest investment, a total A round of $6.5 million, to continue our global growth and expansion, as well as develop complimentary products and services specific to the cloud market.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Sandberg: We have no plans at this point, but we would not rule it out either.
SUB: What are your goals for SkySQL over the next year or so?
Sandberg: We are working to continue growth and focus on our satisfied customer base, serve them with the utmost quality they demand and deserve, and release our first cloud products to the market.
SkySQL – www.skysql.com