I had a fantastic time last night with several Microsofties whom I had not previously met. I can’t recall a more pleasant time with colleagues at a conference except for those rare occasions Steve (other Mindtouch founder and CTO) comes along. During the regular conference session yesterday there was a CIO panel and a brainstorm session. During the brainstorm session we were tasked with answering some simple (and rather boring) questions. What could have been a dull time was actually quite entertaining thanks to Doug Levin, Ross Turk, Larry Rosen, and Larry Augustin who were some of the people in my assigned group. Doug is a fantastically witty fellow and a Tarheel; so you know he’s wickedly smart too. 🙂 After the regular conference session Larry Augustin introduced me to Sam Ramji. Having spent dinner and several drinks in conversation with Sam I have to say: that dude is smart, hilariously funny, and very authentic. I was surprised. 🙂 I didn’t expect *bad* things, but I didn’t expect to hit it off with him as we did, especially not so immediately. A highlight of the evening was getting to know Tim Golden from Bank of America. I’ve seen him speak at a couple conferences in the past, but I had not met him until last night. That guy had me laughing so damn hard over dinner I twice almost fell out of my chair. What an amazing fellow!
As the night wound down, along with my sobriety, I found myself chatting with Marten Mickos the CEO of MySQL. I thanked him for his work and the benefit he’s given to all commercial open source companies with the recent acquisition of MySQL by Sun. This provides a very helpful data point for all of us in this space. I’ve always admired Marten and Monty. I asked Marten several questions that he, as he always does, very candidly answered. I asked him: What was his biggest mistake? His best move? Starting over what would he do differently? Will there be a stand-alone open source software Goliath? And some other common questions. It would be inappropriate for me to blog much of what he said, but something that really struck me was his assessment of being a CEO. He said, and I may get the wording slightly wrong, being CEO is a lonely and often scary position. You’re alone. You often have to make decisions that others don’t agree with and you really don’t have someone else to speak with about your anxieties and concerns. You can’t talk to your wife about it because she doesn’t understand it, nor would you want her to. And there are occasions when your decisions will put you at odds with everyone else’s thinking; thereby alienating you entirely–perhaps even from the board and advisers. It can be very lonely. Another of Marten’s responses I feel comfortable divulging is what he felt was his best move as he matured MySQL. “Personally engaging the community.”
One final point of interest I feel compelled to cram into this blog post. During the regular conference sessions a person asked everyone to raise there hands if they’ve written code. 90% of attendees raised their hand. It’s an open source conference, right? So what? Pretty much everyone at this conference is a CEO and it’s not all startups. I thought this was fascinating. More so, I believe, in open source than with proprietary software companies the executives come from an engineering background.