Free thinker, humanist, IT entrepreneur

World-class IT from Finland: Lessons from MySQL AB

TUCS Distinguished Lecture 26.2.2013

The TUCS Distinguished Lecture Series is a forum for public lectures by outstanding national and international researchers in all aspects of computing, coming both from academia and industry. All lectures are free and open to the public.



Why does Linux, MySQL, IRC, ssh and other world-class Open Source software originate from Finland? Is there something special about Finnish IT know-how, attitudes, values — and if so, what? Does Finland have a specific academic atmosphere that forms the background to Finnish IT successes? In his presentation, Kaj shares some lessons from the MySQL AB saga, including his views on the role of social media in technology development. What is the take-away of MySQL AB for today’s students, when planning for the future?



Check out the 28-part playlist on Youtube:                        Watch the entire lecture on Bambuser:                                          


1. Introduction by Jerker Björkqvist
Prof. Jerker Björkqvist introduces the TUCS Distinguished Lecture on “Lessons from MySQL AB”

2. Intro Stories, Lessons, Challenges; caveats CV
Introducing the format of Stories, Lessons and Challenges; the scope of the lecture, and the CV of the lecturer

3. Story 1, on Perl – Fully convince initial adopters
How MySQL got its initial following, by taking over mSQL as the leading database in the Perl user base in the late 1990s.

4. Story 2, on PHP – Quickly satisfy community needs
How MySQL got its ticket to ride the Internet, creating the LAMP wave in the late 1990s, helping PHP

5. Lesson 1, on Openness – Adoption first, Social Proof
Why the Perl and PHP stories of openness enabled adoption and gave MySQL social proof

6. Story 3, on SWPAT – Incumbents are strong but can be won
How software patents were stopped in EU in 2005, despite overwhelming lobbying by the incumbents

7. Challenge 1 Transforming the $68bn Music Industry
How lessons from MySQL can be applied on transforming the music industry for the better

8. Story 4, on Prerequisites for MySQL AB’s success
On the prerequisites for MySQL AB’s success: scratching your own itch, taking time to listen to users, and hating bugs

9. Story 4b, on Strengths enabling MySQL AB’s growth
On the strengths enabling MySQL AB’s growth: domain knowledge; commitment, persistence, diligence; luck with timing

10. Story 4c, on Weaknesses risking everything for MySQL AB
On the weaknesses that risked all of MySQL AB’s success: CMM level 0 heroics; NIH;  Prod Mgmt allergy; owner level goals

11. Lesson 2, on the Success trinity of MySQL AB
On the Success trinity of MySQL AB: 1. Insight, strategy; 2. Perseverence / sisu; 3. Luck (on many levels)

12. Scandinavian Culture and Helan går at MySQL AB & Sun
Presenting the Sun / MySQL YouTube Helan går drinking song video to an audience familiar to drinking songs

13. MySQL AB Culture – the Nordic roots
About the MySQL AB Culture: Singing, respect, Bad English and Nordic values (Egalitarian, Lutheran culture; Mannerheim & Cygnaeus)
How coming from Finland (and speaking Swedish) makes you immune to cultural arrogance (at 04:08)

14. MySQL AB Culture – Non-US-centric
About a clash between open Scandinavian culture, US “sexual harrassment” laws, and the World Bodypainting Festival in Austria

15. Lesson 3, on How MySQL AB taught me to respect Russian culture
How MySQL AB taught me to respect Russian culture (an uphill battle, given Finnish history)

16. Lesson 4, on Diversity – benefit from differences in age, gender etc.
Why diversity – in age, gender, race, and politics – is a benefit when striving for something big

17. Lesson 5, on Identity – be proud of yours – Bertel Nagubo or not!
Why being proud of one’s identity (whatever it is) is essential, and totally different from cultural arrogance

18. Challenge 2, Runnism, the Religion of Running
How Runnism, i.e. packaging rational logic into emotional religion, helps people enjoy running more

19. Challenge 3, Tourism, Visit Reval – respect for other cultures
How respect for other cultures can be combined with mobile IT into an experience celebrating the common history of tourists and locals

20. Challenge 4, Sports, Python & KML helicopter flights
How the joy of exploring the world with your own muscles, a GPS track, and a bit of Python can emulate a helicopter flight

21. Private Lesson 1 – English is just a lingua franca
Mastering your own language (and getting by on that of your counterpart) beats English, which is just a lingua franca

22. Private Lesson 2 – Techies, don’t be too geeky – liberal arts
Lesson from MySQL AB: Don’t be too geeky – there is more to life than C++

23. Private Lesson 3 – Sports – do it!
How working for MySQL AB grew my interest in doing sports

24. Summary Lessons learned from MySQL AB
My overall conclusions from working for MySQL AB 2001-08(-10) – openness, success trinity, respect, diversity, identity

25. Q & A What is the difference between PostgreSQL and MySQL?
What is the historic difference between PostgreSQL and MySQL? (TUCS Distinguished Lecture Q&A)

26. Q & A- What if MySQL AB had been more mature, on CMM and product management?
What if MySQL AB had been more mature, on CMM and product management? (TUCS Distinguished Lecture Q&A)

27. Q & A- How can tech geeks be inspired to value liberal arts?
How can tech geeks be inspired to value liberal arts? (TUCS Distinguished Lecture Q&A)

28. Q & A- How can the ÅA university promote more cross-departmental initiatives?
How can the Åbo Akademi university promote more cross-departmental initiatives?
(TUCS Distinguished Lecture Q&A)