Benchmark Capital, one of Silicon Valley’s leading venture capital firms, has hired former MySQL chief executive Marten Mickos as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Mickos built MySQL, the popular open-source database company, into a significant international company before selling it to Sun Microsystems last year for $1 billion.
Benchmark was one of the leading investors in MySQL and netted a nice return from the sale (only $40 million was invested in MySQL beginning in 2001). So it’s no surprise that Kevin Harvey, the Benchmark partner responsible for that deal, is supporting the hire of Mickos to go build another company.
Mickos left Sun earlier this year, saying he was disenchanted with the big company’s bureaucratic culture.
With his investment in MySQL, Harvey solidified himself as the venture industry’s leading investor in open source. He also previously backed Zimbra and RedHat, two big wins — and so this is a way for Harvey to try to keep backing leading entrepreneurs in the area. Notably, though, open-source companies have fallen out of favor somewhat lately.
[Update: I just reached Mickos on the phone, and he says he's not necessarily going after an open-source business, and that he's willing to entertain any business as long as it means working with "brilliant people...that's the most important thing in life." He said he loves "building businesses and building teams."]
Entrepreneurs in Residence typically spend time working at a venture capital firm, helping advise a firm’s existing portfolio companies, but they are also expected to eventually find an idea of their own to launch. While the arrangement doesn’t commit Mickos to accepting an investment from Benchmark when he finds that idea, he’s expected to at least let Benchmark have serious first consideration.
Benchmark has hired a string of high-profile entrepreneurs over the years. They include Bret Taylor and Jim Norris, who Benchmark lured from Google to incubate FriendFeed, a social networking site recently acquired by Facebook. Other recent notable EIRs include Nirav Tolia, who not long ago launched Fanbase, Mike Cassidy, who launched Ruba, and Dave Goldberg. The firm accelerated its binge last year with several more hires.