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MariaDB announces intent to go public

Going public via a SPAC, MariaDB appears to have secured the financing just as the window for such deals is starting to close.

Open source database provider MariaDB is the latest to capitalize on an IPO trend that it is hoping won't prove long in the teeth. This morning, the company announced that it closed a $104 million Series D venture round as the lead-in for the proposed IPO that will list on the New York Stock Exchange. The IPO would come through a merger with Angel Pond Holdings, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The Series D financing values the company as a sub-unicorn $672 million.

The message from MariaDB is that the financings will not change its current course. The name will change slightly to MariaDB plc, but the management team, led by CEO Michael Howard, is expected to stay in place. As for the SPAC, Angel Pond was established by former Goldman Sachs partner Theodore Wang and Shihuang "Simon" Xie, who co-founded Alibaba.

Headquartered in Helsinki, MariaDB began life as a fork of MySQL after it was acquired by Oracle (as part of the Sun Microsystems acquisition) in 2009. Taking advantage of the pluggable engine architecture that originated with MySQL, MariaDB has evolved into a provider of a product portfolio that is extremely (or maybe overly) diverse for a company of its size.

So here's the latest count. It starts with the Enterprise Server, which is the commercially hardened version of the open source community edition. The Enterprise Server is offered with a choice of storage engines: the original InnoDB engine for common, single-node transaction processing scenarios and MyRocks for write-intensive scenarios associated with IoT use cases. Then there is the distributed, shared-nothing ColumnStore for analytics, and Xpand, the distributed transaction database (coming from the Clustrix acquisition) that has parallels with Google Cloud Spanner and CockroachDB.

So far, it's a pretty straightforward portfolio. But we're not done yet. 

There's MaxScale, which provides a proxy that abstracts high availability, failover, and security for simplifying operations, and Galera Cluster, the original multimaster open source implementation, which should not be confused with Xpand.

The icing on the cake is SkySQL, the managed database cloud service that is currently available on AWS and Google Cloud. It offers a choice of a transaction, analytic, or combo service that includes the now-familiar optimizations for routing queries to the row or column stores.

MariaDB is banking on the hope that the window hasn't closed for IPOs after a lousy January. Last year's highlights counted Confluent's $828 million IPO in June in the data world. That was followed a couple of months later by Databricks raising a ridiculous $1.6 billion Series H, which provided enough left over for Databricks itself to share the proceeds, not to mention fueling speculation on when, not whether, the company would ride its $38 billion valuation to an IPO.

Evidently, MariaDB secured its SPAC deal just under the wire. SPACs, which were a hot trend a year ago, is now facing stiff headwinds. Also known as "blank check" firms, SPACs are publicly-traded shell companies set up specifically for acquiring private companies and taking them public. In effect, SPACs provide a shortcut to going public because, as publicly-traded shell companies, the acquired entity does not have to undergo all the disclosures otherwise required for IPOs. 

But the air is now going out of the SPAC bubble for a number of reasons, such as looming regulation, higher interest rates, and disappointing results for a number of SPAC issues over the past year.

For MariaDB, the hope is all in the timing.

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