(Maybe this is old news to everyone else, but I stumbled across this article recently, and found it quite interesting.)
The term “mighty micro multinational” was new to me, but after reading this article from 2006, I think the description fits Mozilla fairly well. Basically, as I understand it, the writer makes the distinction between:
- traditional companies which are based in one location until forced to react to change. Examples include ExxonMobile and IBM. This change can be because of acquisition (buying a company in a different city/state/country), offshoring (moving “less critical” work to cheaper locations, while keeping “critical” work in HQ), real estate (outgrow physical HQ, and cant find adjacent office space in the neighborhood), or a whole range of other external factors.
- a “new” category of companies which are multi-location, and multi-national, from their very inception. Literally they are location agnostic. And they do this by choice. Examples include Skype, MySQL and VistaPrint; interestingly enough, Mozilla was not mentioned in the article at all.
The difference between these two types of companies is important in internal coordination, communication, attitudes to different cultures, and most importantly hiring. Being location agnostic means able to hire “the best person for the job”, not just “the best person for the job who lives nearby, or is willing to relocate for the job”. Quote: “…it doesn’t matter much where [the developer] is physically as long as he has a broadband connection.” To handle the extra complexity, the company is held together by having people who are naturally able to bridge the different cultures, keep all the communication flowing across time zones, and are skilled in detangling communication snafus whenever they arise. He calls that role “the magic expatriate”, and as far as I can tell, Mozilla has an amazing collection of magic expatriates!
Software engineers scattered around the world each with a laptop, VOIP headset and IM/IRC sounds slightly futuristic in the business-focused article, yet its normal life in Mozilla for years now. And its very cool.
(As an exercise to the reader, just try saying “Mozilla the mighty micro multinational” 3 times in a row quickly!)