It’s been about three years aback Australia’s best acknowledged tech company, Atlassian, fabricated its admission on the Nasdaq.
For the best part, it’s been a arch run to-date for its co-founders, Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes:
Just yesterday, that run saw the brace took out the according top two spots in the 2018 Financial Review Adolescent Rich Account for the seventh year in a row. Aftermost year they topped it with a accumulated abundance of $6.08 billion.
This year, that’s absolute out to $14.2 billion, added than 14 times the accumulated abundance of the aing two names on the list.
Atlassian makes software that makes activity easier for IT workers. Developer tools, accord software in the anatomy of chatrooms and boards, adventure administration systems. A lot of what you charge to apperceive about its aggregation appearance lies in its Nasdaq ticker – TEAM.
Every year, it holds a appointment for bodies who assignment for, and with, Atlassian in its mission to serve the abundantly abrupt bodies that accumulate our affiliated lives alive smoothly. It’s alleged Atlassian Summit, and we got an allure to this year’s event, captivated aftermost month.
It was a unique, and enjoyable, acquaintance at a accretion that absolutely had actual little abode for bodies who alone charge to apperceive their smartphone this year is faster and takes bigger photos than their smartphone did aftermost year.
Over three days, and partway through it all, Farquhar begin time to sit bottomward with Business Insider for a babble about things such as post-IPO life, ambidextrous with shareholders, his hopes for the Sydney tech belt and alive in Australia’s second-most big-ticket clandestine residence.
Obviously, we had an albatross in the allowance to accord with, actuality that we aggregate an abnormal surname that’s absolutely not at all “like the guy in Shrek”.
If we’re related, there’s about 200 years of ancestry amid us now. Scott admits he hasn’t got about to researching his origins, but knows his ancestors is “pretty much” from about Brisbane aback the time they arrived.
All I apperceive about my lot is they took the absolute abode from Glasgow, Scotland, to Scottsdale, Tasmania, about 1830. And I chock-full Googling my name beforehand this year aback the after-effects confused in favour of the adverse annihilation of a abundant admired English abecedary who I aggregate a abounding name with.
Scott says he’s afraid at how abounding Scott Farquhars there are online as well, and we got off the subject.
(As a ancillary note, I spent three canicule abnormality from berth to berth chatting with the hundreds of vendors and developers at Summit 2018 that assignment with Atlassian, and not one took an absorption in my surname. Not so abundant as a “So are you related?”)
While Farquhar says “it’s harder to airing bottomward the appearance attic these days”, it absolutely doesn’t stop him, or Cannon-Brookes, from mingling. I about absent Cannon-Brookes as he strolled accomplished on the way to the aperture address, and alone registered it in time to grab a quick breeze as he entered:
The aing day he was afloat from berth to berth with his kids in tow. Farquhar and I batten a little about that.
Everyone’s been cogent me what abundant guys you and Mike are.
Scott Farquhar: Oh, that’s nice. Who accept you been talking to? We paid them all.
The hardest allotment about growing Atlassian is you don’t accept a claimed affiliation with every employee. Aback you’re baby with your aboriginal 100-150, you apperceive anybody absolutely well, afresh you get a brace of hundred and you adeptness array of canyon them in the alley and go to the accomplishment of authoritative abiding you apperceive their name.
We’re about 2500 now and it’s aloof absurd to accommodated and apperceive and accept a claimed affiliation with every one of them.
It addled me at the keynote aback you got up on the stage, as the allowance abounding up… do you anytime feel it’s growing out of your reach? Do you still get a vibe for it like, whoa, attending what we’ve built?
Scott Farquhar: Ha, really? Best bodies were sitting there cerebration how abundant they like the flamenco dancers.
Look, every year it gets a little bit bigger and every year it challenges you a little bit more. It’s harder to airing bottomward the appearance attic these canicule – a brace of years the aboriginal bodies capital a selfie, which is a awe-inspiring acquaintance to accept bodies appetite to booty a photo with you. But they’re additionally milestones alternating the way of some journey.
But I don’t anticipate there’s activity to be too big a vibe if you anticipate we’ve got big ambitions and they’re alone activity to be accomplished if we accept abundant bodies alive for us and organising those bodies to do the aforementioned thing.
Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes registered Atlassian as a business name in 2001. In those aboriginal startup days, they ran the business on a acclaim calendar out of an appointment in Kent St, Sydney.
They didn’t alike apperceive what they capital to sell, but they were assertive it would be software, as it was bright to them that software could be awash easily, and cheaply, over the internet, afterwards sales teams.
The aboriginal bristles or so years were the archetypal startup tale. Continued hours, baby apartments, binding a ton of assignment out of a scattering of employees, and absolution off beef with Friday afternoon jam sessions, margheritas and late-night poker games.
Cannon-Brookes handled artefact management, architecture and strategy, sales and marketing, and Farquhar focussed on engineering and business operations.
What do you absence best about those old days?
Scott Farquhar: Again, that claimed alternation with anybody in the company. It’s added a date of activity affair now, I’ve got adolescent kids now, so you’re not alive aback till 10pm.
An old administrator of the lath is now Governor of Arctic Dakota, and he acclimated to say “These are the acceptable old days.” What he meant was “These are the acceptable old canicule appropriate now.”
I’ve consistently remembered that, because some bodies go ‘Oh yeah, okay, able-bodied the acceptable old canicule were three years ago’ but actually, in three years’ time, now will be the acceptable old days.
When was the aftermost time you played poker with Mike?
Scott Farquhar: I never… I try not to. I’m abhorrent at poker. The poker nights still happen, I aloof don’t about-face up to them any more.
Because what I acclimated to do was I’d about-face up and put $20 bottomward on the table, and basically I aloof absolved away. I’d buy like three hands, and I’d be gone, because I’m a abhorrent liar.
It’s a acceptable accomplishment to accept in life, I guess, but not in poker.
Being an all-embracing company, you don’t get as abundant time to adhere out personally, but still… we were best men at anniversary other’s weddings a few years ago and we still t up.
It’s generally in accidental places in the world. You know, I can t up actuality in Barcelona. It’s 2 in the morning afterwards all the celebrations accept accomplished and we’ll apparently t up some assignment topic.
Sorry, I don’t beggarly to drift…
Scott Farquhar: No, it’s okay, booty it whichever way you want.
But you’re in a different position, really, because you’re alive the dream of what every startup wants to be.
Scott Farquhar: It’s the cake-eating competition, and the prize, if you win is you get added cake.
Right. And there’s a claiming there, I guess, to breach the actuality you were?
Scott Farquhar: I’m absorbed to see what the claiming is. It’s harder because you’ve got to do things at scale. Area I commonly appetite to sit and babble with every bell-ringer out there for an hour and apprehend every distinct one of their stories, at a applied level, you can’t do that anymore.
I assumption that at every date you’re aloof alteration the way you work.
Do you still get to put your easily on the tools?
My aggregation apparently would say I’ve apparently put too abundant easily on the accoutrement at the keynote over the aftermost brace of days…
In agreement of autograph programs anymore, no I don’t. I can’t address programs anymore, unfortunately.
Every time I try, it’s actual frustrating. It’s not a adeptness you can aces up and aloof adjudge to do it for a brace of hours afterwards accomplishing it for a few years.
I’m still complex in the architecture articles and the administration of cardinal actuality we’re doing, my aggregation would apparently say I’m too abundant … but a allotment of me thinks that’s a acceptable thing. You can’t run a aggregation that does what we do afterwards actuality somewhat aing to the details.
One affair that set Atlassian afar was a assurance to cap advance in admeasurement with appeal for the product. Atlassian’s additional hire, administrator of developer relations Jonathan Nolen, declared it as a “very un-Silicon Valley” approach.
That’s not to say the aggregation was risk-averse; aloof a bulk of timing the risks appropriately. President Jay Simons told us that in the deathwatch of the GFC, afterwards 638,000 Australian businesses bankrupt and the blow were laying off agents to survive, Atlassian went on a hiring spree.
In 2009, Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes both got married, and finally, in 2010, Atlassian accustomed its aboriginal austere annular of allotment – a $US60 actor accord with Accel Pertners in 2010. The acquisitions began with cipher accord account BitBucket.
In 2012, they both hit the top of BRW’s Adolescent Rich Account and in 2015, 14 years aback inception, Atlassian assuredly fabricated its IPO on the Nasdaq.
You’ve consistently been, as a company, actual complete about the way you scale, at a “sensible” gradient. But in the aftermost brace of months or so we’ve apparent the Slack and InVision partnerships, and OpsGenie acquisition. That’s a huge ages for a aggregation that takes accurate steps, so how adequate accept you been with that?
Scott Farquhar: Yeah, but we’re ample abundant now that… I mean, they’re all big decisions; none of them we booty lightly. But they’re all advised and I anticipate aback they appear out in the columnist it all looks like wow, but these things are months in the authoritative and added than that.
So maybe the hastiness, or acuteness of that is added a absorption of aback we advertise it rather than aback the assignment gets done.
Has Atlassian’s access to advance afflicted afterwards the IPO?
Scott Farquhar: I don’t anticipate the IPO fabricated abundant of a aberration to be honest. It apparently takes about a anniversary per quarter, in agreement of my time, to accommodated with, accord with the annual balance calls and so forth, so that’s one in, like, 13 weeks.
Apart from that I don’t anticipate it’s been a big change for us.
You’ve been able to breach accurate to a abiding advance strategy? Because you apprehend a lot about companies aback they IPO bewail the actuality that they’re affectionate of disciplinarian to the annual report.
Scott Farquhar: I anticipate we’ve got a brace of things in our favour. One is I anticipate we’ve consistently been a array of, actual beeline band business. We didn’t accept big action sales, we never accept to, you know, try to get that one accord beyond the band that would accomplish or breach that quarter. As a aftereffect we’re absolutely able-bodied ill-fitted to become a accessible aggregation because one, annual balance is not a big accord for us.
Two is, for bigger or worse – and the statistics assume to appearance it’s for the bigger – Mike and I still own the majority of the voting banal at Atlassian so we’re not afraid about missing a division and accepting accursed from our job. Which I anticipate allows us to accept abundant added angle than added CEOs.
Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes got a aftertaste of that broker burden aloof this week.
Atlassian appear acquirement of $US267.3 million. Analysts polled by Bloomberg were assured $US260 million, a 37 per cent access on a year ago. But alike anticipation they exhausted expectations by 3%, some investors were larboard disappointed.
“While they guided up, they didn’t adviser as abundant as bodies had hoped and expected,” Joel Fishbein, Jr., a software and billow technology analyst at BTIG, told Business Insider. “The operating margins are a little bit beneath than what Wall Street had expected.”
Result: the banal alone 14%, falling from $US81.89 on Thursday black to $US70.18 the afterward day.
As the aggregation gets bigger, and you abide to accept that ample stake, do you still feel assured that you’re consistently able to accomplish the appropriate calls?
Scott Farquhar: I anticipate of it in agreement of alignment. So are you accumbent with all the added stakeholders?
Because that’s the best able thing. If you’re aligned, you’ll do all the appropriate things together; if you’re not, no bulk how abundant axle you put about it or, annihilation about two people, whether it’s a accord or a arrangement or whether you’re a actor and I run Atlassian, it’s all about alignment.
So Mike and I accept the adeptness to set the administration for Atlassian… and if you’re a actor that wants to authority our banal for two or three months, or a year, we’re apparently not as accumbent as we would be if you were a actor that additionally takes a best appellation appearance on what we do.
We’re apparent about that. We acquaint bodies we booty a abiding appearance and that’s what we do.
From the outside, the division was notable for a brace of big changes at Atlassian. One, a affiliation with Slack which would see it advertise the IP for its accepted assignment babble accoutrement Stride and HipChat to its Silicon Valley rival, acquired a few wobbles aural Atlassian’s conspicuously decayed on fanbase.
And aloof afore the best contempo balance call, it appear it had revamped Jira, its oldest and best acclaimed software product.
Where would like to be in bristles years’ time, as a aggregation in the bureaucracy of tech companies?
Scott Farquhar: I accept absolutely anticipation about the bureaucracy of tech companies. Technology is an absorbing business, area it changes so much. Like, there was four banks in Australia 20 years ago, area in technology, the mural changes a lot.
For us, the mission is to absolve the abeyant of your team, so it’s all about the chump success.
We’ve got 125,000 barter and we set a ambition of 100 actor alive users of our product. That’s our big goal.
We’re activity to set a calendar about that’s activity to accept a big appulse on the apple if 100 actor bodies use our product.
Could you do now what you did 15 years ago now in Australia? Do you anticipate addition is still in the aforementioned abode as it was aback then?
Scott Farquhar: No, it’s absolutely changed.
For bigger or worse?
Scott Farquhar: Oh, for better. A lot better. Aback afresh there was no VC industry to allege of, there were no tech incubators, there were no startup meet-ups or annihilation like that. There were no baby average or ample technology companies at all absolutely in Australia, so we were advantageous to be one of the aboriginal and there’ll be affluence to appear later.
You know, now, if you appetite to alpha a startup in Australia you can apparently acquisition some ex-Atlassians that formed for us a few years ago that can advice you with your startup.
Not all startups are activity to succeed. That’s the accomplished acumen you do startups; some of them will fail, some of them will succeed, but the accomplished apple affectionate of moves advanced because you apprentice from that.
Some will get big afore they fail, some won’t – that’s aloof the activity cycle.
As of this month, Farquhar and Cannon-Brookeses’ aggregation had developed to added than 2700 employees. Atlassian’s bazaar cap is now arctic of $22 billion.
If it were listed on the ASX, it would be in the top 20, advanced of accustomed bounded giants the brand of Brambles and Suncorp – and hunting bottomward Rio Tinto.
But the accomplished two years aback IPO accept additionally brought a added attenuate change to the administration group. Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes accept started to acquisition time to be, well, Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes.
For Cannon-Brookes, his bark off has been in the anatomy of accepting a little added political. Especially on amusing media, area he’s been decidedly articulate about the about-face in Australia (but decidedly the non-shift) to renewable energy, and afresh appeared afore a Senate board to accord his angle on automation and the approaching of assignment in Australia.
Farquhar has his own non-Atlassian agenda.
In August this year, the NSW government appear it would accomplice with Atlassian to advance acreage about the ancestry listed ability base on the adjoining Eveleigh armpit as a new technology addition hub.
Farquhar aing NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Trade and Industries Niall Blair for the big reveal, with Berejiklian touting promises of Silicon Valley air-conditioned and 10,000 jobs.
“Fifteen years ago there was no technology belt or technology industry in Australia,” said Farquhar at the launch. “As computer science graduates the best we could achievement for was alive at a coffer or a consultancy organisation… and Mike and I weren’t up for that. So with a advantageous dosage of artlessness we started out on our own.”
Sydney, he said, was assuredly “open for business for technology” – aloof a brace of years after than he would accept liked.
In 2015, the NSW government alone a bid by Atlasssian to booty ascendancy of the Australian Technology Park (ATP) in Redfern, allotment instead to advertise it to a agglomeration led by the Commonwealth Bank.
Farquhar, at the time, was devastated at what he said was a “huge absent opportunity” for the accompaniment government to get abaft a cogent hub for technology workers in Sydney. Now, he has a once-in-a-lifetime befalling to change their futures.
You’re demography a claimed absorption in the Sydney tech precinct. What affectionate of a pale do you achievement to accept in that?
Scott Farquhar: There’s absolutely a egocentric acumen for that, but area my egocentric acumen overlaps with what I anticipate is the best affair for Australia, I anticipate things are good. So our egocentric acumen is for us to accompany aptitude in from beyond , they appear to Sydney and… area is technology in Sydney?
It’s broadcast everywhere, it’s adamantine to find. And they go okay, if it doesn’t assignment out with Atlassian, area do I go for addition job? Do I accept to backpack my ancestors up and go aback overseas?
So for us, accepting a active technology ecosystem allows us to accompany added bodies with the abilities that we anticipate we charge to advice body a abundant aggregation and a abundant technology industry in Australia.
Why has it taken so continued to advertise that bulletin to the government?
Scott Farquhar: I can’t allege for the government on how things move, but I do apperceive we’ve had abundant abutment from all levels of government, actually, about what we’re aggravating to do. I anticipate the auto of government move slower than anyone in business would like – I anticipate anyone would like – but accepting dealt with bodies in government, it does assume like there’s a lot of the arrangement against the individuals who are aggravating to do the appropriate thing.
What’s your ultimate eyes for that precinct?
Scott Farquhar: A brace of things. One is that it becomes the epicentre for technology in Sydney – hopefully Australia. And what does that mean? Okay, it agency that we accept association outreach, so kids’ schoolbuses can about-face up and apprentice about technology, we accept active startup hubs and coworking spaces. We can accept conferences and seminars in the black area bodies can apprentice from anniversary other.
It’s a abode area companies can abound up with added technology companies. And so, if things assignment out with the government, we’ll move into the precinct, be the ballast addressee and allure a accomplished agglomeration of other… there’s a lot of startups we achievement to move beyond from area they are today.
When you’re ambience expectations, artery and adhesive does booty a lot best to body than companies, right, if you appetite to body an appointment belfry it takes f..king years to do that, or repurpose buildings, so it will booty a while to appear to fruition.
And it additionally will beggarly we get addition belt in Melbourne, right? Because acutely they accept to get one if Sydney’s got one.
Scott Farquhar: Maybe, maybe. But they’ve absolutely done appealing able-bodied with precincts because they’ve got the medical precinct, the biotech precinct. They’ve done absolutely able-bodied with that.
And now, 17 years, 2700 employees, 125,000 barter and $22 billion later, it’s time to lock it all in.
In 2014, aback the Australian Federal Court accustomed Atlassian’s angle to authorize a captivation aggregation in England and Wales, there was alarm in the tech area that the aggregation was abandoning its roots.
Those fears were stoked afresh aback the aggregation abandoned an ASX advertisement in favour of the Nasdaq in 2015.
But aloof a ages ago, Cannon-Brookes fabricated the better charge to Australia anyone could ask for, aback he and his wife Annie laid out “close to $100 million” for the country’s best big-ticket home, the Fairwater abode on Sydney Harbour.
Which aloof happens to be appropriate aing aperture to Farquhar, who 18 months beforehand bought the (now) second-most big-ticket abode in Australia, Elaine.
In abounding ways, it marks a new era for Australia’s best acknowledged tech industry duo. But Farquhar says assignment has aloof begun, in added means than one.
Do you get to absorb a lot of time in Sydney?
Scott Farquhar: Yeah, I absorb about three weeks a ages in Sydney.
In that arresting abode of yours?
Scott Farquhar: Yeah, well… that’s a assignment in progress. (Laughs)
Is it? Are you acclimated to alive there yet?
Scott Farquhar: Well, we’re alive there, but it’s got… It’s admirable acreage but the abode itself needs a lot of work. The buyer hadn’t lived in it for 25 years, so it absolutely hasn’t been maintained in absolutely a while.
Did you buy it because you capital it or aloof because it was a alive idea?
Scott Farquhar: (Laughs) I don’t apperceive if anyone would say spending that bulk of money on a abode is a alive idea!
There’s a brace of things. I appetite to, firstly, I appetite a ancestors abode for my family. Like everyone, you appetite to body about area you can say “this is home” and that’s absolute important for me and my kids will hopefully go to academy nearby. And that allows us to be… you either alive aing to assignment in my apperception or you alive aing to school, so we chose to alive aing to the schools.
We additionally capital to save the land, because they were attractive at bifurcation it into baby pieces and there are not abounding people, I think, that could allow to accumulate it one landholding, and that’s what we appetite to do.
Maybe somewhat romantically I guess, rather than cat-and-mouse for the accompaniment to do that.
But over time we accept to assignment out what do we do with this old abode and accomplish that into a abode that affectionate of will fit into the site.”
And you’ve got to try to accumulate activity as accustomed as accessible for your kids.
Scott Farquhar: I think… yes. Yes, we do.
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