With Atlassian’s latest share sale valuing it at $US3.3 billion the Australian software company has pledged $35 million to charity. Founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes set aside 1% of the equity in Atlassian to the Atlassian foundation when they started the company. Farquhar told SmartCompany the foundation is part of the “untold” story of Atlassian and the latest valuation means it is now a $35 million foundation on paper. Like Atlassian’s business plan, Farquhar says the company takes a long term view to its charitable giving. “It’s really about education,” he says. “Ideally in 50 years time we want to say we have really achieved fixing something rather than just patching over something.” Farquhar says the Atlassian foundation concentrates on education rather than services such as homeless shelters which, while vital, don’t really address the root cause of the problem. So far the Atlassian foundation has focused on charities such as Room to Read which works on educating children in the developing world. “Their motto is that world change starts with educated children,” Farquhar says. In addition to the $35 million in foundation stock, Atlassian has donated another $7 million to the Atlassian foundation and $3.1 million of this has been on-donated to Room to Read. Farquhar says Australia does not have the culture of entrepreneurial giving like the United States. “We want to encourage other entrepreneurs to pledge 1% of their equity early on when it’s not worth much,” Farquhar says. “Then, like Atlassian, hopefully in the future it is worth more.” This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
Atlassian’s $US150 million ($A159m) share sale announced yesterday has rocketed co-founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes into Australia’s billionaire rankings. Farquhar talked to SmartCompany from Los Angeles last night as news broke of the deal which values Atlassian at $US3.3 billion. Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes are each believed to own close to 40% of the share capital and neither is selling down their stake as part of this sale, which leaves them with paper wealth of $1.4 billion each. Farquhar says the deal was brokered by “inviting bids from a small number of select parties” and will assist Atlassian’s future growth through an injection of both capital and expertise. “We have always been about thinking long term so the investors we get on board, like Accel Partners, help us set up the company for the next stage of growth,” he says. “As we head towards an initial public offering we’ve now got one of the largest tech investors in the US on board and with their public market experience they will really help us set up.” “It also allows our employees, some of whom have been around for 10 years to realise the value of their Atlassian stock.” Farquhar would not be drawn on the timing of an IPO for Atlassian but it is “not in the next few months”. The share sale is the latest move in a trajectory which has seen Atlassian soar to global prominence. In 2013, the business booked revenue of $US149 million up from $US111 million in 2012. Farquhar says revenue is on track to be “north of” $US 200 million for this year. He attributes Atlassian’s success to “taking a long term view of everything we do”. “At Atlassian, we want to be around in 50 years’ time,” he says. Farquhar plans to grow the business further by expanding into multiple markets. “As software development becomes an increasing part of every single business, our products actually become quite critical to every business,” he says. “That’s the area for growth of us.” Atlassian plans to achieve this growth without hiring a single salesperson. “We are not anti-sales; we are pro automation,” Farquhar says. “We take an engineer’s philosophy to everything that we do. We are really about scaling the business.” Although Farquhar concedes eventually Atlassian may have to follow a more traditional sales path if it wants to sell into large businesses at the top instead of going through the business’ developers. “In the future we may have sales situations where we need to speak their language,” he says. The biggest challenge at the moment for Atlassian is its stellar growth according to Farquhar. The business has averaged 40% year on year growth for the last five years. “We are growing fast. With that comes the inevitable issue of scaling, it sounds mundane but finding office space when you double in size every two years is hard.” Atlassian’s move earlier this year to shift its domicile from Australia to the United Kingdom caused some soul searching in Australia’s tech scene but Farquhar insists Atlassian is still an Australian company “through and through”. “We still collect all our revenue globally through Australia and the large number of people we are hiring are through Australia,” he says. Farquhar says the move followed a global search to find the best place for Atlassian to be based “for the best interests of the company”. Atlassian’s “back office people” analysed where Atlassian’s customers were, where the team wanted to live and settled on the United Kingdom. “We looked at Singapore but the UK made sense because of the treaties between Australia and the UK it is easier and the global investor base is more used to investing in a UK company.” But Farquhar does say the talent pool in Australia is limited. “We don’t graduate enough computer science graduates from university,” he says. “That is the biggest constraint on our growth.” “We have a unique company culture so we spend a lot of time on hiring for promotion and continuing that culture. I think half our staff have been here less than one year and four months.” Atlassian has previously criticised the government for its approach to 457 visas for skilled employees and Farquhar says the program is essential because the Australian technology environment has more jobs than people to do them. “Arrogance and lack of a strong industry in Australia meant we didn’t have mentors for a long time,” he says. “Our argument with the government on these visas is that a lot of the people who could train us are highly qualified people we need to import from Silicon Valley.” “Now we have mentors in our business and also on our board.” This article first appeared on SmartCompany.
Designed to turn Australian technical founders into successful global entrepreneurs, one of Australia’s first start-up accelerators Startmate is now open for applications. The program will run next year from January to May. Companies will spend three months in Sydney and two in San Francisco. Startmate is seeking around eight companies, which will receive $50,000 in seed capital, in exchange for 7.5% equity. Startmate co-founder Niki Scevak told StartupSmart they’re seeking founders with big dreams and plans. “Beyond the very product centric technical team, we’re looking for people with large ambitions, the crazier the idea the better. We really want to work with teams who want to make a big difference in the world, so the scale of the ambition is what we’ll be selecting,” Scevak says. He says they’re committed to approaching each pitched idea with an open mind, adding that being the hundredth start-up to tackle an idea didn’t hurt Google, Facebook or Atlassian. “Anyone doing anything in an incredibly crowded area will be taken as seriously as brand new ideas. The ideas may sound incremental, but it really does matter why the founders have chosen to pursue this idea, and if they have a unique insight into it,” Scevak says. “It’s about why they care about their customers and if they have an authentic connection to the market. We look for what in their lives have driven them to this idea.” The program includes an impressive line-up of mentors including Atlassian co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar; Tjoos co-founder Bart Jellema; and Spreets co-founder Dean McEvoy, as well as several partners from Square Peg Capital and Blackbird Ventures. This will be the fourth intake for the program. Previous participants include BugCrowd and NinjaBlocks. Start-ups can apply via Angel List.
It takes many things to get a business off the ground. It takes a flash of insight, plenty of drive, and good advice. It takes savvy staff and helpful networks. It also takes something few start-up founders have to begin with: money. Australia’s venture capital industry is growing and maturing. But the funds to finance start-ups don’t just come from high finance. Increasingly, a generation of Australian entrepreneurs who made or grew their fortunes over the past decade are investing their money back into start-ups, either directly or through niche venture-capital firms. Through this, they’re helping build a start-up ecosystem able to support new, growing start-ups, using the spoils of yesterday’s success stories. Here are just a few rich listers putting some of their money back where it came from. James Packer In many ways the trailblazer in this regard was James Packer, who made a fortune investing in companies like SEEK and Carsales.com.au a decade ago. While by no means a successful start-up leader (Packer inherited most of his money), he has nonetheless grown his fortune through savvy start-up investing, a passion that doesn’t appear to have ebbed with time. Packer bought a 25% stake in SEEK for $33 million in 2003. When the business listed, Packer’s stake was worth $150 million. By the time he sold out, he had made $440 million from his investment. He was also an early investor in Carsales.com.au, putting $100 million for a stake in the company that sold for $500 million a few years later. Those were some of the best dot.com investments ever made in Australia, and, perhaps spurred by his early success, Packer has continued to invest in start-ups with potential to disrupt their industries. One of his most recent investments was last month in taxi app goCatch, which could radically disrupt Australia’s cab companies and Australia’s Cabcharge monopoly by allowing passengers to book a taxi by directly liaising with the driver. Paul Bassat Packer is joined in his goCatch investment by Paul Bassat, a cofounder of SEEK who’s since left running the business to his brother while he focuses on investing. Bassat is the cofounder and joint chairman of Square Peg Capital, a newly minted venture capital firm that’s already put money into a heap of start-ups like beauty-box business Bella Box and design start-up Canva. “First and foremost, we want to back fantastic people who are smart, passionate and high integrity,” Bassat told StartupSmart when Square Peg was formed a few months ago. “For businesses that have been around for a few years and have a bit more traction, the question of if they’re solving a problem has been partially answered. If it’s an early stage business without a track record, we want to know exactly what the problem you’re trying to solve is if you’re actually solving it, in a unique and differentiated way.” Bassat is also a mentor at Startmate, which offers mentoring and seed financing to online and software start-ups. Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar Bassat isn’t the only rich lister to volunteer his time mentoring young companies. Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes, who cofounded Atlassian and for two years have topped the BRW Young Rich list, are also mentors at Startmate. Last year, Cannon-Brookes also invested in Shoes of Prey, which gives shoe lovers the chance to customise every part of their shoes online and have a unique pair created and shipped. Both Atlassian cofounders put money earlier this year into Ninja Blocks, a Sydney start-up that builds devices that let people link their devices to physical things in their homes (‘SMS me when the washing is done’, for example). This story first appeared on SmartCompany.
Data released this week by US tech database CrunchBase has found the University of New South Wales produced more technology entrepreneurs in the past 15 years than any other Australian university. The data was based on the CrunchBase dataset of over 170,000 companies, including 169 Australian entrepreneurs. CrunchBase is a free database of technology companies, people, and investors where anyone can upload information on start-ups. Australians on the database included Dean McEvoy from Spreets, Tess Walton from Aruspex, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar from Atlassian, Alicia Navarro from Skimlinks and Eddie Machalaani from Bigcommerce. The University of New South Wales was ranked number one in Australia and is credited with launching the careers of 16 entrepreneurs. UNSW had more than double the number of entrepreneurs produced by the University of Technology Sydney, which took second place and clocked in with seven entrepreneurs. Monash University, Queensland University of Technology, University of Queensland and University of Sydney shared third place with six entrepreneurs. Swinburne University, Melbourne University and the University of Newcastle were credited with four entrepreneurs each. Josh Flannery is the student enterprise manager at the University of New South Wales entrepreneur program and commercialisation arm NewSouth Innovations. Flannery told StartupSmart while the results were recognition of their commitment to encouraging entrepreneurship, he believes UNSW and NewSouth Innovations are about to reach a tipping point and start producing even more successful start-ups. “It’s been an experiment really, but we’re at a tipping point now. I’m speaking to 60 to 70 individual students who are working on start-ups at the moment,” Flannery says. UNSW runs entrepreneurial and innovation-themed subjects in every faculty and has a variety of internal programs. “What’s maybe different is our NewSouth Innovations commercialisation approach. We now give 100% of the equity to the students. That’s not the case in every university yet but it’s becoming the trend,” Flannery says. He adds that universities play an important role in encouraging young entrepreneurs and can do more to boost the start-up ecosystem. “Universities play a very important role in nurturing entrepreneurial students, but also something I’ve found that we’re doing, which is relatively new, is almost offering the entrepreneurship career route as an alternative to the safe route as a consultant in a big firm,” Flannery says. “The way we’re doing that is encouraging students to have a go at something entrepreneurial right now, when they have the least expectation on their shoulders than they will at any point of their life.”
The US-founded Startup Grind event series continues to grow in Australia, with the Sydney and Melbourne chapters set to host the founders of Atlassian and Zendesk respectively.
The first class of Atlassian Hack House graduates have highlighted their achievements since participating in the program, after the second class began work yesterday.
Government regulations need to change if Australia is to create a 'Silicon Beach' that will compete with the world's leading digital economies, a gathering of tech giants and start-ups has told Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
This year’s BRW Young Rich List may be striking due to the dip in overall wealth of the top 100, including a $700 million plummet by mining mogul Nathan Tinker, but there are encouraging signs for start-ups.
The 2012 BRW Young Rich List has a strong start-up and tech flavor, with Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar heading the rankings.
Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, founders of tech success story Atlassian, have toppled miner Nathan Tinkler to head BRW’s Young Rich List.
A new venture capital fund is aiming to take the Australian start-up scene by storm, founded by a self-described “dream team” including Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar.
Startmate participant Ninja Blocks will return to Australia with very full pockets after securing $1 million from a group of high-profile investors, most of whom are US-based Australians.
There has been a lot of press lately discussing the state of tech entrepreneurship in Australia and where it's headed.
Australian software giant Atlassian has acquired US-based instant messaging network HipChat for an undisclosed sum, with plans to incorporate HipChat into its ever-increasing portfolio.
Australian software giant Atlassian has revealed it doesn’t employ salespeople among its 450-strong workforce, but has still managed to almost double its revenue over the past 18 months.
Atlassian is held up as something of a trailblazer among Australia’s start-up community, and with good reason.
Software company Atlassian will host Launch48 in Sydney later this month, an event where participants will pitch, build and launch online businesses over the course of a weekend.
Some of Australia’s leading start-up entrepreneurs have made an appearance onto this year’s BRW Young Rich list, with the tech and retail sectors well represented.
Peruse images of the founders of the world’s leading tech start-ups and you’ll probably notice a few common features – youth, casual attire and, tellingly, male.