28 April 2016
by Atreyee Chowdhury

Australian tech entrepreneurs strike it rich despite odds

Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar

Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar started a business with modest beginnings. All they had was a AUD 10,000 credit-card to fund their business when they started it in 2002. The two were university mates and decided to start a business of their own. The venture soon spread out into a big one.

GQ Australia said that during the initial days of the business, the founders conducted business with overseas clients during house parties at a shared terrace in inner-Sydney. However, their modest endeavours paid off and the two have become one of the most successful tech entrepreneurs Australia has ever produced. Their company, Atlassian, offers a suite of products that aim to achieve increased, streamlined productivity and communication. According to Cannon-Brookes, “We make and sell software products, packaged or sold online, to help people be more creative.” The modest business of 2002 has over the years made both its founders billionaires.

Atlassian is valued at more than USD7bn and the company’s suite of software products have 50,000 global customers including NASA, Tesla, eBay, Facebook and Twitter. The firm said that the success it enjoys is because of the diverse clients it has across a number of sectors.

Explaining how such a firm on a shoestring budget could achieve so much, Cannon-Brookes said the key to success was focussing on the team rather than the individual. It is evident that the two focussed on developing the firm and offering services all the while ensuring that team work and collaboration were not sacrificed.

Explaining further, he said that the world has changed and the stress on teams is growing and the concept of the individual actualising everything is waning. He said, “Go back 200 years and you could accomplish a lot as a single person, but if you look at how complicated the world is [now] … things are accomplished by teams. People aren’t getting smarter or faster, actually all the bottlenecks are really about getting things out of my head and into yours, or sharing information or getting people on the same page and not duplicating work around an organisation.”

Cannon-Brookes also said that more technology firms need to emerge from Australia because most of the jobs that have been generated in the past 20-25 years have some bearing on technology. Therefore, if the technology is not being produced in Australia, it would mean that Australia would have to buy it from others, which is a drain on foreign reserves. He added that innovation and creation were very important in the business field.

He also has an opinion on the quality of students that are churned out by universities in the nation. He said that while universities were doing a great job in creating talent, orienting students to the right path of entrepreneurship was either not happening or less than what is desired. He said that mentors need to encourage people and teach them to find business opportunities.

The two have shown that how a business can be nurtured with very modest beginnings into one that spans across nations providing critical services to some of the big names in the world.