Paving the way

12 Nov 2012

Author: Brad Howarth

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They would never admit it, but Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar have inspired a generation of entrepreneurs by proving that you can build an internationally successful software company from Australia.
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The pair launched Atlassian, a maker of online publishing and collaboration tools, in Sydney back in 2002. Ten years later it employs 500 staff and is turning over US$100 million annually from 22,000 customers, including at least 30 of the world’s top 50 corporations. Still headquartered in Sydney, the company also has offices in San Francisco and Amsterdam, and is rumoured to be heading towards a listing on a US stock exchange, having added three senior US executives to its board.

Both Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar are yet to celebrate their 35th birthdays. But they are old enough for many of the young Australians coming through incubation programs, such as Pollenizer and StartMate, to cite Atlassian as a reason why they got into building software companies in the first place.

In an interview given in January, Cannon-Brookes humbly acknowledged that they might have played a small role in stoking entrepreneurial innovation.

“We certainly spend a lot of time in and around the start-up community and the technical community in Sydney, because when we started it was a lot harder than it is now,” he said. “But having a strong community down here makes Atlassian better. We’d rather have 20 companies around us that are doing great things down here.”

Both are also involved in the new Australian venture capital fund, Blackbird Ventures, which is currently raising a fund to invest in early-stage, globally focused Australian technology companies.

As further evidence of their remarkable success, and the changing fortunes of Australia’s core industries, the duo has just ousted one-time mining billionaire Nathan Tinkler from the No.1 spot in BRW’s Young Rich list.