Atlassian co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar have become a talking point in Australian business this week after the startup announced it had filed for an IPO on the US stock exchange.
From identifying ways Australia can fix the STEM skills gap to being named the best company to work for in Australia — two years in a row — Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar are leaders to watch, and listen to.
Here are 24 quotes that reveal the vision of the duo who built the business, now valued at more than $US3 billion.
On why Atlassian will remain Australian, and why it will not follow multinationals such as Google.
“I think as a result of this we’ll end up with a lower tax rate globally and that’s one of the things we considered, but we’re not changing where we invoice out of; all our invoices still come out of Australia . . . and we still bring all our revenue through Australia,” Farquhar says. In an interview with BRW from April 2014.
On being advocates and mentors for the Australian tech sector.
“I think it’s been thrust upon us because we’ve been the first, but hopefully not the last, technology company to make it in Australia,” Farquhar says.
“It’s just giving back to the community and the other great tech companies following behind us. I get enjoyment from seeing people succeed.”In an interview with BRW from April 2014.
On importing engineers to support the growth of the industry.
“You can’t generate experience,” Cannon-Brookes said in an interview for the Cracking the Code series, in partnership with GE.
“I can’t take a super-smart engineer out of a computer science program in university here and say, ‘Great, go to Silicon Valley for 10 years, learn it, school of hard knocks, get all the scars and come back and figure out how to run a 100-person engineering group, or a product team, or whatever’. We don’t have that in this country and so we need to import it, there’s no other way to get it.” In an interview with The Australian from September 2015.
On technology being the largest industry in the world.
“Technology is the largest industry in the world now. It’s only opening up a bigger and bigger gap on No 2, which is finance. And it’s becoming more a part of every single company’s competitiveness,” Cannon-Brookes said.
“Therefore, if you look forward 20 years, it’s going to become a bigger and bigger part of the entire economy’s competitiveness for Australia.
“And we’re already seeing ourselves going backwards down all the various league tables because we’re not investing enough in technology as an economy.
“If we’re just consuming technology as an economy, we’re stuffed in 20 years’ time. We need to be producing our own IP (intellectual property) in technology as a country.” In an interview with The Australian from September 2015.
On being the disruptor or the disrupted.
“All companies fit into one of two buckets: either becoming a software company or being disrupted by one. Every industry is being fundamentally altered by software,” Cannon-Brooks said. “We’ll continue to make it easier for developers to build great software while taking that understanding of how highly effective teams work to help all teams better organize, collaborate and communicate.” In an interview with Fortune in April 2015.
On the need to build a long-term company.
“From the beginning our goal was to build a long-term company. We want to build a company that will stand the test of time,” says Farquhar. “That’s why we spend a lot of time on company culture.” In an interview with Forbes from April 2014.
He adds to this..
“We want to build a 50-year company. Going public is one step on that journey. There are very few long-term companies that are private. And we want to take it from being the Mike and Scott show to being a long-term company with shareholders and management teams and a board of directors,” said Farquhar. In an interview with The Australian Financial Review from May 2014.
On why failing to change is failing, full stop.
“The way companies fail is they don’t make changes. People don’t feel empowered to make change,” says Farquhar. In an interview with Forbes from April 2014.
The importance of growing strong investment pools in Australia.
“A lot of the new startups you see nowadays, they’re looking to raise cash a lot quicker and most of the capital and cash is in the United States,” said Cannon-Brookes.
“What we lack is that gap between $100,000 and $10 million; we don’t have any really good strong funds or investment pools going into that gap at the moment. If we can solve that it gives us a good curve to grow businesses the whole way up.” In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald from June 2012.
The need to better educate children in computer science.
“Software is powering banks, financial companies, manufacturing companies, big corporations, fast food, cars, they’re all being driven by software nowadays so having that base level of computer science understanding means you can understand that technology at such a good level as you grow up to be a manager and executive,” said Cannon-Brookes. In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald from June 2012.
On what the resource sector the government should be investing in.
“The politicians talk a lot about digging stuff out of the ground and mining tax and the mining boom but then where’s the money being reinvested and where’s it being reinvested in a renewable resource?,” said Farquhar.
“Intellectual property and building the education of our citizens is a renewable resource and I think that’s where we should be investing.” In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald from June 2012.
On where Australia needs to go in the next 25 years.
“Technology is going to be the major driver of change over the next 25 years. It has been over the last 25,” Cannon-Brookes said.
“Now, if we’re not participating as a country in creating that technology, we’re going to be purely a consumer of overseas technology. We’re not going to have the wealth created here and I don’t think the government understands that in the way that they behave.” In an interview with The Australian Financial Review from May 2014.
On the rules of running a software company.
“First thing is, I think you should start with two founders,” said Farquhar.
“I couldn’t imagine running Atlassian without my co-founder Mike, and all the successful companies are doing it. Apple, Microsoft, Google, Hewlett-Packard [Laughter] a long time ago, Fog creek has two co-founders down here, Red Get Software, Campaign Monitor, if anyone uses them for your email. A lot of my favorite companies have two co-founders, and the reason for that is that running a company is like a roller coaster ride. You’ve got incredible highs and incredible lows and they’re often separated by the case of a few days.” Talking at the Business of Software conference in 2010. Transcript via Business of Software.
On why your first idea as a business will fail.
“Over time, our website morphed and our company morphed and we moved from a support company to a one product company, and now we’re a software portfolio company so don’t be afraid to let your first idea fail,” said Farquhar. Talking at the Business of Software conference in 2010. Transcript via Business of Software.
On the most painful process of business.
“I know that, as a business, we’ve let maybe 30 people go over the history of the company, maybe forty. It’s the hardest thing you have to do. And there is no university course that teaches you how to let someone go in a nice manner… trust your gut,” said Farquhar. Talking at the Business of Software conference in 2010. Transcript via Business of Software.
On why disruption is coming to a swathe of industries.
“Potentially when I print 3D things from the 3D printer which sits in the basement of my apartment and we have self-driving cars and all sorts of things, it won’t be the person who is producing the plastic that makes all the money, it’ll be the person who conceived the printer and makes all the software that goes into it that makes all the money off that,” Farquhar said.
“When I can print a replacement part for my tap, or an entirely new tap, what does that mean for plumbers and retail stores that sell plumbing devices?
“A self-driving car, what does that mean for buses and taxis and truck drivers and beyond?” In an interview with Business Insider Australia.
On being the change that you seek.
“When we would go to lunch with friends who had joined all these other companies, the biggest problem we found was that they thought their managers were idiots in some ways,” he said.
“More than that, they had no mechanism to make a change. They always felt that they weren’t empowered and I said to Mike, ‘Shit, I hope no one ever leaves Atlassian and goes to their lunchtimes and bitches about how they can’t get stuff done.’
“That led, eventually, to one of our values being ‘be the change that you seek’.” In an interview with Business Insider Australian from February 2014.
On why a sales team isn’t the right fit for the enterprise tech company.
“We had a hunch early on that salespeople break software companies,” Cannon-Brookes told the AFR, adding back in 2002 when they launched the company, they couldn’t afford sales people.
“But convincing people this model would work has probably been the biggest struggle we’ve had. We’ve had a lot of smart people who wouldn’t join the company or give us money or advise us because it made no sense to them.” In an interview with The Australian Financial Review from August 2015.
On why Australia’s tax system is holding Australian business back.
“Payroll tax is a regressive tax. I view things like stamp duty, personally, as regressive taxes because if you’re paying stamp duty on your house… you’re less likely to go for two years and work in the country as a doctor,” Farquhar told Business Insider. “They can be doing more on the R&D.” In an interview with Business Insider Australia from March 2015.
On why Sydney’s brand has to change.
“When people think about Sydney, they think about beaches, the Opera House… they don’t think about sophisticated business, they don’t think about technology,” said Cannon-Brookes.
“That brand has to be backed up with action. I think one of the big problems, I think the biggest problem, is talent in the long term. It’s how do we keep it, how do we grow it and how do we import it?
“Realistically, in the short term, it’s importing it and in the long term, it’s about growing it. It’s about more people doing technology degrees.” In an interview with Business Insider Australia.
On why kids should code.
“We don’t teach people English because they’re all going to become poets. We teach them English because it’s important for communication and writing and everything else,” Cannon-Brookes said.
“I think that’s what gets missed quite a lot.” In an interview with Business Insider Australia from August 2015.
On why Australia missed the opportunity to become a tech giant.
“I think the federal government has its head so deep in the sand that it couldn’t see the opportunity,” Cannon-Brookes said.
“I don’t think they’re missing it, I think they’ve completely missed it and they’re determined to avoid it in some way, shape or form.
“If we’re not creating technology, not all of it, if we’re not creating 1% of technology, we’re not going to have 1% of the world’s economy.
“I think that the federal government does not get that one iota. And if they do get it, they’re determined not to do anything about it.”
In an interview with Business Insider Australia.
On mental health in the tech sector.
“I do think it’s a big issue and something we should be talking more about as an industry. I think one of the interesting things is the pace that we move at in technology, it can potentially, maybe, exacerbate the speed of change – the highs get higher and the lows get lower and it all happens faster and any sort of … it can pull things to extremes very quickly, which is a part of the danger,” Cannon-Brookes said.
“Even I don’t know how to talk about it, but I understand the problem.” In an interview with Business Insider Australia from August 2015.
On giving to charity under their 1% rule.
“When you start a business you’re hugely optimistic that you want to change the world and one thing that Mike and I knew we wanted to do as well as run a business was in some way give back,” Farquhar said.
“It was one of the smartest decisions that we made without really knowing it at the time.
“If you asked us now how are you going to give $40 million out of your own dollars to a foundation, you may have to think twice about it. When it’s worth nothing it’s a really easy decision.” In an interview with Business Insider Australia from February 2015.
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