With An IPO-Ready New Chairman, Atlassian’s Next Stop Is Wall Street

Doug Burgum

Atlassian is announcing a new chairman today: Doug Burgum, the founder of Great Plains Software.

The obvious reason why: Burgum took Great Plains public in 1997 and sold it four years later to Microsoft for $1.1 billion.

The not-so-obvious reason why: Burgum, a native of Arthur, North Dakota, who built his company in nearby Fargo, had an outside-the-Valley history that appealed to Atlassian’s cofounders, Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes.

We asked Cannon-Brookes who Burgum was replacing as chairman.

“Not sure,” he said. “For eight years, the board was me and Scott.” 

Not much is that formal about Atlassian, a company which has been profitable for the past 40 quarters and which didn’t raise any outside money until 2010, when it took a then-staggering $60 million Series A round led by Accel Partners. That’s when Accel’s Rich Wong joined the board.

In addition to Burgum, the company is also adding former Adobe CFO Murray Demo and Accel partner Kirk Bowman, a former VMware sales executive, to the board. 

In another era, the Sydney, Australia-based enterprise software company would be a public company already. 

Atlassian Charlie logo

With three big offices in Sydney, San Francisco, and Amsterdam, more than 500 employees, and more than $100 million in annual revenues, it’s an obvious candidate.

Where Burgum’s Great Plains made business that helped manufacturers run their operations, Atlassian helps the people who make software pump out the code.

And as everything goes digital, that’s pretty much everyone—from startups to Fortune 500 businesses.

Broadly speaking, Atlassian makes collaboration, task-management, and code-management tools targeted at enterprises.

Like Yammer, which Microsoft just agreed to buy for $1.2 billion, or GitHub, a code-management startup that just raised $100 million from Andreessen Horowitz, Atlassian relies on bottom-up adoption of tools like HipChat and Jira.

A mention of Yammer draws a broad Australian sneer from Cannon-Brookes. “Their business model is extortion, isn’t it?” he asks, referring to the way Yammer limits companies’ abilities to manage employees’ Yammer usage unless they pay up.

Atlassian prides itself on a promise that it won’t call customers unless they ask. It’s achieved nine-digit annual revenues without employing any salespeople.

At the time Great Plains, which made enterprise software for small and medium-sized businesses, went public, it was doing about $80 million a year in sales. When Salesforce.com filed for an IPO in 2003, it expected to hit $100 million.

Microsoft and Oracle, which took about as long as Atlassian to hit $100 million in sales after getting their start in the ’70s, went public shortly afterwards.

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