Atlassian brings on a new CMO to help it move in on Microsoft Office

Atlassian cmo robert chatwaniAtlassianAtlassian CMO Robert Chatwani

Atlassian, the $US8 billion Aussie teamwork software titan, is a little different from most tech companies.

Just for starters, when it filed for its 2015 IPO, it revealed that it had been consistently profitable since the decade previous — without doing a single round of traditional venture capital financing.

Furthermore, Atlassian has gotten to this point without a traditional outbound sales team, instead relying largely on word-of-mouth to bring in big deals. And still, it generates free cash flow every quarter.

“We really operate more like a consumer company than a typical enterprise software company,” Atlassian president Jay Simons tells Business Insider. “[We’re] more like Amazon, than a company like Oracle.”

So it’s fitting that the company has brought in Robert Chatwani, a long-time marketing leader who spent 12 years at eBay, as its new chief marketing officer. Chatwani is not Atlassian’s first CMO. Simons tells us that the company briefly had one several years ago, and that he himself had been filling a similar role for a long time.

Simons does, however, say that hiring Chatwani is a signal of Atlassian’s larger ambition to move beyond software developers and the IT department, its core markets, and conquer the larger world of office productivity — an ambition that sets it against the Microsoft Office juggernaut.

Now, Chatwani tells Business Insider that the biggest “challenge and opportunity” will be to “continue our growth, but do it in an efficient way.”


Chatwani says that his experience at eBay is directly transferable to Atlassian. On the surface, the two companies don’t have much to do with each other: eBay is an auction site; Atlassian makes tools that are primarily popular among software developers, like the issue-tracking tool Jira and the HipChat messaging app.

But Chatwani says that the basic dynamics are the same: Most eBay sellers come to the site because they want to buy or sell something, not because an eBay salesperson individually pitched them to raid their garage for stuff to auction. Similarly, Atlassian doesn’t have that dedicated salesforce, so customers come to them.

“It’s one of the reasons I joined this company,” says Chatwani. “The feel for me is more consumer-like.”

Marketing for Atlassian is something of a tricky proposition, too. The company has a famous expletive-laced motto (we’ll paraphrase it as “open company, no bullsh%t”) something it feels strongly enough about to have included in its original IPO paperwork and plaster on the walls of its various offices.

So instead of an all-out marketing blitz, Chatwani says the game plan is to “continue our growth through data-driven marketing,” he says.

Atlassian cofounders bell ringAtlassianAtlassian cofounders Mike Cannon-Brookes (left) and Scott Farquhar (right)

Like how Spotify, Netflix, or Uber send you personalised emails and push notifications to promote new products and services, Chatwani sees a future where the company can see what you’re using, and give suggestions on how other Atlassian products and services might help.

That’s important, he says, as the company pursues its goal of going beyond technical users and into every department of the business. It means that Atlassian will be there with helpful tips and tricks for customising and extending its products to suit the needs of the sales department, legal, or whatever else.

“We’re not trying to sell them something, we’re trying to help them,” says Chatwani. “It won’t feel like marketing; it will feel like a service.”

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