It was about eight years ago when Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and late president Jeffrey Walker flew up to Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley to discuss a “partnership deal” with a rival tech firm.
Talks appeared to be going well until a fire alarm went off and everyone in the building spilled down a concrete stairwell into a carpark.
The group of executives – including a technologist the then-26 year old Cannon-Brookes “really looked up to” – split up as they awaited the all clear from firefighters. He and Walker were asked to leave shortly afterwards.
The experienced executives of the Brisbane company had put some numbers together and realised just how big Atlassian was.
“I got chatting to some of the technical product guys, and Jeffrey was chatting to the chairman, all trying to get numbers off each other,” Cannon-Brookes recalled.
“Basically, we had separate conversations then switched conversation partners. They probably thought that we were a tenth of the size that we were, and when they put numbers together and realised that we were bigger than they were, and just kicked us out.
“People assumed we were doing $1 million dollars a year and we were probably doing $10 million.”
Atlassian had about a dozen similar buy-out approaches in its first six years, including a cold call from Jay Simons of Plumtree Software, who has since replaced Walker as president. Cannon-Brookes took Simons’ call on his mobile phone, while he was rollerblading in New York City.
Co-founders Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar are notoriously understated; many early offers from would-be investors or buyers came shockingly short of the company’s value at the time.
The company is now on its way to a hotly anticipated US stock market listing that many expect will value Atlassian at well over a billion dollars.
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