Some of Australia’s best-known tech millionaires were in New Zealand last week at a mysterious meetup where the requirement for entry was having a company valued at over $100 million.
Participants in the exclusive event, held just before Australia Day, have been sworn to secrecy but we’ve been able to piece together what happened.
While the event didn’t have a formal name it has been referred to as a gathering of “unicorns and centurions”, with the unicorns being leaders of companies that have reached a $1 billion valuation and centurions those with a valuation over $100 million.
It’s believed the idea came from billionaire Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes. The group met in Queenstown, the picturesque tourist retreat on New Zealand’s South Island.
Participants exchanged views on the future of Australia’s tech startup industry and engaged in “peer support” discussions on the various challenges facing their businesses.
Naturally, there was some quad biking, hiking, and fishing, too. (And, according to one source, some helicopters.)
Among the invitees were Seek co-founder Paul Bassat, online retail entrepreneur Ruslan Kogan, the founders of Campaign Monitor Dave Greiner and Ben Richardson, Freelancer.com CEO Matt Barrie, and Canva founder Melanie Perkins.
We approached all of the above for comment and while none denied attending, they all declined to comment. (Another invitee was TradeMe founder Sam Morgan, who we’ve asked for comment.)
One of the attendees, when asked about it, replied: “The first rule of Fight Club is that Fight Club doesn’t exist.”
What’s remarkable is that 10 years ago the number of Australian tech entrepreneurs with companies valued at over $100 million could have been counted on one hand. While Australian startups face well-documented challenges accessing skills, mentorship and funding, the group is evidence of the growing success of some of the country’s brightest entrepreneurs. Around 20 people were invited, Business Insider understands.
One goal was for the group to “get to know each other better” and talk about the challenges founders face growing tech companies in Australia. There were also discussions about technology, partnerships and raising capital.
Despite the secrecy, with a group of tech leaders in spectacular surroundings, there would inevitably be a trail. Mike Cannon-Brookes posted this photo of a tranquil valley which looks suspiciously like the South Island:
— Mike Cannon-Brookes (@mcannonbrookes) January 23, 2015
And Ruslan Kogan looks like he had a great afternoon’s fishing on the lake:
— Ruslan Kogan (@ruslankogan) January 23, 2015
The group collectively agreed nobody would comment on the trip.
Atlassian co-founders Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar are increasingly assuming a mentoring role for entrepreneurs in Australia.
The company, which is now more than 12 years old, was valued last year at $3.3 billion. It’s growing fast and plans to add another 600 people to its existing 900 employees before the end of the financial year.
Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar built the company from scratch using a “no bullsh*t” rule as their guiding principle.
Both guys now work extensively to build the nation’s startup community. Late last year Farquhar led a $2 million investment round in Queensland-based safety startup SafetyCulture and he’s even been turning up to work there.
Cannon-Brookes is also an investor in a number of tech companies and regularly speaks at some of the country’s biggest startup events including SydStart.
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