Meet the refugee who's now CEO of a $1 billion ASX-listed tech company

Aram Mirkazemi (Source: supplied)

Aram Mirkazemi is not yet a household name in the Australian technology scene. But he leads an ASX-listed company that has seen its stock value shoot up almost 6000% in the last five years.

The AFR reports that Mirkazemi arrived in Australia without knowing any English as an 18-year-old Iranian refugee. He started an engineering course in Hobart within six weeks and struggled through using drawings to understand what was happening in classes.

“My acceptance to university was provisional, depending on my ability to pass all of my first-year subjects … the first month was technical drawings and I’d sit in class and just watched the lecturer, Mr Middleton, and I would try and figure out what the problem was that we were trying to solve just by looking at the drawings,” he told the AFR.

“If I’d tried to study arts or philosophy it would have been too difficult, but because it was engineering and maths it was possible.”

He met Nick Martin, the founder of hardware design software firm Altium, at university and landed a job there afterwards. Adventures in Silicon Valley followed during the heady 1980s, as the company bet on Windows as a new platform for engineers.

Altium eventually listed on the ASX in 1999, earning Mirkazemi a “substantial” amount, which he later used to establish a software development platform startup Morfik. In 2005, the startup attracted the interest of Google – but Mirkazemi squandered that chance of a lifetime.

“Google wasn’t a software company. If Microsoft had approached me my reaction would have been different. I had a lot of self-doubt … it was like I was going into a fight before I was even in the ring,” he told the AFR.

Morfik was eventually sold to Altium in 2010 for $3 million. Mirkazemi and Martin then steered the company in a change of strategy. The transformation to software-as-a-service and Chinese expansion later caused a falling out between the pair, but sent the company’s fortunes soaring under Mirkazemi’s leadership.

Altium is now approaching $100 million in annual revenue, while it leads the market in terms of engineers that use its product. The share price has gone from 13c to $7.94 in the past five years.

Read more on Mirkazemi’s fascinating journey in the AFR.

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