Scott Farquhar says the Australian tech industry needs to 'celebrate the wins more', but not Atlassian's

Scott Farquhar/ Supplied.

Atlassian is Australia’s greatest technology export.

The $6 billion publicly-traded software company is behind popular collaboration tools like Hipchat and Confluence.

This week, the company held its first European Summit in Barcelona, where it revealed its software marketplace has surpassed $250 million in sales and that a new data centre will be launched in Ireland to serve European cloud customers.

Despite the enormous wins since launching the business some 15 years ago, co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar remain modest about their success and continue to advocate for the support and development of Australia’s tech scene.

Business Insider briefly spoke with Farquhar at the summit about the current state of the technology industry and what he hopes it will achieve in the coming years.

“I think it’s interesting to see how government has now realised how tech is changing the way people work,” he said. “For a long time they didn’t pay any attention.

“I sit on the innovation board of Australia, and the only reason I do is that I to try and help Australia be more innovative and adopt technologies and make Australia be the first in the world at something.

“The biggest hurdle we have in Australia in terms of innovation is that most people in Australia have led a very comfy, sheltered life and so innovation is scary because it is change. Change can bring awesome, new things, but it can also be scary. Once Google are producing self driving cars, and we buy a lot of cars, then the money is going to go over to Google rather than Australia.

“I guess we have already lost the car industry so that’s a poor example but what are the industries we are going to be the first in the world at?

“Mike had a good analogy which is that we do about 1% of the world’s GDP in Australia, so we’re only producing 1% of the world’s technology, innovation and software to remain competitive. So that’s why I sit on government boards, to get exposure to the bureaucracy. Generally speaking, they are all trying to do the right thing, it’s just hard move items and people in government.

“The one thing we can do is celebrate the wins more and show the everyday punter, what does this mean for them? The example I wouldn’t use is Atlassian, or anything like that. I’d say let’s show how technology is used in other businesses.”

He used the example of Peter Murphy, a professor from the University of South Australia, who created the world’s first plastic automotive rear view mirror. As of June 2016 the innovation had a total export sales value of around US$162 million.

“I guess they saw the writing on the wall earlier than everyone else,” he said. “They can ship them overseas, they can fit thousands in a container ship, so now we have this Australian company — which may have been bought out by now — this successful Australian company that supplies rear vision mirrors to the world.

“I think that story is more appealing to the everyday person than some software company.

“We need to change the way that people think about technology in Australia. The hard one is that if we don’t keep up, we get left behind.”

Considering his involvement with the innovation board, and that the federal budget was just around the corner, Business Insider also asked about what he thought of the government’s current funding of the industry and what he hopes will be addressed in the government’s fiscal review.

He was pleased to see increased investment in public education, referencing Gonski, saying that having come from a public education background, he believes “it’s hugely important and I’m passionate about it.” But he also hopes for increased investment in innovation and tech.

“I (hope) for more momentum in the conversation around innovation,” he said. “We need to inspire the Australian people around our industry and its potential to change the world.”

*The author travelled to Barcelona as a guest of Atlassian.

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