Atlassian: Supporting the World with Legendary Service
Dr. Tatiana Zalan, University of South Australia, Olga Muzychenko, University of Adelaide and Sam Burshtein, Swinburne University of Technology prepared this case solely as the basis for class discussion, rather than to illustrate an effective or ineffective handling of a business situation. The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution of Carl Hedberg of Babson College who collected the interview and other data in 2006. In late February 2009, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, co-founders of Atlassian Software, a global technology company, were sipping beer on the deck of their office in downtown Sydney. Only days ago Mike was chosen by the World Economic Forum from a world-wide pool of 5,000 candidates as one of the 230 Young Global Leaders for his professional accomplishments, commitment to society and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world. Mike and Scott, both in their late 20s, had all the reasons to feel proud that their efforts had been validated. Starting in 2002 as a consulting business, the founders, then fresh IT graduates, soon realised that they needed an issue and task tracking tool enabling them to manage their own consulting projects effectively. JIRA, Atlassian‘s first product, was soon to be followed by several other team collaboration products. By 2009, Atlassian had become one of Australia‘s fastest growing technology ventures, had revenues of $35 million (nearly all of them outside Australia), in excess of 15,000 customers in some 110 countries and nearly 200 employees worldwide, with offices in Sydney, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Kuala Lumpur and Poland. Throughout the years Atlassian remained highly profitable and privately owned with no institutional or venture capital investment and spent 40% of its revenues on R&D. The company was equally well known for its transparent, vibrant and informal, yet highly professional culture. It received a sweep of industry and business awards (see Exhibit 1 – Atlassian‘s awards), and in 2006, Mike and Scott became the youngest entrepreneurs to ever win the prestigious Ernst & Young‘s Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Australia. Nevertheless, the current revenues and customer base were still a far cry from the founders‘ intent to grow a $100 million company with 50,000 customers worldwide. As Mike and Scott pondered the future of Atlassian, they wondered whether they could scale the business in a way that did not diminish the creative vitality, enthusiasm, and customer focus that had got them so far.
Tatiana Zalan, Olga
Muzychenko & Sam Burshtein. Revised August 2009.
Atlassian’s Early Years
The Founders Mike and Scott met in 1998 as recipients of the prestigious Business IT Co-op Scholarship at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). The program was set up by industry and the UNSW to provide financial reward and industrial training for undergraduate students in the disciplines of Commerce, Science and Engineering. UNSW Co-op Program scholarship holders received a tax-free scholarship of $53,600 for a four-year degree and $67,000 for a five-year degree as well as structured industrial training (between nine and eighteen months), gaining valuable work experience with up to four different sponsor companies. In addition to exceptionally high entry requirements based on scores from high school, Mike and Scott were selected on the basis of their motivation, leadership potential, involvement in extracurriculum activities and excellent communication skills. Mike commented on the programi: There were a very small number of places, $15,000 a year tax free, which when you’re at University is a lot of beer. And it requires a more American-style large application for that they cull down with interviews to get in. …Everyone who gets in is very smart, very ambitious. You have to do computer science subjects and information systems subjects as well as finance and accounting,...
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