When Scott Farquhar was 11, he really wanted a computer. It was in 1990 and he was the oldest of four working-class children from Sydney, Australia. The recession of the early 1990s took a few years to realize his dream of a computer. Her father found and bought an old Wang computer that was so old that he couldn’t run MS-DOS. Farquhar spent a year trying to get the old computer to play the games he wanted to play. He would no longer be exposed to computers until he arrived at university.
On the other side of Sydney, Mike Cannon-Brookes settled in Australia after being born in the United States, settling in Taiwan at six months, in Hong Kong at three, then being sent to school in England. He bought his first computer with loyalty points which he saved four times a year between his family in Australia and school in England. His parents were fans of Apple and had Macs. He wanted a PC. In 1991, before the World Wide Web, Mike convinced his parents to install the Internet at home.
In 1998, Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes landed together at the University of New South Wales. They were both 18 and studying in the same enterprise information technology program. They met the very first day of college. They were both fellows and linked by their common love of computers.
In June 2001, Cannon-Brookes sent Farquhar an email inviting him to co-found a business with him. He sent the email, which said, “Bored with studying, Atlassian is much more interesting,” to a handful of classmates. Farquhar was the only person to say yes. Their initial goal was to earn $ 48,500, which accounting graduates did at the time.
Once Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes graduated from college, they founded Atlassian with $ 10,000 in credit card debt. The first two years of their activity, they were in survival mode, earning only $ 15,000 each. Their timing was not great. The dot-com bubble had just crashed. Farquhar took a short consultation gig in Amsterdam to give himself the time Cannon-Brookes needed to write code. Their first employees were mainly their classmates. After all, they knew they were smart. The company had a positive cash flow from the start. No external investment was required for the first eight years. Atlassian never had financing but it had two big investments. They sold 20% of Atlassian to Accel Partners for $ 60 million in 2010. They also provided staff equity. In 2014, T. Price Rowe and Dragoneer Investment Capital purchased approximately 6% of the company from Accel and a few employees. The transaction valued Atlassian at $ 3.3 billion.
Atlassian offices offer the usual benefits of a tech startup with prepared meals and other benefits. Farquhar’s strategy is to try to make sure that its employees never want to work elsewhere. And if they leave Atlassian, he wants them to regret it.
Atlassian develops products for software development, content management and project management. In 2019, they generated sales of $ 1.21 billion and the company has more than 3,600 employees. Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes were named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in Australia in 2006. Atlassian has been profitable every quarter since its inception. Atlassian customers include Audi, Virgin Media and NASA.
Outside of work, Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes have a lot in common. They are both 41 years old. They were the best men at weddings. Farquhar’s wife, Kim Jackson, is an investment bank. Cannon-Brookes’ wife Annie Todd is a fashion designer. Farquhar and Jackson have three children. Cannon-Brookes and Todd have four children. In 2018, Cannon-Brookes bought Fairwater, Australia’s most expensive house for around $ 100 million. The house is right next to Farquhar’s $ 75 million house called Elaine.
From the start of their business, they wanted to do more than just create software. So they promised 1% of equity for charities when the business was brand new. This 1% stake is worth tens of millions today. The Atlassian Foundation also obtains 1% of profits and 1% of employee time and donates software licenses to non-profit organizations. Atlassian is one of the largest donors to Room to Read, a US-based charity that builds schools and libraries in developing countries.
In nine years, Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes will be 50 years old. At this point in their lives, they have known each other longer (22 years) than before they met (18 years). In an interview in 2014, Farquhar said he couldn’t imagine reaching 50 or what it would look like for half a century. What he knew was that he wanted to get more involved in philanthropy and see how good the Atlassian Foundation could do. With a net worth of $ 10 billion each, the sky is the limit of Farquhar and Cannon-Brookes’ desire to have a positive influence in the world.