Innovation Bay: Mike Cannon-Brookes Shares His Atlassian Adventures

Mike Cannon-Brookes, the CEO and a Co-Founder of Atlassian, spoke at an Innovation Bay breakfast session last week. You can listen to his entire talk here.

Atlassian is 6.5 years old. They have 12,500 enterprise customers in 105 countries and did about $35.5m in sales last year and are aiming to hit $60m this year. In total they have 200 staff spread between Sydney, San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur and Poland. They are opening an office in Amsterdam in August.

A few nuggets:

  • They didn’t know what product they were going to sell when they started the company. They had in mind the type of business they wanted to run, they knew the sector (sell enterprise software) and they knew a little bit about how they wanted to sell, but they didn’t have any idea what software they were going to sell. They started with about 3 or 4 different unique prototypes that they built. One of these took off a little more than the others, so they focused on that and it is now their leading product – Jira, which has 9,500 of their 12,500 customers.
  • They knew they wanted to build an enterprise software company, but as encapsulated in their mission statement: a different kind of enterprise software company. This is not a contrarian stance, rather they like to evaluate everything they do and not simply follow what other businesses do unless it makes sense. “A little commonsense goes a long way as an entrepreneur.”
  • All of their products have been built because they fundamentally needed them and because they felt there was a large enough market that wasn’t being addressed. They have yet to build or buy anything they don’t actually use as a company.
  • Starting a second product was the smartest thing they did as it stopped them being a single product, single feature company. Today they have seven unique brands/products, developed by 12 different software teams – some of the products are sold in different ways. “Being a single trick pony as a business is very, very dangerous”.
  • As an online business they have found that the speed with which they are able to respond to customers makes a marked difference in their propensity to buy software. Their goal is to be able to respond within four hours to every single query they get from anywhere in the world — this ties into their strategy of opening a key European office in August as it give them the ability to respond around the clock.