AIB Featured Business Leader – Mike Cannon-Brookes
Ever heard of a CEO who happily invites the public to contact him directly via his company’s website? Meet Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founder and co-CEO of Atlassian Software Systems – a successful Australian enterprise software company. If you’re not familiar with Atlassian itself, chances are you’ve heard of its big-name products such as Jira, HipChat and its most recent acquisition – Trello. Essentially, Atlassian’s programs aim to help organisations with the often-mundane tasks such as creating workflows, assigning jobs and writing lists. It describes itself as a company that “helps teams organise, discuss and complete shared work”, with more than 65,000 organisations – from NASA to Coca-Cola – using the software.
Described as incredibly down to earth, dedicated to hard work and known for his trademark cap, Cannon-Brookes has experienced exponential success since co-founding Atlassian in 2005. He graduated from the University of New South Wales with a Bachelor in Information Systems, and at age 22, started a venture that has led him to be labeled an ‘accidental billionaire’. At the time, he and co-founder Scott Farquhar founded Atlassian with credit cards, with the idea to earn the minimum wage. The Australian Financial Review reports that the duo simply aimed to earn the typical graduate starting salary of $48,000, without having to work for someone else. Instead, they’ve created a business worth over $3.5 billion that is considered one of Australia’s most innovative and fastest-growing organisations. They also happen to be two of the country’s richest self-made billionaires.
Cannon-Brookes’ LinkedIn profile lists his tops skills as ‘enterprise software’, ‘start-ups’ and ‘entrepreneurship’, and when scrolling his list of experience, it’s not hard to see why. He is a keen angel investor and venture partner, investing in and mentoring more than five other orgaisations separate to Atlassian over the past 12 years. The exec is an avid book reader, and considers himself ”a student of the technology industry, software companies and tech history.” He is also behind the 18 acquisitions made by Atlassian over the years, including the recent $US425 million (currently $562 million) purchase of global productivity app, Trello.
When quizzed about the key to a successful acquisition, Cannon-Brookes admits that it comes down to two things – an outstanding product and an outstanding team. He also stresses that both parties should spend significant time with each other, ensuring they’re comfortable with potential major changes on the way, before making any deals.
Cannon-Brookes is also a big fan of giving back to the community, with one of the company’s core values being, “be the change you seek”. With that in mind, every full-time employee at Atlassian is offered five days of paid leave per year to work for his or her favourite not-for-profit. He and Farquhar also founded the Atlassian Foundation, which is committed to helping people through software and education. To date, the charity has donated more than $4 million worldwide, through supporting a small group of charities and assisting with their technology projects.
Recently, Cannon-Brookes made headlines around Australia when he supported Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s suggestion to use battery technology to solve South Australia’s energy crisis. After Musk said he was so confident he could fix the state’s energy problems, Cannon-Brookes came out in great support of Musk’s proposed approach. He Tweeted, “We don’t need more gas peaker plants of ridiculous ‘clean coal’. Let’s solve it with software and innovation.”
In addition to his exceptionally successful business, Cannon-Brookes is an adjunct professor at the University of New South Wales’ School of Computer Science and Engineering. He and Farquhar boast a number of awards including Australian IT Professional of the Year and Australian Entrepreneur of the Year. As an individual, Cannon-Brookes has received international recognition for his work, including being honoured by the World Economic forum as a Young Global Leader in 2009.
At the ripe young age of 37 and with an estimated net worth of $2 billion, Mike Cannon-Brookes’ business story is one that is sure to go down in Australian tech history. It’s fantastic to see an Australian start-up succeeding on a global stage.
This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources have been used to prepare this article: Atlassian, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Australian Financial Review, Daily Mail, Smart Company