In the aftermath of the dotcom crash in 2002, being an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley was tough, but being one in Sydney was tougher. The lack of a large tech community and local VCs was a huge stumbling block for tech startups in Australia. Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar, the co-founders and eventual co-CEOs of Atlassian, met while studying at the University of New South Wales. Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar believed in the potential of software to disrupt global industries, at a time when not many in Australia did. After Farquhar rejected a job at PwC, they had only two simple goals: to not wear suits to work, and earn more than the $50K salary that PwC had offered, by starting their own company.
They started a third-party support service, and on the side, built their own issue-tracker as they were fed up with using email to track their developer work. They realised that developers needed a concrete place to log issues and work collaboratively. Seeing the potential of their little internal solution to be really useful for other developers, they decided to pivot from a service company to a product company. Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar took out $10,000 in credit card debt to start Atlassian, and launched their first flagship product, Jira. Jira provided developers with an all-in-one solution to manage software projects, and hence was adopted quickly by developer teams despite its steep learning curve.
'Two Rocket Engines'
It started bringing in revenue, but Mike Cannon-Brookes and his co-founder were always on the lookout for other revenue streams. They found a way to capitalise on the rise of Wiki technology by providing a platform for simple wiki functions to teams with the requirements of enterprise knowledge management systems, and hence, created Confluence. Confluence's seamless integration with Jira, which was catching on fast in the developer community, was key to their success. "We had two rocket engines driving us along, not just one", Cannon-Brookes says. Within three years after its founding, Atlassian was profitable without having taken any venture capital.