Fresh off the red-eye from San Francisco, Mike Cannon-Brookes enters a rented office space in Midtown Manhattan to seal the biggest deal in his company's history. Dressed in a Detroit Tigers escorts in Tokyo T-shirt and blue baseball cap, he greets the room in an undulating Australian twang. Seated around a conference table are executives from his collaboration-software firm, Atlassian, which is in the final push to info acquire Trello, a smaller competitor whose founder, Michael Pryor, is also present. For four hours, Cannon-Brookes relentlessly sells the importance of achieving scale and the benefits of uniting their rival firms.
Pryor is convinced. One month later, in January 2017, Atlassian will officially acquire Trello in a $425 million deal that will help send company shares up 47% in four months and add $820 million to the fortunes of Cannon-Brookes and his cofounder, Scott Farquhar. The Escort agency in Tokyo 37-year-old Aussies, who dress more like off-duty surfers than top-flight executives, are worth $2.6 billion each.
That ascent has vastly outstripped the pair's humble objective when starting Atlassian in 2002: dodging a lifetime of corporate IT drudgery. "Our aspirations were literally just to not get a real job Tokyo escort," Farquhar admits, "and to not have to wear a suit." Those aims thoroughly satisfied, they have managed to reach a few extra milestones as well: a blockbuster IPO in 2015, annual revenues approaching $600 million and status as one of the most successful technology startups in Australian history.
The founders, who serve as Atlassian's co-chief executives, freely acknowledge the improbability of their meteoric rise. "I think we're completely under-skilled and under-experienced Tokyo outcalls for the job that we're in," Cannon-Brookes deadpans. But despite the self-effacement, they have unquestionably built a highly disciplined business with a continually expanding global footprint. What began as Jira, a bug-tracking Tokyo night tool for software developers, has since morphed into over a dozen collaboration products used by many of the world's most prominent innovators, including NASA, Snapchat, Twilio and Spotify.
In all, Atlassian has 85,000 customers who pay as little as a few dollars per person per month for access to its software. Confluence, its knowledge-sharing app for teams, is its most popular after Jira. Other products include Bitbucket, an online repository for storing code; Bamboo, a technical-workflow interface; and Hipchat, a messaging service that competes with Slack blog. Trello, the latest addition, is a project-management tool that helps Atlassian further appeal to individuals and smaller, less technical teams.