In the Media: Sons of Atlassian – Easy Agile
The Deal Magazine in The Australian recently published a great article about iAccelerate advanced company Easy Agile. “Piggybacking on Atlassian’s rapid growth, they now have more than 570 paying customers – including BMW, Twitter, Cisco, NetApp, Deloitte, Johns Hopkins University, Veolia, Dimension Data, Bloomberg, Johnson & Johnson and Bosch.”
*This article was first published in the The Deal Magazine, The Australian on 21st April 2017. Story by Glenda Korporaal. Photograph by Hollie Adams. View the full article here.
When Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar founded Atlassian 15 years ago, the start-up scene in Australia was just get getting going. Now a US-listed tech giant with a market capitalisation of some $US6.4 billion ($8.4 billion) and more than 1500 staff in offices around the world, including San Francisco, Austin and Amsterdam, the global company based in Sydney is fostering its own broader ecosystem.
While big Australian companies are laying off staff as they battle to cope in a changing world and the federal government is working on the next stage of its innovation policy, Atlassian is spawning a crop of whip-smart, tech-savvy alumni who are going out on their own.
While some are working in senior positions in other companies, others have formed their own businesses – including some who are directly riding on Atlassian’s success. They’re plugging into the company’s online facility Marketplace, which offers add-on products to customers of Atlassian software with the blessing of its two founders.
As they take their own company to its next stage, Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar, both 37, have become elder statesmen encouraging a new generation of tech talent and start-ups in Australia.
“It’s incredible to see Atlassians go on to use their knowledge and expertise to create their own companies and fuel their own entrepreneurial ambitions,” Farquhar told The Deal. “It’s never easy saying goodbye to an employee who has put their blood sweat and tears into the company, but knowing they will remain in the ecosystem and continue to contribute to Atlassian is a great feeling. We still consider them part of the Atlassian family.
“Knowing that Atlassian can be a launchpad for Australia’s next generation of start-ups, who will go on to do amazing things and contribute to our tech community, is incredibly fulfilling. Anything that grows the tech community here in Australia is a really positive thing.
“Marketplace makes it easy for developers to launch products into the world. At the same time, it reduces risk and removes some of the barriers that are prohibitive in taking the leap to start a business.”
Like Apple, which has a basic platform for its iPhone that allows other companies to develop apps, Atlassian set up Marketplace to allow outside companies to sell products that enhance its software products to Atlassian customers. Having designed JIRA and other software, Cannon-Brookes knew more than anyone the types of add-ons that could help make life easier for his customers. Atlassian hosts the site, sets the standards, handles all the billing and takes 25 per cent of the turnover.
Launched in 2012, Marketplace is already one of the largest enterprise app stores in the world, alongside those operated by Amazon and Salesforce. It has generated more than $US200 million in total sales from outside developers, who have created more than 2500 add-on products for Atlassian customers.
Nicholas Muldoon & Dave Elkan
Australian Nicholas Muldoon was working for Twitter in San Francisco a few years ago when his wife came home one day from her mothers’ group with their young daughter.
“My daughter was only 18 months old, and the mothers’ group was talking about the best type of kevlar backpack to buy for their children when they started school,” he recalls. “In America they give kids training on what to do if there is a shooter in the school. We decided it was not a place we wanted to raise a family.”
Muldoon had joined Atlassian in Sydney in 2007 and moved to the US in 2011 to work in the San Francisco office. He had dealt with Twitter, a customer of Atlassian, so when Twitter offered him a job he saw it as an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. Having a family changed his thinking.
Back in Australia, Muldoon and his wife opted for a new life outside the big cities, in Wollongong south of Sydney. He was keen to set up his own company, but he also saw himself as part of the growing family of “Atlassians” – people who were working
or had worked at the rapidly growing software company.
Muldoon talked over some ideas with Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes. He decided that launching a business under the Atlassian family umbrella was safer than starting a completely new company and approached Dave Elkan, another Australian Atlassian who had worked with him in San Francisco, to join him.
Elkan joined Atlassian in its Sydney office in 2011 and 18 months later, he moved to the San Francisco office. When Elkan’s wife became pregnant, they too began to think about coming home. They jumped at the idea of living in a slower-paced city and being able to spend time with their young child.
“If Nick had suggested building a company on the back of another company, I wouldn’t have known anything about it, “ Elkan says. “But when he said ‘Let’s do something off the back of Atlassian’ … we knew it would substantially increase our chance of success.”
In 2015, the two founded Easy Agile, which provides story mapping and road mapping solutions for users of Atlassian’s JIRA software.
Piggybacking on Atlassian’s rapid growth, they now have more than 570 paying customers – including BMW, Twitter, Cisco, NetApp, Deloitte, Johns Hopkins University, Veolia, Dimension Data, Bloomberg, Johnson & Johnson and Bosch.
“We are serving a customer base that is mainly on the other side of the world – and we are doing it from Wollongong,” says Muldoon.
Easy Agile has already built a strong customer base in Germany, from the recommendation of an Atlassian customer.
“We got very lucky early on,” says Muldoon. “One of our first really supportive partners was in Wiesbaden. They have introduced our product to their client base and they have introduced it to their client base. And we don’t have anyone on the ground in Germany.”
Elkan says he likes being able to walk his daughter to school while operating a global business. At the moment the company is staffed by him and Muldoon, with one other full-time coder and a part-time coder.
While other start-ups spend their early days pitching their wares, the biggest problem facing Easy Agile is handling demand.
“We are having to scale the business in a smart way,” says Muldoon. “The Atlassian Marketplace is a good lead-generation mechanism
for us. We have people walking in the door on a daily basis.”
Elkan says they could look at developing new products but their main challenge is building the internal systems to cope with present demand.
They pitch their product at Atlassian customer conferences around the world, including one planned for Barcelona in May.
Having both worked in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley environment, they plan to develop their company with a very different culture. There, they say, staff come to work expecting perks such as free meals, company-paid massages and acupuncture. At Atlassian, Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar adopted a much more low-key approach. “No one would ever say they worked at Atlassian for the free food,” says Muldoon.
“At Easy Agile, we are already profitable – and we all make our own lunch.”
Learn more about iAccelerate Advanced resident company Easy Agile.