Entrepreneurs, Startup News

Young Rich List 2017: How these entrepreneurs gained millions from facing failure and looking after their staff

Emma Koehn /

Luke Anear

SafetyCulture founder Luke Anear.

Entrepreneurs in the technology and financial services sector have dominated this year’s list of Australia’s richest self-made young people, but beyond exploiting opportunities in these two growing sectors, many of the founders in this year’s cohort exemplify the benefits of pushing through the tough times alone.

The Australian Financial Review’s annual list of rich Aussies under 40 have a record combined estimated wealth of $13.17 billion this year, with an average individual wealth of $131 million.

At the top of the tree once again are the 37-year-old founders of tech success story Atlassian, with Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar estimated to be worth a combined $6.07 billion.

The pair are part of a 38-strong cohort of Rich Listers in the technology sector. Within this sector, company founders have grown millions from companies offering everything from online retail to app development, workplace safety and design.

Twenty-two year old co-founder of HiSmile, Nik Mirkovic, is the youngest member of this year’s cohort, sharing a wealth of $46 million with his 24-year-old co-founder Alex Tomic.

There are also plenty of familiar faces from Australia’s startup scene making appearances this year, with Envato co-founder Cyan Ta’eed ranking as Australia’s wealthiest young woman. Ta’eed, 36, shares the ninth and tenth places on the list with husband and company co-founder Collis Ta’eed, thanks to an estimated $216 million in combined wealth.

Also in the top 20 to make this year’s Young Rich List are Campaign Monitor founders Dave Greiner and Ben Richardson, SafetyCulture founder Luke Anear, and Cliff Obrecht and Melanie Perkins and Canva.

SmartCompany has been tracking the careers of several of these young Rich Listers across the past decade. Many have reflected that the process of hustling and problem-solving has helped them move beyond the less-glamorous moments of startup life and into quality service delivery for their customers.

These entrepreneurs are not afraid of hard work, but they do want control over their own projects to give their customers services that are easy and rewarding to use. Here are two key lessons from those on 2017’s list.

1. Failure isn’t final

Multimillion-dollar success hasn’t always been on the cards for many of the company founders on this year’s list.

Founder of online retail platform Showpo, Jane Lu, debuted in 82nd place on this list this year with an estimated worth of $32 million. However, when she first left her job at Ernst & Young and saw her first business idea fail, the pressure was on to find a successful business model to avoid returning to the corporate world.

“Everyone told me I was an idiot for quitting my job and then my first business failed and everyone expected me to just fail again. You just have to back yourself,” Lu told SmartCompany in 2014. 

Earlier this year, Lu said she harnessed the negative feelings of her first attempt at entrepreneurship into a hustle mentality to grow the Showpo business.

“That spite, not wanting to go back to work, pushed me into making it, I guess,” she said.

Fellow list debutante Justin Dry, who co-founded Vinomofo with brother-in-law Andre Eikmeier, has also turned less-than-ideal business situations into future success. Dry is ranked 89th on this year’s list with estimated wealth of $30 million.

The ‘Vinomofo’ name and branding came out of a big business problem, when the founders were issued a cease-and-desist notice over their planned company name, ‘Vinomojo’.

Reflecting on this situation in the documentary The New Hustle, Dry says the company name then came out of a ‘delirious’ brainstorm after the founders heard the bad news.

“I said, ‘why don’t we call it Vinomofo for the motherfuckers who are trying to steal our mojo’. What started as a joke got some momentum, and here we are: Vinomofo,” he said.

2. Staff and culture are the priority

Founders can rarely grow the impact of their businesses alone, and several members of this year’s Rich List cohort say staff attitudes and priorities are key to ensuring their companies deliver on their promises to customers.

Envato co-founders Collis and Cyan Ta’eed are no strangers to accolades for good company culture: their company was ranked 12th on this year’s annual ‘Best Places to Work’ list. Their company’s ‘work from anywhere’ and flexible work policies allow great talent to contribute to the business from across the globe.

The company’s human resources manager explained earlier this year that the workplace model is based on questioning whether the traditional office setup is the most efficient way to do business.

It’s also about having a mission that’s greater than simply making money, as Cyan Ta’eed told StartupSmart in 2016.

“It’s more about purpose than about profit, then you’ve got people that are really excited to go the extra mile,” she said.

For Zambrero founder Sam Prince, who ranks eighth on this year’s list with an estimated $318 million in wealth, the focus is on embedding a social conscience into his projects.

Speaking to SmartCompany earlier this year, Prince said maintaining company culture was his number one focus when growing Zambrero.

“It feels like Manhattan sometimes, Zambrero — like, 2 million people in there who want to change the world. It will be about protecting that,” he said.

Prince said at the time the Mexican food chain had experienced difficult times growing because of the focus that was placed on funding social projects, like a campaign to prevent crusted scabies in Australia. 

However, he said it’s rewarding to know the multimillion-dollar business is having “a real impact on aid” in Australia.

SafetyCulture founder Luke Anear, who is ranked 15th on this year’s list with an estimated wealth of $134 million, admits building the right company culture is an ongoing challenge for founders, as is “finding great people and empowering them to be effective”.

 

“It’s getting people to think about how to solve problems at scale; getting people to think big enough is the biggest challenge,” he told SmartCompany earlier this year.

Here are the 20 richest self-made Australians under 40 in 2017:

1 and 2. Mike Cannon-Brookes, 37, and Scott Farquhar, 37 | Atlassian | Wealth: $6.07 billion

3 and 4. Dave Greiner, 39, and Ben Richardson, 38 | Campaign Monitor | $607 million

5. Tim Gurner, 35 | Gurner |  $465 million

6. Owen Kerr, 33 | Pepperstone | $368 million

7. Ori Allon, 37 | Compass | $364 million

8. Sam Prince, 33 | Zambrero | $318 million

9 and 10. Collis and Cyan Ta’eed, 38 and 36 | Envato | $216 million

11. Luke Herbert, 40 | Linkforce Engineering | $195 million

12. Ruslan Kogan, 34 | Kogan.com | $169 million

13. Sean Tomlinson, 29 | Revel Investments | $154 million

14. Alistair Champion, 40 | Laser Clinics Australia | $144 million

15. Luke Anear, 40 | SafetyCulture | $134 million

16. Daniel Tartek, 32 | Bingo Industries | $130 million

17 and 18. Cliff Obrecht, 31 and Melanie Perkins, 30 | Canva | $128 million

19. Nick Bell, 37| WME | $114 million

20 and 21. Sam Salter, 38 and Jason Wyatt, 38| Marketplacer | $110 million

The full Young Rich List is available here.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.

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