Startup Advice, Technology

Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar on how Aussie tech can overcome the “tyranny of distance”

Dominic Powell /

One of Australia’s first successful exports was wool and Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar thinks Australian-made software products could be just as successful in other markets.

Speaking at the Amazon Web Services Tech Summit in Sydney last week, Farquhar explained how Australia struggled to overcome the “tyranny of distance” in its early days, when faced with the challenge of not being able to efficiently export goods back to England due to the country’s relative isolation.

“Only when we got to sheep and their wool, which was light and valuable enough to ship back to England, did we overcome that issue,” he said.

Farquhar believes distance is remains a challenge for Australian businesses; car manufacturers, for example, have often been too far from their target markets. But, he says “weightless” Australian software products can overcome any distance.

“With technology developments like the cloud, software and tech products are an opportunity for Australian companies to overcome this tyranny of distance,” he told the summit.

“We can now be the elite, and it’s an opportunity for Australia to become a leading technology player.”

Despite this, Farquhar believes Australia lacks the “talent depth” that exists elsewhere in the world. It was a key reason why Atlassian chose to expand to the US, he said.

“We look for talent and where it is, and in Australia we don’t have the depth of talent that there is elsewhere in the world,” he said.

“We’re currently developing 100 new employees in Sydney, and we had to bring in people from overseas to train them.”

Culture matters when acquiring others

The Atlassian co-founder also gave summit attendees an update on how the company’s $577 million acquisition of productivity app Trello is going, with Farquhar highlighting the importance of a company’s culture when considering acquisitions.

“Trello fits our portfolio really well, so the acquisition has been going really well. You’ve got to make sure it’s a great team you’re bringing on, and [Trello has] a great team,” he said.

“After that, it’s if it fits with our business model. Some older business models were top down with very expensive sales, and we’re more bottom up, so we want to find [an acquisition] that fits with that.”

While Farquhar didn’t share details about any other future acquisitions for Atlassian, the co-founder said the company won’t be doing “back to back” acquisitions, as it is focused on ensuring each acquisition is successful.

StartupSmart attended the Amazon Web Services Tech Summit as a guest of Amazon Web Services. 

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is the lead reporter at StartupSmart.

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  • Great article and we love the Cloud for our business.

    However using the Cloud has a couple of issues in Australia. The build of the NBN is just not discussing upload speeds and capacity and upload speed is vital for cloud usage.

    And we need Australian ISPs to get far more, better quality international bandwidth capacity. I am in Tasmania and we suffer from overload on the Bass Strait cable and again international capacity from our ISP which is Telstra and even as large as they are, they don’t provision enough capacity.

    We are lucky enough to be on NBN fibre but it still gets overloaded and doesn’t deliver promised speeds at times.

    All was fine with Internode, then tolerable and still okay with IINet but TPG absolutely ruined capacity.

    I just don’t know who is a quality ISP in Australia at the moment and business needs a quality ISP if we are to make the most of Cloud software.

    Dale.