Atlassian founder Mike Cannon-Brookes on how to grow the Australian startup ecosystem and the biggest mistake he ever made

Australia needs to stop trying to compete with Silicon Valley and instead build bridges between the startup giant, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes says.

Speaking to Kara Swisher on the Decode Recode podcast, the Australian entrepreneur says collaboration is key to help foster the local innovation sector.

“The Australian tech industry needs to build as many pathways to and from Silicon Valley as possible,” Cannon-Brookes says.

“We’re not going to beat them. We need to build a way to cooperate with them and get the best of both worlds.

“It’s about talent magnetism – Silicon Valley attracts the best talent in the world that’s interested in that space.”

While it has a solid foundation of angel and seed funding, he says Australia needs to develop its funding options for mid-sized Series A rounds.

This is where Blackbird Ventures, a fund that Cannon-Brookes is a key investor in, is focused on.

“There’s a great angel scene and great seed funding rounds but Blackbird is trying to target that gap in between of $4,5 or 6 million rounds to get them to global proportions,” he says.

On the podcast, the successfully Australian entrepreneur also discussed a number of other interesting topics centring on the world-conquering Atlassian.

Building workplace culture

Cannon-Brookes says that the best thing he and fellow co-founder Scott Farquhar did when building Atlassian was focusing on workplace culture from the very beginning.

“The biggest thing we’ve done is building a fantastic company culture,” he says.

“We believe deeply that technology is built by people and we want to build the best place for those people to work. The best place doesn’t mean fancy ping pong tables and five-star chef catered food.

“The best workplace is somewhere people feel valued, somewhere they can do the best work of their lives and feel like they’re making a difference in the world.”

The biggest mistake he made

In terms of his biggest mistake as a founder, he says that not realising that an employee isn’t the right fit for the company earlier enough is an area where he struggles.

“Not realising quickly enough when people didn’t match the culture we were trying to build – that’s a mistake we’ve made too many times,” Cannon-Brookes says.

“There’s a place for everybody but sometimes you find square pegs fitting into round holes.

“That’s the hardest thing you have to do as a founder and you need to learn it as early as possible.”

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