Friday, December 11, 2015

Atlassian's success reminds what a crappy place Australia is for tech business.

Right now Australia is brimming with excitement at the IPO of Atlassian - Australia's greatest software company success.

Success has many fathers and no doubt the government will want somehow to be one of Atlassian's dads.

Whilst Australia should be immensely proud and admiring of Atlassian's achievements, we should in fact hang our heads in shame.

Australia is a crappy country for technology business.

Successive Liberal governments have been at best ignorant of technology and at worst openly hostile towards it.  The Howard's government's Senator Richardson had the reputation for being a luddite whose primary interest during the birth of the world wide web was to protect the interests of established media.

The Howard Government invested nothing of any significance in Australia's technology future.

Australia had a brief foray into being a world leader in technology when Kevin Rudd announced the National Broadband Network which would roll fibre optic cable to the vast majority of Australian homes.  Steve Wozniak liked it so much that it was reported that he was applying for citizenship on the strength of it.

Labor soon lost government to the Liberals led by Tony Abbott who ripped the NBN plan to shreds and with current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull instead gave us a half assed patchwork excuse for a broadband network, cobbled together from whatever bits of cable TV coax and telephone copper network were already lying around. 

In an age where the state of the art broadband to the home in the U.S.A. is 10 gigabits, Australia is currently building (it claims) a National Broadband Network at great expense that promises a blistering 12 to 100 megabits per second at the top end. And there's no sign of the NBN in most parts of Australia anyway because it's clear the government was really only keeping the project alive under duress.

The Abbott Government was deeply ignorant of technology.  Tony Abbott smirking his catchphrase "I'm no Bill Gates, but..." whenever any question of technology came up. No doubt about that.

Speaking of our fibre-to-the-home smashing current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, he has just released the latest government innovation initiative and of course it doesn't do what is needed to genuinely foster innovation.  Instead, the government remains focused on giving money to risk averse venture capitalists and pointless incubators that are little more than desks and chairs. 

In 2015 innovation is as likely to come from one, two or three people sitting in the lounge room coding away.  This latest innovation strategy does nothing to support the thousands of programmers who just need some help getting the bills paid whilst they sit in the lounge room and code for 18 months to get that first version up and running.  

Instead it's the time honored formula of driving people to spend their time not coding, but writing business plans for the government funded venture capitalists to reject until the business is successful anyway (sorry "has traction").

I don't know alot about Atlassian but it looks to me like they did it with no help from the Australian Government nor from the venture capitalists who purport to support innovative businesses but really are focused on getting their next fund cashed up by the government. Atlassian's enormous success serves to illustrate that Australia has come up with only one Atlassian-sized success story. 

That's what we have to be ashamed of - we have created only one Atlassian.  Where are the rest?

Australia is a country so hostile to technology and so poorly supported by Government and bumbling venture capitalists that I can recommend strongly that if you are a young entrepreneur and have the means to leave, then do so as fast as you can.  

Get out of Australia and get to Silicon Valley.  Atlassian is an outlier - the exception.  Don't take Atlassian as a sign that you can do it from Sydney or Melbourne - you're not Steve Jobs, you're not Mark Zuckerberg and you're probably not the next Atlassian.

You'll have a much better chance if you get out to where things really happen. Atlassian has succeeded despite being an Australian company, not because it is an Australian company. 

Being an Australian business confers no particular advantage in the tech world. Get thee to Silicon Valley young person.


  1. dont just complain about it do something about it, i have met lots of people who rather try go alone and fail than team up or try to rip you off before anything even come to fruition. But i keep trying.

    1. Well, this post was very instructive. My vision on Australia's tech scene was completely misguided.

  2. I agree with what you're saying, except your conclusion. I'm not going to pack my bags because the industry is poorly developed. If all the talent leaves then it's certainly not going to help.

    I work for a successful startup in WA, which is largely unheard of, but it demonstrates that it's possible and can happen.

    Don't lose faith, if more of us took a few risks then maybe we can slowly turn things around.

  3. Great post and you're spot on with these comments.
    On the back of this, here is the top 10 reasons to base your new internet start-up in Australia:

  4. The Silicon Valley has some incredible companies, but really lacks the quality of life thats important to me in Australia. I would look towards Stockholm, Copenhagen and Berlin as the tech hubs that have the support of the governments/VC's plus have the quality of life to go with it. Whilst there are fewer tech startups in Australia, we have got to be excited about Atlassian, Canva, Campaign Monitor, Invoice2go, Envato and CultureAmp who all have international products with an International user base ... and all essentially HQ'd from Australia. (99Designs, BigCommerce, Freelancer and even NZ founded XERO can be other notable players putting us on the tech map) . Yes the government has some work to do, I am not challenging that, but that topic could cover numerous other topic's too, not just technology and supporting innovation down under. Work in progress.

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