Only a few years ago Atlassian and Omnidrive were the flag carriers for Australia's Web 2.0 movement. But recent developments have shown just how different the outcomes for start-up companies and entrepreneurs can be.
One of these companies has gone on to become an
international success story, while the other flamed out under
obscure circumstances and bitter recriminations. Only a few years
ago they were the flag carriers for Australia's Web 2.0 movement.
But recent developments have shown just how different the outcomes
for start-up companies and entrepreneurs can be.
Cubrilovic has kept a low profile since the collapse of
Omnidrive, the online storage company he founded in late 2004. The
company folded in 2008 with no clear explanation given for what had
happened. It was the second online storage company founded by
Cubrilovic to fail, following the earlier collapse of
MyVirtualDrive, although Cubrilovic has claimed to have been forced
out of that company.
In the meantime, Cubrilovic is living in California and working with
TechCrunch. He is involved in the development of the CrunchPad, a
prototype tablet-PC style device for surfing the web that is
intended to retail for less than US$300. No decision has been made
on whether the CrunchPad will go into full production.
It's an entirely different story to that told by Atlassian.
Despite the relatively chilly climate for software companies,
Atlassian is looking to hire an additional 35 developers to
continue work on new products and features based around its core
Founded in 2002 by Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar,
Atlassian has already grown to employ more than 200 people with
offices in Sydney, San Francisco, Amsterdam and Poland, and sales
in over 74 countries. And it has grown without taking any
significant external investment. According to Atlassian's director of engineering, Soren Harner,
it makes sense to be investing while other companies are tightening
"We've got the sales to support more investment," Harner says.
"The idea is that we can emerge from global recession in a good
shape relative to any competitors. Obviously there is always risk
involved, but at this point we can assume the bottom isn't going to
totally fall out of the global economy."
The new engineers will work on features designed to entice
customers away from rival open source products. Harner hopes to
have the new positions filled by the end of the year, taking the
number of developers Atlassian employs to close to 130.
Commentary The tales of Atlassian and Omnidrive demonstrate just how varied
the outcomes for entrepreneurs can be. In 2006, Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar were named by Ernst &
Young as Australian Entrepreneurs of the Year, and are the
strongest success story from Australia's crop of Web 2.0
Australia generally has a low tolerance for failure — certainly
much lower than in Silicon Valley, where having failed in one or
two businesses is seen as a learning experience rather than a sign
of incompetence. This, coupled with the poor state of Australia's venture capital
industry, means that any experience gained through a failure is
generally lost, with entrepreneurs either leaving the country or
moving into different industries where their reputation does not
necessarily precede them.
Atlassian, meanwhile, has continued to show the way for other
would-be software exporters, demonstrating that it is possible to
build a successful international business without turning to the
venture capital market.
Start-up companies are high-risk by nature, and the truth is
that most will flame out before they come close to emulating the
success of Atlassian.