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$25K … No, $100K… No, One Million Dollars to Charity by Atlassian

Two years ago I reported on Atlassian’s initiative to to raise funds for the benefit of Room to Read, an organization that builds schools, libraries in rural communities in Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Laos, Zambia …etc. Giving away $1,200 worth of software licences for $5 in a 5-day drive, they first planned to raise $25K, then increased the target to $100,000.

@Krishnan and I thought we should put our money where our mouth (pen? keyboard?) is, and both purchased a bunch of licences just to help push Atlassian towards the finish line.  The last minutes were dramatic:

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Atlassian: Fully Funded. By Customer Revenue. Oh, and the $60M T-shirt

atlassian mike scott It was 2006, the first Office 2.0 Conference in San Francisco and I just met Jeffrey Walker, President of Atlassian. I had followed the company for a while (OK, I admit, had been a fan), met Mike, but this was the first time with Jeffrey, so we took our box lunch to a cozy little place away from the crowd and started to chat. Within minutes a VC Partner joined us, and so the usual “what are you doing” conversation started.  Well, it wasn’t a conversation: Jeffrey talked, the VC listened.  And in 5 minutes he was ready pull out the checkbook (sort of), when Jeffrey dropped the bomb:

We’re actually not seeking funding.  We’re fully funded.  By customer revenues.

Seeing the VC’s face was priceless.  After all, the cliche for startup success was to take funding.   Which Atlassian did – 4 years later.  But they do nothing by halves.  $60 million or nothing! :-)   But I am running ahead.  Back to the early days.

I got to know Atlassian as the Wiki Company – having compared the few early business wikis, I came to the Conclusion that Confluence was the most robust, complete one.  I’m probably not the most pleasant reviewer when I don’t like what I see – but I could simply not find anything to criticize with Confluence – it became the de facto industry standard for others to follow.  That said Atlassian is /was about more then Confluence: their roots are in supporting developers, having started with a powerful bug tracker Jira, and growing to eight (?) products atlassian modelorganically and through acquisitions.  Not being a techie, I don’t even understand most of these products – so the root cause of my infatuation with Atlassian was really their business model.

There is nothing wrong with taking VC Funding, but risking everything to your last penny is what Entrepreneurship was originally all about, so it is simply refreshing to see a company to have made it solely on bootstrapping, beating the odds. Add to it great software that’s easy to buy, learn, use, sprinkle it with a good dose of transparency and great service,  and you get a startup worth admiring. I’ve had lots of fun covering their early success and also learned a lot watching them:

Oh, and they gave me some of my funnier titles:

…’cause they like having fun, and I guess it’s contageous.  But amidst all that fun they can sometimes be dangerous:-)

I tried to help them fill The Dream Job (no, I wanted that job:-)), help with their charitable promotion – hey, even put my http://www.cloudave.com/link/helping-atlassian-stimulus-package-towards-the-finish-line“>money where my mouth was.  Then I had to write the most difficult post in my life, saying goodbye to Jeffrey, Atlassian President, musician, amazing person and fellow Enterprise Irregular.

And today they taught me another lesson: don’t ever sit on a story.  It expires.  My unwritten story that I’ve been contemplating for a while was about two bootstrapped startups, both in software, amazingly successful that have sailed into IPO zone almost unnoticed.  The second one is Zoho, which I consider to be approaching IPO-readiness, but I seriously doubt they would chose to go that way.  But Zoho is our Sponsor, talking too much about them would look like ***ing up, so I’ll stop here.  The day will come.  But today is Atlassian’s day.

Why would a company that has profitably grown for 8 years need funding now? They want to grow more agressively, both in terms of geography and product coverage. That means acquisitions.  They  want to accelerate growth to above $100M revenue, which is what’s considered “IPO ready” nowadays.

mcaccon underwaterBut what drove me to the conclusion they were on the IPO-track even before the funding was deep in their culture.

Atlassian is always hiring, yet it’s difficult to get in. They are picky. It’s a “work-hard-play-hard” culture.  Employees are well paid and  the company spends lavishly on team fun. No wonder their revenue per employee ratio is high.  But the team lives in Sydney and San Francisco, where there is an expectation that after a few years in a red-hot startup you get rich…  The Founders probably no longer live frugally, but how to share the wealth with all employees without an exit?  Funding accelerates the path to exit and my even bring interim liquidity critical to keep the team around. I agree with Ben in that respect.

dftpc $60 million is a lot of money, in fact Accel Partners claim it is the largest investment they’ve ever made in the software business.  But there’s a whole world of difference in picking it up as a mature, profitable company or a fledgling startup.  Some of Atlassian’s competitors picked up a third of this amount at early stages and probably had to give up three times as much equity as Atlassian did.  Bootstrapping has paid off, after all.

Oh, about that $60M T-shirt – you really have to read it over @ Atlassian. After all, this is a SFW blog:-)

Update:  I’m speechless.  What’s this? Sour grapes?

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Atlassian Security Breach and Warning. >>> Update: Apology and Disclosure

crikey Well, well, hours after telling you not to change passwords, now I am telling you to change it… but this time with good reason. Minutes ago I’ve received a email from Atlassian:

We are sending you this message because we experienced a security breach and suspect that your Atlassian customer account password details (only) may have been compromised.
It is very unlikely that an unauthorised user has had the opportunity to log in to your account so far and if they have, there is very little in the way of personal information which could have been accessed. However, to minimise any further risk to your Atlassian account being compromised, we strongly recommend that you change your Atlassian account password as soon as possible using the procedure below.
Be aware that this security issue only affects Atlassian customers who created an Atlassian account and purchased one of our products before June 2008. Since then, we have been using a more secure user management system based on Atlassian’s Crowd product. When you change your Atlassian account password using the procedure below, your Atlassian customer account details will be stored in our updated Crowd user management system, which will further minimise the chance of a security breach occurring in future.
Procedure for changing your Atlassian customer account password:
1) Login to http://my.atlassian.com
2) Click “My Profile” (3rd tab)
3) Click “Change Password” (in Contact Information section)
4) Update your password to a new value
Atlassian apologises for the inconvenience caused. However, this is an extremely rare event for us and since we take security issues seriously, we are taking every precaution possible to minimise the effects of this security breach.

Sincerely/Best regards,
Glenn Butcher
Director of IT

Not fun .. and I expect to we’ll hear more from Atlassian soon.  For now they are obviously figthing whatever it is – status update from Twitter:

Atlassian had a security breach. Apologies for the confusion. Our site is experiencing heavy loads. We are working on getting back up ASAP.

Personally I am safe – I don’t have active accounts, just decided to help push Atlassian’s charity towards the finish line by purchasing 10 licences, but if you do, time to change the passwords…

Update:  co-Founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes posted the details on the Atlassian blog.

Apparently an old, inactive database table that had already been migrated in July 2008 to the secure Crowd identity management system was not deleted mistakenly.  That indirectly answers the speculation about Atlassian passwords being stored in plain text format.  They are not – anymore, but they used to be, prior to July 2008.

Mike goes on to detail what was / was not compromised:  read for changes, they are resetting potentially compromised account passwords now.

He does not BS, owns up the mistake:

We made a big error. For this we are, of course, extremely sorry. The legacy customer database, with passwords stored in plain text, was a liability. Even though it wasn’t active, it should have been deleted. There’s no logical explanation for why it wasn’t, other than as we moved off one project, and on to the next one, we dropped the ball and screwed up.

They are still investigating what happened and Mike promises full disclosure, coming this week.

It’s been a bad day for Atlassian and some of their customers – but I’m glad they live up to their “Open Company, No Bullshit” slogan, and respond as expected.

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Competitors Rush to bring the Latest Timesinks to the Enterprise

It’s nice to see competitors come together to bring the most popular timesinks productivity boosters to the Enterprise.

We’ve long been predicting Foursquare would soon hit the Enterprise, and no the wait is over, with Atlassian releasing Fourwalls.

fourwalls

There’s a lot we can learn from this app – otherwise how would I know that @barconati spends way too much time in the kitchen? (unless he is cooking a new Confluence soup).

Let’s not forget competition – how could archrival Socialtext leave this field to Atlassian?  No way… and there they are, releasing Chatroulette for the Enterprise.

A true revolution in Randomized Productivity Management (RPM) :-)

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Cancer Dude’s Last Battle. Good Bye, Jeffrey

Damn. Damn. Damn.  Cancer s**ks.  And here I am, the blogger who thinks can write about everything, yet I am speechless.

Yes, Cancer Dude, Jeffrey Walker, businessman, musician, artist, family-man @radiowalker who fought and beat cancer so many times had one too many battles to fight, and he lost this last one.  Last night he passed away.

I can’t find words to write. Bloggers’ block, big time.  But he described his battle and inspired so many in his own posts:

Cancer 2.0: the Killer App

What I learned from Cancer 2.0

Living with Cancer in Silicon Valley

Living with Cancer in Silicon Valley II: Survival Tips from a Hardened Cancer Dude

and some of my earlier posts:

Cancer Dude Will Win Again

Jeffrey’s Seven: Cancer Dude Back Online

Jeffrey’s gone. Here’s an excerpt from his wife, Jessy’s email, very much in Jeffrey’s spirit:

Jeffrey loved blogging and he loved reading the responses even more. He was awed by the outpouring of love.  Going in to his surgeries, he read all the postings written and it gave him strength.

Let’s give him strength again. I know that somehow, he will see your comments on his blog.  Its a wonderful way to reach out to us too, his family.

Let’s say our final Good Bye to Jeffrey over on his blog.

And listen to him play one more time. During the last struggle, between two chemo treatments he played guitar at the  Stanford University Relay for Life:

Update:  I thought I’d let another guitar player say the final Good Bye: Only the Good Ones Die Young.

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Multi-tenancy, the Holy Grail of SaaS. Do Customers Care?

Two recent posts by Enterprise Social Software  vendors Jive and Atlassian set up a huge debate amongst my fellow Enterprise Irregulars.  Here’s the money-quote from Jive:

It’s not so long ago that it felt embarrassing to say the words "SaaS" and " single-tenant" in the same sentence. For years, it’s been an industry mantra that it’s  simply impossible to have a scalable SaaS business without multi-tenancy.

Both Jive and Atlassian went single-tenant. That’s a red flag with many SaaS purists.  But there’s more then just tenancy. What if customer data stays behind the firewall, while the application is still provided over the web?  Is that still considered SaaS?    Do customers really care about such issues, or do they look for innovation in features and services?

And a bonus: the #1 SaaS icon supposedly delivers on-premise, if the deal is big enough…

Read more here

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Jeffrey’s Seven: Cancer Dude Back Online

This is the third slide of the Opening Keynote from Atlassian’s Summit this week.  Amidst all the celebration of success, product and partner announcements, and just about a windfall of information it was a nice gesture to spend a minute with Atlassian’s first US employee, President Jeffrey Walker, who could not be at the event, having just received his chemotherapy a few days earlier.

Other than an Atlassian, Jeffrey is also a hacker artist and musician. And Cancer Dude.  His words, not mine.  He wrote them two years ago:

In preparation for this upcoming surgery, I’ll be working out every single day. I’ll be leaving work at a reasonable hour. I need to point my Type-A personality at Atlassian at something more important right now.”

I am Cancer Dude and I am going to kick it’s ass.

In March Jeffrey dropped a bomb: his cancer was back, bigger and uglier than ever before.  I don’t want to repeat the story, here’s my wrap-up, and his own post: Living with Cancer in Silicon Valley.

Today Jeffrey’s back online: Living with Cancer in Silicon Valley II: Survival Tips from a Hardened Cancer Dude.  It’s a must-read.  There’s no excuse not to find the time to read it.   His Seven Survival Tips are a testament of strong will, the kick-ass attitude that makes him invincible, and gives strength to many others.  Literally.

This time around the battle took more focus than ever before, so Jeffrey took a 6-month leave from Atlassian.  But he doesn’t rest.  Between two chemo treatments he played guitar at the recent Stanford University Relay for Life:

 

Now for the important part: he has 3.5 weeks left until surgery.  He is offering to play (free) at a local benefit in the San Francisco Bay Area.  If you need a musician who can identify with your cause, or just know of a benefit event, ping me below in comments or via the contact form.

Focus on the positive. Tell cancer to “Piss off”

(Cross-posted from CloudAve)

 

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Atlassian $timulus Package Inching Towards Finish Line

Quick update on the Atlassian $timulus drive I previously reported about:  at 2pm on the last day of the promotion, they are at $93K – the $100K donation is realistic… but they may need a little push.

So I decided to put my money (well, a little) where my mouth is and have just purchased 10 5-person  licences of Confluence, the market leading enterprise wiki.  Not that I can use them all – so I will find a way to give them away in the future.

If you want to help them donate $100K to Room to Read, you can do your part easily … and just as a reminder, you’re buying a $1,200 licence for $5.   What a bargain to close out the week. :-)

Update: With 3 hours to go Atlassian is just $2.5K short of reaching the target.  See coverage map at Mike’s blog.

Update #2: Ah, the drama of the last minutes:

$640 short of $100k… with 20 minutes to go, my maths says we’re just going to miss! :)
$590 short. Need $30/minute now… at least we did $35 last minute! :)
Just tipped $99,510… I wonder if we should just leave it up for 10 minutes extra, or does that seem dodgy?
Well… computer says it’s…over $100k!!
Woo! Woo!!! Dancin’ around the room. Atlassian Stimulus Package 400% of $25k goal. What a week. Simply staggering. THANK YOU EVERYBODY!
Atlassian Stimulus Package (preliminary) final total – $100,350 for Room To Read in 120 hours from 7284 _awesome_ startups and teams!!

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Atlassian $timulus Package Supports Charity. Two Days Left To Get Your (Almost) Free Confluence or Jira Licence.

This must be do-good-week.  Amongst all the talk about Ashton Kutcher’s challenge to CNN, how the follow-on Oprah show pushed Twitter to never-seen height, little attention was paid to the small fact that this initiative generated over $1 Million donations to Malaria No More.  Ashton started with his $100,000 check and was soon joined by Demi Moore, Ted Turner, Oprah and I don’t even know who else .. I lost count at $1M.   Hype aside, this is a major contribution to a good cause.

This week we’re also seeing a for-profit company, Atlassian drive to raise $100,000K for the benefit of Room to Read, an organization that builds schools, libraries in rural communities in Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Laos, Zambia …etc.  Doing good is in Atlassian’s DNA, likely coming from the co-Founder, who is a major Kiva Supporter.  His company had set up the Atlassian Foundation which donates basically 1% of everything:

  • 1% of company and employee time to Foundation projects
  • 1% of company equity to the Foundation
  • 1% of our products to non-profit groups

But wait!  This isn’t a post about charity only.  There’s a Deal in it for you!

The Atlassian $timulus package is a 5-day drive, during which you can get either Confluence, the excellent Enterprise Wiki, or Jira, the issue tracker – Atlassian’s first product that’s still an IT favourite  for $5 for 5 users.

Now I hear you ask: is that $5 per person per month?  That would by typical (actually low) pricing for most SaaS offerings.   NO!  It is:

  • A five-user licence (ie. $1 per person)
  • For a full year
  • For the full-featured entrerprise strenght products

My only regret is that it does not involve the hosted versions of these products.   But if it’s the downloadable, installable version, what’s this per year licence?  Most enterprise software is sold with a perpetual licence: you can use it forever.  But then the vendor pushes the (almost) mandatory maintenance fees to the tune of 20-25%, and major new releases every 4-5 years.

Atlassian does not play such games, their philosophy is transparency and simplicity. Software should be easy to learn, easy to use and easy to buy.  Hence the annual licence whish involves support. (Update: I misunderstood this part: the licence is a perpetual one, the additioal annual fees are for maintenance / support, and the are optional.)  And for comparison, the minimum annual licence for both Confluence and Jira is $1,200.

So Atlassian is essentially giving away $1,200 licences for free – but it’s actually a lot more.  This isn’t just your introductory price.  Customers who purchase during the $timulus week (only two days left) are locked in to their $1 per user price for the lifetime of the product, and those fees will be donated as well.   That goes way beyond giving up revenue – they can’t possibly provide support for $1 a year, so Atlassian is reaching into their pockets big time for years to come.

The initiative appears to be more wildly popular than they expected. The initial goal was to raise $25,000 for Room to Read, and they exceeded that target on the first day – hence the new objective of $100,000K.

Early this morning they were at 66% of the increased target:

Now, before someone thinks I am doing a paid commercial here: I am not receiving any form of compensation or incentive from Atlassian.  I simply like what they are doing.  A lot.

But I’m not naive.  This isn’t just charity.  It’s damned good marketing – in more ways then one.  First, as you may suspect is Brand recognition.

The second is perhaps less obvious: Atlassian’s initial product, Jira took several years to take off – the second, Confluence had much faster growth.  Part of their secret sauce has always been relying on a very loyal, very satisfied customer base, mostly IT-types who buy additional products from their trusted vendor.

So yes, Atlassian is seeding their market with thousands of free customers this week.  Which is fine, I’ve said before: you don’t have to be purely altruistic to do good.

Update: The Atlassian $timulus Package is now listed in Consumerist’s Morning Deals, along with Blu-Ray Discs and Casio Cameras :-)

(Cross-posted from CloudAve. To stay abreast of news, analysis and just plain opinion on Cloud Computing, SaaS, Business grab the CloudAve Feed here.)

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Cancer Dude Will Win Again

This is Jeffrey Walker.  President of Atlassian, an incredibly cool and successful company. Hacker artist and musician.

And also Cancer Dude.  His words, not mine.  He wrote them two years ago:

In preparation for this upcoming surgery, I’ll be working out every single day. I’ll be leaving work at a reasonable hour. I need to point my Type-A personality at Atlassian at something more important right now.”

“I am Cancer Dude and I am going to kick it’s ass.”

It was an eloquent, inspiring, witty, sour yet humorous, brave post. I am sure that Jeffrey’s Type-A personality played a key role in defeating cancer and coming back healthy.

Now it looks like he did not win the War, just a major battle.   Jeffrey dropped a bomb in his blog today:

My cancer returned Monday. In not exactly a subtle way. I have two tumors, one of which is 11×8 centimeters…

…This is my life. I am living with cancer, I have had three major operations — here comes #4…

…I can struggle or I can embrace it. Those of you who know me understand I have only one option. Not because I consciously choose. I am just innately positive…

Damn.  I’m struggling for words.  Writers block.  Damn again – here I am whining when all I have to do is pull my thoughts together.  Jeffrey is the guy with the real fight: he is fighting for his life, for his family, for his company, friends, everything he believes in.  And what a fighter he is!  The way he handled the battle last time gave courage and inspiration to many others.

Here’s something on a personal side:

  • In 2007, just the day before Jeffrey became cancer dude he took the entire San Francisco office to a Giants game.  He obviously was aware of his condition, but kept it to himself for a while, not wanting to spoil the fun.  The Team comes first for Cancer Dude.  He invited me, but I declined, not being a baseball fan.  When I found out about his condition, I felt guilty for missing a chance, and promised myself to never turn down an invitation from Jeffrey again.
  • This weekend I was supposed to talk to him again.  We set a time aside to discuss business, his philosophy and a lot more a’propos of Atlassian’s $100M milestone.  I missed the appointment (shame of me, I forgot).  And here I find him in hospital again.  Karma?  If it is, it’s as bad as it gets – so I choose to ignore it.

But this story isn’t about me.  It’s about Jeffrey, his courage, endless positivism, and the fight he will win again.  A Veteran, he already has a blueprint for it:

The first priority on the blueprint is of course getting the right treatment and recovering. But the blueprint includes trying to work when you can. I called a customer Tuesday morning, just 20 hours after getting the news.

Customer call the day after finding out he has cancer again.  Vintage Jeffrey.   That’s the tough guy who will beat this s**t again.  And then I don’t care, he may even drag me to a baseball game, I will go (although beer in a pub still preferred).

This is Jeffrey’s fight – supported by his family and doctors.   But there is something we can all do.  This is what Jeffrey wrote after winning the previous battle:

The community was awesome. People I never even met wrote me passionate emails. I was touched.

Tuesday, the day before surgery, would not normally be a Real Groovy Day. You go onto a clear liquid diet and clean out your system for the surgery. Not a regimen I would recommend. Instead, it was an exhilarating day. Watching the comments, emails and views pour in from people I inspired turned out to be a massive inspiration to me.

So let’s do our part: please comment on his blog, write your own post, Twitter, Friendfeed, you name it – just link to his post, and use the tag cancerdude.  Let’s give Jeffrey all the inspiration we can.

And welcome him back in a few weeks.

(Cross-posted to CloudAve.)