Originally a little side-project for Atlassian’s FedEx Day, which is their version of the Hackathon, Hack Day, YouNameIt-Day, I bet this video on Atlassian’s Core Values becomes a perfect recruiting tool.
Last time I thought VP Marketing @ Atlassian was the Dream Job, but this one is better. Your job will be to compare beer quality in Amsterdam vs. what they sell at Atlassian’s (almost) in-house pub in Sydney. According to a commenter you may do some additional market research, too.
Oh, well, here’s what they really want (cool company anyway).
Fire people who are not workaholics. don’t love their work… come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game. don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it–go work at the post office or starbucks if you’re not into it you want balance in your life. For realz.
The edits show how Jason re-wrote this point after harsh criticism like Calacanis Fires People Who Have A Life on TechCrunch and Fire the workaholics by 37Signals. I don’t think he had to edit it, anyone who had been at a startup, who understands startup dynamics should “get it”.
He is talking about the need to have highly passionate team members, who at a certain stage of their life and the startup’s life are willing to – and happy to – shift their priorities. You can’t force people to be workaholics, all you get is slaves in a sweatshop, and that not only causes burnout, it does not produce quality results anyway. David at 37Signals is right:
If your start-up can only succeed by being a sweatshop, your idea is simply not good enough. Go back to the drawing board and come up with something better that can be implemented by whole people, not cogs.
Agree. But great founding teams are often made up of workaholics – it has to come from the fire within, not forced. These guys locked up in a live-and-work apartment probably did not have 8-hour workdays, yet didn’t look too unhappy. A year later they are growing, picked up two rounds of funding, have 20 employees and even put TechCrunch in the toilet. I don’t expect their 20th employee to be just as passionate as the Founders, but it can’t be a 9-5 type person either. At this stage they still need driven Team Members, not simply employees.
Most startups that grow to a certain point will lose this team atmosphere at some point. They will start to hire more “regular employees”, many of whom are opportunity seekers, in for quick ride, ready to jump ship any time. Too bad, but it’s a fact of life.
Not everywhere, though. 37Signals is still a small team (by choice) but not really a startup anymore. They seem to have found the golden balance between work and life, having introduced 4-day workweeks, funding team members’ passions, be it flight lessons, cooking classes…whatever. I don’t think they whine if (when) the occasional crunch comes. Another “startup” (not really, anymore) I often write about is Atlassian: at $30M revenue and 130 employees they still preserve a unique culture, do a lot of programs together, and generally working there is a lifestyle, not just employment.
The above two have something in common, other than having good products: they did not take VC investment. They can pretty much do whatever they like. Maintaining a great team is no just a means to business, it’s part of their ultimate purpose.
The weekend firestorm comes completes a full circle: in a second TechCrunch article Mike Arrington comes to Calacanis’s defense: Startups Must Hire The Right People And Watch Every Penny. Or Fail. This is a very good article, I wholeheartedly agree with it. And while at it, let me also refer you to Startups: Executive Hiring Challenges or Beware of the Suits.
On a lighter note, the CEO of another self-funded former startup, Zoho apparently heeded 37Signals advice, and fired all his workaholics.
(Not really… Watch out for a major product announcement next week.)
Update: This quick rant by Bob Warfield is worth reading: Startups Need Starters
Now that The Crunchies, the Internet Startup world’s equivalent of the Oscars are over, the winners announced, a lot of champagne consumed, let me go back to a few thoughts that have been on my mind throughout the whole show.
First of all, it was nice to see so many startups recognized, meet familiar faces again, and I join the chorus in thanking TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, VentureBeat and GigaOm for putting the show together. Special kudos to Om Malik for coming only three weeks after his heart attack.
Second, I can’t help but think that some of the categories were .. well, almost deterministic, leaving zero chance of winning for the “little guys” lumped together with a giant. Right out of the gate, the first category, Best gadget/device: iPhone, Kindle, Ooma, Pleo, Wii. C’mon, did anyone doubt for a minute the iPhone would win? Or look at the Best mobile startup, where the finalist were AdMob, Fring, Loopt, Shozu, Twitter. Oh, please, 3 relatively unknown names against Twitter, a mega-phenomenon…
The other thought I’ve been pondering ever since the show is whatever happened to business software? The Crunchies were yet another proof that “enterprise isn’t sexy“: this was all about consumer-glitz, with a few startups who cater to businesses. That said, at least there was an Enterprise startup category, and I was really glad to see my friends at Zoho win it. Although I wholeheartedly believe they deserve it, this was by far not a slam-dunk category, with Zoho and 37signals, which has a religious cult-like fan-base being the two chief contestants.
Perhaps the Zoho team felt a bit of extra satisfaction, given that 37signals originally questioned their viability, and called them copycats rather than innovators. Well, the innovation debate definitely ended a few weeks ago, when PC World picked Zoho’s Notebook as one of the 25 Most Innovative Products of the Year. While the Crunchies were clearly a popularity contest (with over 100,000 votes) PC World’s list was compiled by professionals. This list was notably full of gadgets, and the only other software products preceding Zoho were Google Gears and the Facebook API.
Back to the Crunchies, Enterprise category, 37signals and Zoho are diametric opposites in many ways: 37signals product philosophy is all about simplicity, “products that do just what you need and nothing you don’t” while Zoho believes in functional richness, and their customer service attitude is quite different, too. Yet I believe they are both good companies, and there’s a clear demand for their products, which is well proven by the hundreds of thousands of loyal customers. Neither of them are really Enterprise software companies though. 37signals caters for what they call the “Fortune 5,000,000” and Zoho clearly stated their mission to be the “IT for Small Business” – not that a subset of their portfolio, the Office Suite could not become Enterprise-ready, but for now it’s not their primary focus. And focused they are …
I think the Crunchies used the term Enterprise quite liberally – I would have called this category Business Software. Now, if the names IBM, HP, SAP, Citigroup, Boeing, BMW, Shell, McDonalds, Pfizer sound familiar, I’m sure you agree that the company who claims these and others customers is truly an Enterprise Software company. Yet Atlassian ended up in the International category, to their bad luck, as they got paired up with Netvibes. The two are apples and oranges. Atlassian is a very successful company, but the people who buy enterprise software are not the types who hang out at the Web 2.0 tech blogs or vote for the Crunchies; Atlassian stood no chance against Netvibes, with their tens of millions of individual users, all potential voters in this popularity contest.
What do three so different companies, Atlassian, 37signals and Zoho have in common? All three are bootstrapped, fast growing, financially successful and follow the “old-fashioned” business model of making good products and charging for it. I could not help but think of these guys while listen to the announcement of the Best Bootstrapped startup category, decided between FriendFeed, PoliticalBase, ProductWiki, Techmeme, UpNext. Or while listening to the panel discussion moderated by Dan Farber, where Matt Marshall expressed his astonishment how far the ad-based business model propelled us, and was wondering if advertising as the only business model would work in the downturn (no R-word!). If we had to pick the survivors of a potential downturn, these three companies are certainly safe candidates. The good old business model of charging for your product, which, incidentally, your customers love works wonders.
Of course there was a lot more to the Crunchies, but it’s been all more then adequately covered, and I wanted to focus on business software now. But…well, I am a guy and guys love cars… so I have to mention the Cleantech category, won by Tesla, makers of this beautiful electric sports car. The only problem is, the car does not exist yet, release date has been pushed out repeatedly, the company had to go back for repeat funding, just fired a bunch of people, including the VP Manufacturing, Lead Engineer if the motor team… but hey, why not give them the Award and keep on dreaming (about the car).
Update: Apparently I am not the only one questioning the rationale of some category assignments at the Crunchies; read CenterNetworks on user-generated content.
Atlassian, a fast-growing, successful enterprise software company is looking for a VP of Marketing. I don’t normally broadcast job searches here, but am breaking that rule now for I believe this is a truly exceptional opportunity with a truly exceptional company. (Disclaimer: I have no business affiliation with Atlassian, but admit to being positively biased, as the company exemplifies a lot that I stand for.)
They are best known for two products: Jira, the issue tracking & software project management application was their first hit, putting the company on the fast growth track and establishing a loyal fan-base in the IT community. Their existing reputation in the IT community certainly helped the second product, Confluence, the enterprise wiki gain traction: it is now equally popular in the IT and business community. Wikis in general have become more commonly known in the past two years; once a tiny market niche, today a growing field where new entrants pop up left and right, claiming to be best in this and that…. But numbers talk, and the verdict is clear: Confluence is the undisputed enterprise wiki market leader.
Atlassian is not sitting on their laurels: in the past year they diversified, acquiring several companies and launching new products on their own. Frankly, I lost track, but I believe their portfolio currently includes 8 products, all part of an “IT toolkit”, with the exception of Confluence, which is seeing fast adoption amongst business users, too.
The customer list is impressive: IBM, HP, SAP, Citigroup, Boeing, BMW, Shell, McDonalds, Pfizer … just about all the Fortune 1000, as well as non-profits, Universities, Government Agencies, totaling over 9000 customers worldwide. (The chart is a bit misleading: Atlassian’s fiscal year starts in June, and the FY08 bar shows the current figure only, excluding projections.)
How did they achieve this? They must have an excellent sales force. Wrong! Atlassian has no sales force at all. They don’t sell: customers simply buy their products on their own. I often talk about the pull-model that’s replacing the traditional, expensive enterprise sales process (6-9 months, high touch, flights, meetings, wine-and-dining, entertaining, in the end often nuked by politics) – but that’s typically in the context of Software as a Service, and in the SMB (small business) market. Atlassian’s products are mostly on-premise (although they now have a hosted version of Confluence) and their primary market is the large Enterprise. Yet they pulled off what amounts to a small miracle: essentially took the download.com, tucows style model we all know as consumers, and ported it to the enterprise space.
Of course having customers try-and-buy through the Internet is not as simple as firing your Sales team ( or not hiring one). It’s not a matter of a decision: it’ s a consistently applied philosophy, that you have to implement in every aspect of your business. The key components are:
- lightweight software
- well-defined function set, meets specific user need, small user groups can get started
- ease of use (both easy to learn and easy to use)
- well documented, well supported
- low price (“expensable, not approvable” – to quote a former competitor)
The “pull-model” means customers will need to find you- which is why Marketing is a critical function. With Sales gone, Marketing becomes sales (actually, Atlassian’s CEO proudly says everyone is in Sales, especially Support). So if you are a marketing superstar, or know one, want to be part of a successful team, work for celebrities , you owe it to yourself to apply.
Atlassian is not only about business – it’s about people. I know, old cliche.. but here it works. The unique culture this team maintained throughout their super-growth even now that they have 130 people is a large part of their success.
So what is this culture like? Tough. When he doesn’t make his numbers, Atlassian President Jeffrey Walker is forced to make up for it as ticket-scalper on the street. OK, joke apart, this photo was shot last August, when the entire San Francisco office went to see a Giants game together. (Incidentally, just a day before Jeffrey became cancer dude). This wasn’t a rare occasion, either: both the San Francisco and the Sydney teams have a lot of fun together: Cutlassian, Mission: Atlassian, theme-filled staff events, abound throughout the year. Their new office building in Sydney is right next to a pub (hint: when will you guys realize you’d be better off buying the entire pub?) I wonder when the San Francisco office will move into a winery… Perhaps you get the picture by now: Working for Atlassian isn’t just a job – it’s a lifestyle. But don’t for a minute think it’s a bunch of rowdy kids having fun only: they bring in $30 million a year. And if you don’t perform, this is what awaits you.
So that’s the magic formula: combine business success with a fun, team-focused culture and you’ve got the makings of the ultimate job. (Are you still reading, or have you alerted your Marketing superstar friend yet?)
Now, if this is the ultimate job, there’s one question unanswered: How come it hasn’t been filled yet? I wanted to hear the answer straight from the horse’s mouse so to speak, so I asked Atlassian President Jeffrey Walker, who responded below:
We were inundated with resumes, and found a few excellent capable candidates. Unfortunately, one of the growing pains of companies like ours is we were not quite ready for the right candidate. Incorporating someone of the caliber we need takes preparation. Our search began prematurely. Lesson learned. After the founders and I took another few ‘long walks’, we came out aligned and ready. This time I fully expect to complete the search. Just need the right remarkable individual.
Well, I did not walk with Jeffrey and the Founders, but I certainly hope they will not change a lot:. I have a lot to say on the subject of hiring, but it’s not specific to Atlassian, so I’ll break it out to a separate post. In the meantime, if you are that “remarkable individual”, what are you waiting for?
Thanks to Stewart Mader I found this presentation on 25 Tips for a Better Wiki Deployment. As someone deeply interested in wikis and their use in business, I attempted to read through, but grew increasingly frustrated. Not because of the content, which is good, but the format. Why on earth have they (who?) delivered this in a presentation format?
All slides in this deck are divided in two half, one textual, the other graphical. Consequently they all show signs of the two cardinal sins of “committing” presentations.
1. – There’s way too much text. If you want me to read a story, you might as well type it up, use paragraphs, title fonts, bullet-points…etc, but don’t pretend it’s a presentation.
2. – Visuals are supposed to illustrate your point, capture my attention, shocking me, entertain me – whatever, just do something! This slide deck uses identical (rather boring, but that’s beyond the point) graphics on all 25 slides, which is just as good as no graphics at all.
In summary, the textual half of each slide is way too busy, the graphical half is a missed opportunity: this is NOT a presentation.
Google’s next killer app will be an accounting system, speculates Read/WriteWeb. While I am doubtful, I enthusiastically agree, it could be the next killer app; in fact don’t stop there, why not add CRM, Procurement, Inventory, HR?
The though of Google moving into business process / transactional system is not entirely new: early this year Nick Carr speculated that Google should buy Intuit, soon to be followed by Phil Wainewright and others: Perhaps Google will buy Salesforce.com after all. My take was that it made sense for Google to enter this space, but it did not need to buy an overpriced heavyweight, rather acquire a small company with a good all-in-one product:
Yet unlikely as it sounds the deal would make perfect sense. Google clearly aspires to be a significant player in the enterprise space, and the SMB market is a good stepping stone, in fact more than that, a lucrative market in itself. Bits and pieces in Google’s growing arsenal: Apps for Your Domain, JotSpot, Docs and Sheets …recently there was some speculation that Google might jump into another acquisition (ThinkFree? Zoho?) to be able to offer a more tightly integrated Office. Well, why stop at “Office”, why not go for a complete business solution, offering both the business/transactional system as well as an online office, complemented by a wiki? Such an offering combined with Google’s robust infrastructure could very well be the killer package for the SMB space catapulting Google to the position of dominant small business system provider.
This is probably a good time to disclose that I am an Advisor to a Google competitor, Zoho, yet I am cheering for Google to enter this market. More than a year ago I wrote a highly speculative piece: From Office Suite to Business Suite:
How about transactional business systems? Zoho has a CRM solution – big deal, one might say, the market is saturated with CRM solutions. However, what Zoho has here goes way beyond the scope of traditional CRM: they support Sales Order Management, Procurement, Inventory Management, Invoicing – to this ex-ERP guy it appears Zoho has the makings of a CRM+ERP solution, under the disguise of the CRM label.
Think about it. All they need is the addition Accounting, and Zoho can come up with an unparalleled Small Business Suite, which includes the productivity suite (what we now consider the Office Suite) and all process-driven, transactional systems: something like NetSuite + Microsoft, targeted at SMB’s.
The difficulty for Zoho and other smaller players will be on the Marketing / Sales side. Many of us, SaaS-pundits believe the major shift SaaS brings about isn’t just in delivery/support, but in the way we can reach the “long tail of the market” cost-efficiently, via the Internet. The web-customer is informed, comes to you site, tries the products then buys – or leaves. There’s no room (or budget) for extended sales cycle, site visits, customer lunches, the typical dog-and-pony show. This pull-model seems to be working for smaller services, like Charlie Wood’s Spanning Sync:
So far the model looks to be working. We have yet to spend our first advertising dollar and yet we’re on track to have 10,000 paying subscribers by Thanksgiving.
It may also work for lightweight Enterprise Software:
It’s about customers wanting easy to use, practical, easy to install (or hosted) software that is far less expensive and that does not entail an arduous, painful purchasing process. It’s should be simple, straightforward and easy to buy.
However, when it comes to business process software, we’re just too damn conditioned to expect cajoling, hand-holding… the pull-model does not quite seem to work. Salesforce.com, the “granddaddy” of SaaS has a very traditional enterprise sales army, and even NetSuite, targeting the SMB market came to similar conclusions. Says CEO Zach Nelson:
NetSuite, which also offers free trials, takes, on average, 60 days to close a deal and might run three to five demonstrations of the program before customers are convinced.
European All-in-One SaaS provider 24SevenOffice, which caters for the VSB (Very Small Business) market also sees a hybrid model: automated web-sales for 1-5 employee businesses, but above that they often get involved in some pre-sales consulting, hand-holding. Of course I can quote the opposite: WinWeb’s service is bought, not sold, and so is Zoho CRM. But this model is far from universal.
What happens if Google enters this market? If anyone, they have the clout to create/expand market, change customer behavior. Critics of Google’s Enterprise plans cite their poor support level, and call on them to essentially change their DNA, or fail in the Enterprise market. Well, I say, Google, don’t try to change, take advantage of who you are, and cater for the right market. As consumers we all (?) use Google services – they are great, when they work, **** when they don’t. Service is non-existent – but we’re used to it. Google is a faceless algorithm, not people, and we know that – adjusted our expectations.
Whether it’s Search, Gmail, Docs, Spreadsheets, Wiki, Accounting, CRM, when it comes from Google, we’re conditioned to try-and-buy, without any babysitting. Small businesses don’t subscribe to Gartner, don’t hire Accenture for a feasibility study: their buying decision is very much a consumer-style process. Read a few reviews (ZDNet, not Gartner), test, decide and buy.
The way we’ll all consume software as a service some day.
Update: As an aside, the Read/WriteWeb article that inspired this post demonstrates the “enterprise software sexiness” issue, which was started by Robert Scoble and became a Firestorm, per Nick Carr. I really think it’s a very thoughtful post, which, quite unusually for Read/WriteWeb sat alone at the bottom of TechMeme, then dropped off quickly. Now, has this not been about Accounting (yeah, I know, boring) software by Google, but, say adding colors to Gmail labels, in the next half an hour all the usual suspects would have piled on, and this would have taken up the top half of TechMeme.