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A missing letter helped create a tech billionaire (bbc.com)
55 points by rmason 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

I’m sure if you got some serious alone time and trust with other billionaires you could fill a book with these stories.

Around 1983 my mom was dating a chef at the restaurant she worked at. One night he was out carousing and got himself killed. Fast forward a year and my mom meets the manager’s brother, thinks he’s an asshole and blows him off. He’s visiting from out of town and gets wasted, mom helps him to the brothers place and the guy turns out to be hilarious and a great story teller. They agree to a date, it escalates to marriage and we move. A year later now step-dad’s employer offers him relocation to either Chicago or a sleepy suburb in another state. Mom convinces him to take the latter on our behalf. Fast forward ten years I ask a cute coworker out to see Earnest Scared Stupid. That escalated to marriage four years later and on to two beautiful kids that are now almost out on their own.

I sometimes wonder if I should tell them that if some guy didn’t die in a crash they would never have been born. When they become billionaires that can be their story.

If I hadn't got myself dependant on methamphetamine, I probably would never have got charged with drug trafficking, and I wouldn't have moved to Tasmania, learned to ski, taken up pole dance / fitness, got in to rock climbing, bought a house, adopted to beautiful pups, and landed the awesome job I have.

Who knows what might happened instead!

How's life in Tasmania?

I don't want to talk it up too much. It could do with more snow.

My wife asked me out to her friend's company holiday party, but refused to give me her number because she'd had problems with stalkers before. I was like "I'm just going to trust that you're not a stalker and give you mine." We ended up having to call each other 4 times before we finally found each other, 30 seconds before the Caltrain arrived at the platform.

As an additional irony, the number she called me on was her Google Voice number, so when she actually started using her real number 2 months later I was like "Who the hell is this?"

I put off starting college for a semester because I had just lost my father to cancer. I just couldn’t face starting class a week after that.

I did end up starting in January, and on the first day of orientation, 25 hours after arriving there I met one of the handful other people also starting in January, who later became my wife. I hand never really even dated someone else first.

It is all so unlikely. Rare event stacked on rare event.

Ernest Scared Stupid is a total gem though, I can see how that led to marriage immediately.

You can literally tell everybody that they might not exist in a different timeline. This thought is neither novel nor meaningful.

It's still very weird to think about how many tiny details will deflect your life 0 or 180.. who decides which class you'll be in as a kid for instance

Certainly not novel but whether or not it’s meaningful is quite subjective.

And you may tell yourself, "This is not my beautiful house."

And you may tell yourself, "This is not my beautiful wife."

Happy for him in his success, JIRA is still the product i hate using the most on a day to day basis.

I've always been happy with JIRA, using it successfully in large enterprises and in my own 2-person startup. But I know you have plenty of company in your hatred for it. As a tool for quickly entering an issue I want to track and having simple drag and drop across swimlanes for my development workflow, it does all I need it to do.

Can I ask what your preferred alternative is?

We went from excel to vsts and it had been working great for a couple of years. We got some new product owners who forced us to move to jira. It’s done absolutely nothing but cause problems, cause friction, frustration. The user experience is non existent and inconsistent. Things don’t work in any logical sense. And it’s horribly slow. What used to be quick and easy in vsts is now painful slow experience. This is the first job I’ve had where we moved to jira. The last 2 places I was at were moving away from it.

JIRA and VSTS (Azure DevOps?) have wildly different workflows.

To me, the Azure DevOps way of doing this doesn't work in any logical sense, I can't find the simplest thing in the mess of an UX they have.

I'm literally stuck with

> Unable to communicate with server. Saving is not possible at the moment.

How does anyone actually /like/ atlassian products is beyond me. I honestly cannot think of any other software that makes me as frustrated.

Not the GP, but for software development I highly prefer https://clubhouse.io/

Same here. Happy for the guy and his billion, but I can't understand why the product is so successful, despite being painfully slow –at every single page load it makes me want to cry. Does anyone here actually choose to use it, or like me, you happen to work in a company that settled on it. Can anyone offer perspective, am I missing something?

Have you used HP Quality Center or Rational ClearQuest or some other 'enterprise' bug tracker.

JIRA is much better than they are.

Agreed, it's painful to use and much more so since they rolled out the UI update a few months ago. On the other hand, it's so ingrained in our company's workflow that it's hard to replace.

It's called enterprise sales. Focused politics and sales pressure to precisely influence and sell through to decision makers who are far from the actual users of the product.

> JIRA is still the product i hate using the most on a day to day basis.

several years ago a very big super-duper-EVP of our BigCo happened to be in our cubicle and noticed how my colleague was agonizing with the JIRA (visible to the EVP slowness plus invisible to him yet scorching our brains utter pointlessness of what the colleague had to complete there). The EVP had a epiphany right there and then - "wouldn't it be a huge improvement in our developers' life if those JIRA issues were to be solved?". At that moment he looked like he was feeling himself pretty much a god who is about to give gift of fire to those dirty mud figurines. It was so hard to not burst into laugh right into his face... Anyway, it happened to be that extremely rare case when a such high EVP did ultimately deliver on his words, even if indirectly - he left the company pretty soon and with him out all that JIRA/Scrum/Agile stuff just totally disappeared almost immediately.

When Jira first came out, it was awesome. Way better than most other ticketing systems. It was soo good that the entire company that I worked for switched to it. Suddenly a phonecall from a customer could turn into a ticket created by the support department, which turned into a ticket for the dev, which eventually got put through development and back to the support department to notify the customer that their problem was fixed. Our whole company communicated through Jira. This was before all the "agile" fluff that got added onto it.

Have you worked with ServiceNow? Jira is a pleasure in comparison.

Is the actual problem JIRA or the configuration?

IMHO JIRA is more of an platform you use to build your own process. And I believe it is the process that sucks most if the time.

Regardless of our own personal opinions towards Atlassian, it should be more talked about in the startup ecosystem. Not only for there stock doing well (Up over 340% since January 2017), for the ownership the founders still have and much more.

This is an intriguing lesson for us all.

Whenever Atlassian is mentioned on HN, at least 75% of the comments are complaints about the product - it’s crap, it’s slow, buggy, whatever.

But the company behind it has turned into a juggernaut.

Lesson being that - product isn’t nearly as important as distribution and sales strategy - be wary of asking HN for business advice (flashbacks of “No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.”

>To help do this he is working with the Australian government on how to best bring in more talent from overseas. He also wants to build a new technology precinct in Sydney, a hub he hopes will act as "the lighthouse" to attract people to Australia

There's probably enough talented workers in Australia, just not enough who want to live and work in Sydney.

It does seem a stretch to be bumping against the limits with a global head count of 3061 [1], with about 40% in Sydney [2]. To name two (of many) other tech heavy Australian employers, CSIRO has 5500 employees and DSTG has 2500, so it's not like Atlassian is some behemoth that has sucked up all the local talent.

The Atlassian founders have come out against Australia's draconian refugee policy and are calling out xenophobia in local politics (for which I applaud them on both fronts), so maybe they are engaging in a bit of hyperbole to back these causes?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlassian

[2] https://www.smh.com.au/business/small-business/mike-cannon-b...

I've lived in Melbourne and Sydney, and Sydney is a pretty excellent place to work and live on an Atlassian salary, I'm not sure it's the city where I'd be focusing improvements.

Sydney compensation could use a bump in compensation to justify moving from places like Melbourne and Brisbane. In my limited experience they sometimes don't pay enough to cover the increased cost of living, particularly rent.

Otherwise I'd agree with Scott that Australia needs overseas talent. At Canva, where I work, the strong majority hired are overseas talent. Australia's software industry is too small for these companies' appetites, and its universities aren't producing a large enough supply of talented grads.

I’d describe Atlassian’s Sydney pay as fair if you enjoy working there but on the lower to mid end of the market so you wouldn’t join on a purely financial decision. They have also stated they’ll never attempt to be one of the big payers.

Australia’s problem, in general the Australian born devs are very good, Computer Science must be done right here (i’m not Australian). However the quantity of good interesting software jobs isn’t great compared to other countries, when you have easy migration to the US as an AU citizen, and jobs offering more money and more work opportunities it’s hard to overlook. Maybe catch 22, for good devs to stay you need good interesting jobs, for jobs you need devs.

On the other hand Atlassian (and everyone else) doesn't pay enough to stop a lot of those local talented grads moving straight to the US.

I'd argue both Canva and Atlassian need to look at remote work (at least within Australia) as well. I don't want to live in Sydney.

True that. Hobart is where it's at.

As I started to read the article I was picturing permutations of the company name with an additional letter :)

Catlassian was originally planned as a pet goods lifestyle business. A fat finger when registering the domain name sent them down a different path.

Ah...a missing postal letter, not a missing letter of the alphabet

I read the whole article and until I read your comment, still thought it was a missing letter of the alphabet in the address of the postal letter that never got to him. Lol

Saw the headline and thought this might be about Rick Adams and UUNET (i.e. NUNET before a filing mistake.)

Whoever finds the missing last letter will be printing money!

It's impressive that 17 years after the founding of Atlassian and post IPO, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar still control a combined 56% of the company (28% each).

That's what happens when you let a company grow organically instead of trying to bootstrap yourself all the way to global dominance with VC funding.

That’s the Australia way.

The actual startup dream

It really seems to be a thing to have a story these days, no matter how true it is.

We all have stories. I can tell you a dramatic story about micro decisions and events that led to me founding an infosec consulting firm. We just magnify these stories in really successful people. That’s the thing. Most billionaires don’t have stories that are much more interesting than the average persons. There are a lot of people that risked everything and lost, many of them lost despite making better decisions than many billionaires. That is just how luck works.

Most of the interesting stuff about how companies grow come down to a relative small period where some key decisions get made (in the tech world at least). Anyhow, this is normal and people love to try and parse the lives of the wealthy to see if any of it can be applied to their life to capture some of that success. There are a lot of things to increase your luck potential, but it still takes grit+luck.

>Most of the interesting stuff about how companies grow come down to a relative small period where some key decisions get made (in the tech world at least).

I really don't think so. Case in point - The article describes a 17-year growth path for Atlassian, including many reversals along the way.

What you're describing is the exception. E.g. Minecraft. Most successful tech businesses (like all businesses) are built on a combination of luck and sustained good decision-making and hard work.

It’s probably a little of column A and a little of column B. A lot of good small decisions and probably 4-6 major ones, even in a 17year journey. If I had to guess. Who your business partners are. Major strategy shifts (cloud). Etc.

These days? This goes back centuries.

If you live long enough, you've probably got a story or two about a decision that saved your life. There's a relevant subreddit: /r/nothingeverhappens

The only way I've been able to stomach having to use an Atlassian product is through 3rd-party tools that expose it all to a command line interface (jira-cli, for example).

I think there is $45bn worth of unexploited value to be had in fixing the problems with Atlassians' UI designs - the productivity to be gained by not using Jira, and instead training ones staff to be better at standard thing - like, you know, sending emails - seems to me to be a huge opportunity.

TLDR: His acceptance letter to the Australian Defence Force Academy got lost, so he went to university instead.

Seems strange to lionize a guy that blew off his honeymoon to go fix a bug. Why must we worship at the altar of billionaires?

How do you know it's a bug? The article says "problem". Presumably it was something huge, I would presume company-threatening.

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