Marketing the key for startups, says Atlassian


Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes has hailed marketing as the key lesson which Australian startups should focus on as they try to build successful companies.

The entrepreneur, who has built his company into an international powerhouse with almost $60 million in revenue in 2010 since it was founded in 2002, made the comments in a speech given to the SydStart conference several weeks ago. A video of the speech was posted online by StartcastAU yesterday.

“As a startup, you should always be marketing,” Cannon-Brookes told the audience. “If there is probably one single lesson which has come out of Atlassian for me, it’s every single thing you do is a marketing campaign — of some way, shape or form.”

However, the entrepreneur said, marketing didn’t always have to take traditional forms. He gave a number of examples where Atlassian had embedded marketing into its activities that might not be seen to be a marketing strategy. For example, Cannon-Brookes cited the development of the 404 page not found page on Atlassian’s website — which features a humorous illustration. He said people would see the page and then link to it on Twitter.

In another example, the entrepreneur pointed out that it was expensive to sponsor conferences where potential customers would congregate. To get around this problem, Atlassian tended to “buy people a lot of beer” instead, he said — setting up shop in a pub across the road from a conference and holding events with free drinks.

“People will turn up and drink your beer,” he said. “And you’d be amazed how much they’ll remember you.”

In one example, the company handed out about 40 cases’ worth of beer to attendees at a conference in Belgium, putting Atlassian stickers on the bottles and passing them out to conference-goers as they walked into a talk.

“Oracle meanwhile spent $25,000 to sponsor the conference,” said Cannon-Brookes. “They were giving away all this sort of gumph which you could do — you could win an iPad” However, he said, the amount of interest Atlassian got from giving away beer got a better result.

Other examples of Atlassian marketing exercises included giving away free t-shirts when people signed up to use its software. Cannon-Brookes described the practice as ironic due to the fact that Atlassian’s solutions are delivered online, but noted it created mindshare with customers. In addition, he said, the software company created marketing from its hiring campaigns — attracting staff with free holidays when they joined, and chocolates and welcome messages on their desk on their first day.

The entrepreneur also highlighted other key aspects to starting a company in his speech — such as the need for a co-founder, the importance of developing a business model and more. But at the end of the day it was marketing which he said was key. “We were a tiny company … and we had to be marketing almost every single day,” he said.


  1. Hey Renai, thanks for the plug, we appreciate your support for this great community event. Mike and others really made the day and most are backing up as panellists next year, we are also working on the next one in Sydney (Sep 22) and also a MelbStart branch in Melbourne. We have also had interest expressed as far away as Brisbane, Perth and even Oxford. Details as they come to had at

    Cheers, Pete.

    • No worries Pete, but it’s not a plug — my job is to report the news and provide information about what’s going on, and that’s what I’ve done — we don’t “support” anyone in general, unless it’s the readers ;)

      Good luck with the next one, we’ll try and get there if possible.

  2. When you have limited marketing budget or no budgets at all, you really need to think outside the square about how to hijack an event or generally how to get noticed, If you can use an event to have a promotional idea go viral for the day then you certainly have a winner.

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