Inside Story Behind a $5B IPO


In an interview with Jay Simons, president of Atlassian, Jason Lemkin talks about going from startup to IPO. Atlassian, the company behind HipChat, Jira, Confluence and more. For Simons, going public is a mile marker - an important event, but hardly the end of a company’s journey.

Over the next three days, DataFox will summarize the SaaStr 2016 panels. If you miss the tactical theater or strategy stage, are networking on the ground, or didn’t get a chance to attend this great conference, we’ve got you covered.

View all SaaStr 2016 panel summaries

Special thanks to Jason Lemkin of SaaStr for putting on this conference and giving us the chance to publish these summaries.

Summary:

  • Having a variety of different products is a challenge and an opportunity - you’re forced to prioritize between many different initiatives, but your total addressable market is much larger.
  • Frictionless onboarding is the ideal: if a customer needs handholding, they should get it; but that experience should be viewed as a flaw in product rather than a benefit of your service.
  • Focus on expanding your audience, even if it means building new products rather than supporting existing ones.

From early days to going public

Atlassian was bootstrapped from the beginning. Though it’s celebrated 10 straight years of profitability, it took its time to get there. The company developed a variety of products aimed at different audiences, including:

  • JIRA Core, which helps marketers, HR managers and more manage projects and processes
  • Confluence and HipChat, collaboration tools for teams
  • Bitbucket, which helps engineering teams manage their Git repositories and collaborate more easily

Simons recognizes that this path is unusual, but argues that managing many products exposes the company to more audiences than it otherwise would. They focus on in-product expansion paths: like Amazon, they hope to be the solution to many problems for many people.

Now, the company is public and valued at $5 billion. Simons says he used the IPO as a tool, rather than just an event: going public served as a branding event and a way to get in front of new customers.

Simons’ controversial stance on growing accounts

Compared to other SaaStr speakers, Simons had a different stance on customer success and expanding accounts. He argued that selling into existing accounts can bring in revenue in the short term, but focusing on that detracts from the much bigger goal of expanding into new markets and audiences.

“A lot of companies spend twice as much on sales and marketing as they do on R&D. We’re the inverse.”

He also has a different take on onboarding new customers. His vision is for teams to get started in minutes, converting to trials with no onboarding necessary. Of course, Atlassian has customer success teams to give new accounts the help they need; but this is seen as a bug to be fixed rather than a feature of the company.

Check out all of our SaaStr panel summaries here, follow us on Twitter at @datafoxco to see live tweets of the event, and visit SaaStr itself for more great content.