Tech billionaire has no cap on success

Australian startup billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes says there is no end goal to success.


“This is a big journey. There’s no ending, there’s no destination here, and life’s a bit the same way,” he told AAP.

The co-founder of collaborative software giant Atlassian has a net worth of $2.4 billion, is considered the 17th richest person in Australia and placed 973rd on Forbes’ world’s billionaires list this year.

But the Sydney-based chief executive never set out to be rubbing shoulders with the wealthy.

“We kind of had this idea and it just grew bigger than we expected,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.

In his TEDx speech in Sydney on Friday, the 37-year-old revealed he has suffered “impostor syndrome” since co-founding Atlassian with fellow University of NSW graduate Scott Farquhar in 2002.

It reared its head when Mr Cannon-Brookes had to interview his first ever HR employee, when he and Farquhar were awarded Australian Entrepreneur Of The Year in 2006, and again when he met his “beautiful” wife Annie in the Qantas business lounge, he said.

“The point I was trying to make was that it doesn’t go away,” the father-of-four told AAP.

“If you don’t feel like an imposter, you’re either within your limits – so you’re not learning, you’re doing something you know how to do and you’re well in the comfort zone – or you are out of your depth and you don’t know.

“I think some people freeze.

“If you’re aware of it, and you know what to do with it, that’s the hardest thing.”

He told the 4000-strong TEDx crowd the sensation is more common than the world seems to think.

And he’s “almost confident” his idols English author Neil Gaiman, late American president Franklin D Roosevelt and United States founding father Alexander Hamilton all felt it too.

“I have this weird obsession with US presidents – forgetting current times – I think that’s just a stressful job,” he said.

“That is a job where you’re kind of making some pretty big calls at a lot of different times in situations that you can’t control.

“You find these people who have done an amazing amount of things – it wasn’t like they did one thing, they just kept doing amazing things throughout – and what was the attribute that made them do that?”

Mr Cannon-Brookes thinks it all comes down to harnessing the sense that you don’t belong and questioning your ideas rather than yourself.

“You look back and they’ve all made very smart decisions, they’ve avoided bad decisions, and just kind of kept going,” he said.

“We’re constantly throwing ourselves into new situations to try and keep that rolling … even if you do feel like ‘Okay, I can do this now’.

“That’s how I think certainly I get enjoyment in life, chuck yourself in the deep end and pretend you don’t look like a flailing idiot.”