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5 start-up successes to inspire you

5 start-up successes to inspire you

A decade ago, when I left one of Australia’s largest law firms to start my own business with a school friend, people looked at me with a sense of bemusement. Back then, working at an established firm (whether it be law, consulting, banking or accounting) was what most young people aspired to. These days, people frequently tell me that they want to own their own business, rather than become a doctor or a lawyer. No longer is being an entrepreneur thought of in the same breath as colourful characters like Alan Bond or Christopher Skase. Call it the “Zuckerberg Factor” but these days, having a start-up seems to be the new black. Fairfax reported last week that 72 percent of generation Z (that is, people born after 1995) wanted to own their own business.

But it’s not just overseas success stories like Facebook, YouTube or What’s App that has spurred the change in attitude. Australia has its very own entrepreneurial heroes, most of whom are under 40, who have inspired people like Jeremy and I to leave our established big city jobs to create something of our own. The most common thread across Australia’s leaders is that virtually all of them started from nothing, with little or no capital, and went on to create national, and sometimes, international success stories.

In no particular order, here are my top five Australian success stories of the past 15 years to be inspired by:

1.MIKE CANNON-BROOKS AND SCOTT FARQUHAR –. The closest thing to an Australian ‘Silicon Valley’ story, Cannon-Brooks and Farquhar started Atlassian straight out of uni with $10,000 and a couple of credit cards – a little more than a decade later, the software business is worth more than $3 billion and the guys have been named Australia’s youngest billionaires. Atlassian’s flagship product is a project management tool called Jira, which is generally considered the world’s best software of its type (at AussieCommerce, we have used Jira for years). In case you thought the story couldn’t get any better, Farquhar told The Sydney Morning Herald last month that growing up in Western Sydney, his family wasn’t even able to afford a computer. Oh, and the guys are still only 34.

2.RUSLAN KOGAN AND DAVID SHAFER – Few business people, let alone those aged under 30, have the ability to generate a headline like Ruslan Kogan. Kogan, together with partner David Shafer (who looks after the businesses operations) has taken on billionaire Gerry Harvey publicly and grown the eponymous electronics retailer strongly while operating in one of Australia’s most competitive marketplaces. While it’s hard to get an accurate read on the value of Kogan (the business has never raised external capital or released financials), the story of the immigrant from Belarus who arrived in Australia in 1989 has no doubt inspired a generation of ecommerce entrepreneurs.

3.ANDREW AND PAUL BASSAT – These days, you wouldn’t think of looking for or advertising a job without going to – that shows just how much the Bassat brothers have been able to achieve in a little over a decade. But it’s not only in Australia where Seek has thrived – it owns dominant businesses in Malaysia, China and Brazil, as well as a successful education branch. BRW valued Andrew Bassat (who is still CEO of Seek) and Paul Bassat (who remains a shareholder and is on the board of Wesfarmers and the AFL) at $465 million. What most people forget is that when Andrew, Paul and school friend Matt Rockman started Seek, they were competing against far better-funded international and local competitors such as US-based Monster, Fairfax and News Limited, but virtually all those competitors have since withdrawn from the market. Unlike most people on this list, Andrew and Paul started the business at a relatively old age (around 30), with Paul leaving a large law firm and Andrew a leading consulting firm to take a chance on their own business.

4.GABBY AND HEZI LEIBOVICH– The Leibovich brothers graduated from a stall at the Wantirna Victoria market, to helping their dad at his electronics store and went on to create one of Australia’s largest ecommerce businesses. The duo borrowed the idea for Catch of the Day from Woot in the US (Woot was later bought by Amazon) and have grown very successful businesses in various categories such as groceries, wine and children’s products. A couple of years ago, we merged our food ordering website MyTable with Catch’s to form one of Australia’s largest food delivery platforms.

5.JODY FOX, MICHAEL FOX AND MIKE KNAPP – Together with former Google employees Mike Knapp and Michael Fox, Jody Fox founded one of Australia’s brightest on-line prospects, Shoes of Prey in 2009, which allows customers to design their own shoes. Shoes of Prey has previously raised $4.5 million (including funding from Mike Cannon-Brooks, see above) and is seeking a further $5 million for future growth. As Australia’s leading female entrepreneur, Fox is an inspiration for a generation of women looking to start their own business.


*Original Article by Adam Schwab: