PHOTO: Australia’s Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs

Resourceful, driven and imaginative are just a few words that describe the young business leaders in this list; creators who have made big bets on themselves to the benefit of society and those closest to them.

They create not just jobs (although combined they employ more than 10,000 people) but organisations – corporate organisms that grow, evolve, shape lives, reinvent industries and frequently spark spin-off enterprises with further impact in Australia and worldwide.

The vast majority started their entrepreneurial journeys with very little capital backing, but what they did have were great ideas and a desire to succeed that ultimately translated to organic growth or outside investment.

Quite often these businesses emerged as solutions to real problems faced by the entrepreneurs themselves. The trick then was working out how to develop and commercialise their visions; the kind of “I wish I had that idea” business models that sound straightforward in retrospect but are actually the result of painstaking efforts on paths littered with hurdles and distractions.

Australia’s Top 100 Young Entrepreneurs have forged new companies across a diverse cross-section of industries including health, logistics, food manufacturing, e-commerce, digital marketing, fashion and tech in all its variations from Software as a Service (SaaS) to fintech.

In the past we’ve described the founders in this list as the country’s business leaders of the future, which is true because their companies will likely continue to gain prominence and influence over the economy at large. And as age kicks in and their expertise grows, it will be unsurprising to see these entrepreneurs found ever larger companies in size and scope.

But as much as future prospects look bright, this list is also about the business leaders of today as the men and women featured have already made their mark. In financial terms that equates to almost $4 billion in annual revenue, but the inspiration they have brought, the values they have instilled and the new livelihoods they have built are intangible.

1. Mike Cannon Brookes (40) & Scott Farquhar (40)


As the “accidental billionaires” who founded IT workflow software giant Atlassian, co-CEOs Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar have had a big year in 2019.

They will also both be 41 when our next list comes out, which means their number one spot will be up for grabs. By then it is anyone’s guess as to how much more their Sydney-based, US-listed business will grow.

Atlassian shot past the US$1 billion revenue mark for the first time as its customer numbers surpassed 150,000, and Fortune Magazine rated the company as one of the world’s top 100 places to work.

That revenue has come at a cost, or a net loss of $637.6 million to be precise, in 2019. But like so many rapid-riser unicorns in the tech space, Atlassian is more concerned with building itself a moat than reporting profit today.

Total revenue rose 36 per cent and subscription sales were up by more than half, but around 48 cents out of every dollar that comes in was reinvested back into R&D.

“For the past 17 years, Atlassian has helped unleash the potential of teams around the world. And we continue to invest with an eye towards the future,” the co-founders said in Atlassian’s annual report.

“It’s this discipline and focus that provides us the tremendous opportunities we see ahead.”

Just two years after the acquisition of Kanban-style project management tool Trello in 2017, that business hit a milestone of 50 million registered users in October, up from 19 million users when the company was acquired.

Cannon-Brookes had a prominent public persona in 2019 as well through his calls for action on climate change. It was also revealed that he was a top donor to the non-profit Climate200.

“We know that we have to do our bit to reduce our impact on the planet. If we don’t, we’re cooked,” he said in a statement ahead of the UN climate action summit in September.