Trello and Atlassian are quietly making inroads and announce new funding

[Update: This post has been updated to reflect Atlassian’s $150 million funding was in April, not July.]

Trello announced new funding in the past week. In an earlier version of this piece, I reported Atlassian also raising money last week. That funding actually took place in April.

Atlassian, the work management company, and the maker of Jira, Confluence, and Hipchat, has sold $150 million of its shares to T. Rowe Price, which values the company at $3.3 billion. This was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. This is approximately eight times the 2010 valuation when the the company sold $400 million in shares to Accel.

This is a private offering of stock, and employees of Atlassian — now 800 in all — are permitted to participate. So, in effect, this is a means for the employees to gain some liquidity without the company having to go public.

Atlassian is a real maverick in the tech space, having not a single salesperson, and relying on word-of-mouth marketing exclusively. This means that its margins are very different from other companies, spending just 10%-15% on sales and marketing expenses, much lower that the more common 40% of gross sales.

Atlassian has been consistently cash-flow positive every quarter for the past 12 years, as I learned in a recent discussion with Jay Simons, Atlassian’s president. In that discussion, Simons spelled out that Atlassian’s products are often brought in by developers, and then over time, they spread to other parts of the company. And as that happens, there will be an increasing need to manage more complex relationships within the company and so customer management will be needed if not actual sales people.

Trello, the popular team task management application, has been spun out of Fog Creek, raising $10.3 million in a series A round led by Index Ventures and Spark Capital. Fog Creak earlier spun out Stack Exchange (which also saw investment from Spark and Index, as well as Union Square Ventures).

Trello uses a Kanban approach to visually organizing sets of tasks, and was one of the leaders in our 2013 review of task management tools (see The 2013 task management tools market). This is a figure from that report.


Trello will be using the investment to grow its 4.5 million users. The product will remain free, but plans additional paid features for business and enterprise editions.

In other news this week, Gigaom’s Barb Darrow suggests that Amazon is in a serious battle with Google and Microsoft for the cloud computing sector that Amazon Web Services pioneered, and major customers — like Dropbox — may have already started migrating off that platform. This is following Amazon’s earning announcement, where ‘other income’ — mostly income from AWS — decreased from last quarter. Considering that Amazon announced a Dropbox competitor — Zocalo — recently, a Dropbox defection shouldn’t come as a big surprise (see Amazon enters the distributed core market, competing with Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, and a few dozen others). But if deep-pocketed Google and Microsoft want to continue a war of decreasing margins, Amazon might be in trouble.