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Billionaire Technology Newcomers Who Made Forbes 400 in 2018



Forbes produced last week its latest Forbes 400 rich list. Individuals needed a record $2.1 billion net worth to make the list. The average wealth of the 400 U.S billionaires is also at its highest ever, reaching $7.2 billion.

15 Americans made the list for the very first time, most of them are self-made billionaires earning fortunes in e-commerce, transport and of course, technology.

Drew Houston – Dropbox

Houston enters the list in 302nd place with a net worth of around $2.1 billion as of today. He founded file sharing service Dropbox in 2007 at the age of 24 with his Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) classmate Arash Ferdowsi.

Houston owns 25% of Dropbox, which was publicly listed this year in March. Dropbox shares gained 35% in value on their first day of trading, entering the market at a value of $28.48 according to Nasdaq, with a value of $24.07 today.

Houston is 35 and also holds 1999th place in Forbes three comma club, it’s global billionaires 2018 list. He’s quoted as having said of success:

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.”

Ben Chestnut – Mailchimp

Ben Chestnut / By Mike Schinkel

Chestnut founded popular email marketing platform Mailchimp in 2001 with Dan Kurzius, it wasn’t until 2007 that Mailchimp gained enough customers for the team to commit to the project full time. The pair own 50% of Mailchimp each, a company set to turn over $600 million in 2018. Chestnut is 44 and business partner Kurzius is 46, also making the Forbes 400 list in 383rd.

Chestnut is quoted by Forbes as saying:

“I want people to see that the past 17 years were just a warm-up.”

Chris Larsen – Cryptocurrency

As the first cryptocurrency “tycoon” Ripple co-founder Larsen joins the Forbes 400 with a net worth of $2.1 billion sharing 283rd place. Had the cryptocurrency markets and the Ripple token, XRP, not declined in value Larsen would have been worth much more. Forbes estimated his worth in January 2018, at $37.3 billion.

Larsen’s wealth stems from an ownership of an estimated 5.19 billion XRP tokens as well shares in the blockchain payments platform Ripple itself.

Before getting into cryptocurrency Larsen co-founded e-Loan in 1997 and a peer-to-peer lender Prosper in 2005. The self-made billionaire is 58.

Thai Lee – SHI International

One of three women to make the list this year, Lee, now 59 was born in Bangkok and grew up in South Korea before moving to the U.S. She is CEO of IT company SHI International which boasts over 17,000 customers. Lee is worth $2.3 billion, having bought SHI for less than a million in 1989.

SHI sales for 2017 were $8.5 billion. The company won a cloud solutions master agreement to offer software and IT infrastructure services to almost all U.S state and local public sector organizations. The enterprise technology giant also supplies the Defense Logistics Agency and NASA.

Forbes has previously named SHI International as the largest female-owned business in the U.S. Supportive of her employees Lee is quoted as saying:

“A dollar amount could never accurately convey the respect and admiration I have for the employees of SHI.”

Steve Conine – Online Retailer Wayfair

Conine, 46, made the Forbes 400 list at 368th. He founded online home goods retailer Wayfair with business partner Niraj Shah in 2002. Shah also made the list sharing 368th position and equivalent wealth of $2.2 billion. Wayfair, listing more than 10 million products online, saw sales rise 40% in 2017, reaching sales of $4.7 billion.

Wayfair is a consolidation of 250 websites different websites created by Conine and Shar from 2000 onwards after they spotted a niche for retailing furniture and other home items online.

When he’s not working Conine is a competitive mountain biker who competes in global bike races.

There were already many technology entrepreneurs on the Forbes 400 list, who carried over their success into 2018. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos removed Microsoft’s Bill Gates’ 24-year hold over the number one spot on the list with a massive net worth of $160 billion. Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin hold positions six and nine respectively. WhatsApp’s Jan Koum is 47th on the list and Snapchat entrepreneur Evan Spiegel is still the youngest billionaire on the list at age 28 with a net worth of $2.3 billion.

Featured image of Drew Houston from Wikipedia.

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Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes Buys Australia’s Most Expensive Home



Mike Cannon Brookes

Despite all the worry over Australian home prices, it didn’t take Mike Cannon-Brookes long to spend a pile on the Fairwater estate in Sydney’s Point Piper. The home was recently vacated by Mary Fairfax, who died a little over a year ago. The home has been in the Fairfax family for more than 100 years, and now it looks like Mike Cannon-Brookes will be raising his family in the 11,000+ square-meter property.

The actual sales price for Fairwater hasn’t been disclosed, but it is thought to have sold for more than $100 million USD. That would make it the highest price paid for a home in Australia by a wide margin.

The previous record was set when the house next door to Fairwater sold to the other Atlassian co-founder, Scott Farquhar, last year. Mr. Farquhar paid $71 million USD for the property, called “Elaine,” which had also been the property of the Fairfax family.

Unlike Elaine, Fairwater has sat unoccupied for the last 25 years or so and was seldom used by Lady Fairfax. Despite the remodeling that is sure to begin soon, Mike Cannon-Brookes is happy to have made the purchase. In a statement, he said that:

“We are delighted with the purchase of Fairwater for our young family and look forward to continuing the legacy of this beautiful Sydney home… We love the idea of raising our four young children in this historic property.”


Fairwater, image by Wikipedia

Big Money in Sydney

Atlassian has been a massive success for Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar. The pair met while attending the University of New South Wales. In 2002 they used $10,000 in credit card debt to found Atlassian. The company has grown into a global presence, and in 2017 Atlassian created revenues in excess of $600 million USD.

Their most popular product is Jira, which was introduced in 2002. Jira started life as a bug tracking software that is still used by software developers all over the world. According to Atlassian, more than 75,000 companies in 122 countries use Jira. It has evolved into a project management tool that has expanded beyond software development.

Given the taste in real estate the founders have, Atlassian will have to keep doing well. The property taxes on a $100 million dollar property have to be eye-watering. The two co-founders have made off like bandits in the wake of Atlassian’s IPO in late 2015.

Like many companies in the tech space, equity investors can’t seem to get enough of Atlassian shares. Even after the shares fell sharply earlier this week on a revenue disappointment, they are still up by more than 100% over the last 12 months at the time of writing. They saw their adjusted quarterly earnings rise by more than 50% YOY, which may help to justify their current valuation.

Investors Love Atlassian

Last year Atlassian lost around 50 cents a share, which makes paying nearly 20 billion dollars for their platform a little rough. Despite the increasing competition from other project management platforms, most notably Slack, there are many in the investment world that see Mike Cannon-Brookes’ company as a herald of things to come.

Atlassian stock 6 months

Atlassian stock 6 month period

Tim Garratt is a partner at Bailie Gifford, a Scottish fund that owns hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Atlassian’s equity. He told the Sydney Morning Herald that:

“Mike Cannon-Brookes has a focus on the next coming decades rather than the next quarter or two. He’s prepared to invest for the long term and we are strongly supportive of that approach… We see the long-term potential for Atlassian to service a hundred million users across the world […]So it is still early days for this exciting business and we’re looking forward to seeing how it develops over the next decade and beyond.”

Despite the optimism that Mike Cannon-Brookes has generated from investors who are already riding high on triple digits yearly gains, his company has something of a spotty record when it comes to gender issues.

A few years ago, one of Atlassian’s employees decided to compare a new piece of software to a complaining girlfriend, which did nothing to sure up the image of an industry that is constantly being accused of a latent gender bias. While Mike Cannon-Brookes scolded the employee after the presentation went viral, he actually gave the offending presentation himself at a conference!

The gaffe clearly hasn’t dented investor confidence in the company, and Atlassian remains one of the biggest software development tools out there today. If Mike Cannon-Brookes’ luck holds up, he may be able to hold on to his brand new house on the water in Sydney.

Featured image by TEDx Sydney

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