Australia’s household names of tech wealth are Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar. Mr Cannon-Brookes has already exited the Young Rich into middle age, and Mr Farquhar will do so next year.
But they leave behind a whole new cycle of start-ups: unlike established industries, the tech frontier is constantly turning up unfilled niches.
The pair’s respective family offices, Grok Ventures and Skip Capital, have publicly backed 32 new ventures between them, including the three now-billionaire founders of Canva.
That’s not retiring to the beach. It’s not surprising if the baseball-hatted Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar reckon they are too cool for old-school rich lists, and are not fans of them. But they miss the point. It’s not about the trappings of wealth, though they have those trophies too. It’s that their fortunes are an important scorecard of entrepreneurial nous, and now they are begetting more entrepreneurs.
The tech industry was unimpressed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments last month that Australia does not need to become a whole Silicon Valley of tech originals. “We’ve got to be the best at adopting. Taking it on board. Making it work for us,” he said.
But the Young Rich techies weren’t waiting for approval from middle-aged politicians. They have been busy doing it anyway.
Mr Morrison is right that technology needs to be a realm for all businesses. But tech prowess is now important to global standing, and Australia must carve niches for itself.
It’s true that many of the fortunes listed are paper ones, based on phenomenal sales multiples rather than profits, in companies hungry for funding and difficult to analyse.
Yet Australia needs more of them. The generation of tech wealth that the Young Rich has revealed is encouraging. It should not be just surf and sun tans that make Australia like California. It should also be the irreverent risk-taking culture you find in the pages of the Young Rich.