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Publicly traded business software company Atlassian is announcing today that it’s acquiring Trello, the startup behind an eponymous task-management app, for a total of $425 million, with $360 million in cash and the rest in stock. The deal is expected to close later this quarter.
In an interview with VentureBeat, Atlassian president Jay Simons said, “We will take good care of it,” by which he meant that Trello chief executive Michael Pryor will stay in charge, the product will keep operating as it has been (for free and paying users), it will continue to be run out of Amazon Web Services (AWS), the team will keep its New York headquarters, and features will continue to be added.
Trello — which lets people set up boards containing lists of customizable cards and move cards from one list to another to reflect the progress of work — fits in neatly between Atlassian’s Confluence app, which people can use to collaborate on documents, and its JIRA apps, which use a more structured system to track the status of issues and projects, Simons said. Atlassian and Trello are focused on changing the way teams work, he explained, and joining together makes sense because it could help both parties more quickly reach a large user base.
In the past year, GitHub, GitLab, and Asana have all added Trello-like functionality. Trello, meanwhile, has racked up more than 19 million registered users. In 2014, it spun out of Fog Creek Software — as did Stack Overflow, raising money from Index Ventures and Spark Capital.
As I explained a couple of years ago, Trello (originally codenamed Trellis) was inspired by the way software teams used Post-It Notes to keep track of projects, but was conceived of as something that anyone could use, for anything, really. The product launched in 2011.
I started using it in 2014 and immediately became addicted. I used it for work, my relationship, family matters, quick to-do lists, side projects…on and on. I introduced it to friends, family members, and acquaintances — anyone who would listen — and was duly rewarded with a free Trello Gold subscription. Why did I promote it so much? Because it was the best and most convenient and reliable tool I’d found for capturing my ideas.
And other people found it useful, too. The graph showing registered users was beginning to look like a hockey stick — a classic sign of startup growth.
Trello was enhancing the product, while still keeping it simple: An enterprise tier arrived in 2015, and a Power-Ups Platform brought new integrations in 2016. In August, Google acknowledged its rise when it enhanced the Inbox by Gmail app with summaries of incoming emails from Trello.
All the while, Trello’s team was growing. It’s now at nearly 100 employees, Simons said.
During the interview, Simons took time to assure me that Atlassian wouldn’t ruin Trello. This is Atlassian’s 18th acquisition in 14 years, he said. Acquired properties like Bitbucket and HipChat are still going strong, and nearly all the founders of companies Atlassian has bought are still working there, Simons said.
Now, Atlassian being Atlassian, it will be adding integrations to Trello — specifically JIRA Software. Confluence and Bitbucket integrations are on the way and will be available through the Atlassian Marketplace, according to a statement.
Perhaps most importantly, Trello won’t be going anywhere.
“It wouldn’t be a great acquisition if we’d intended to kill it,” Simons said. It’s a growth product and a growth business. We’re kind of excited about continuing to grow it.”
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