How Kim Jackson is carving her own path beyond 'Atlassian co-founder's wife'
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How Kim Jackson is carving her own path beyond 'Atlassian co-founder's wife'

In the six short months since starting investment company Skip Capital, Kim Jackson has quickly become one of the most influential investors in the country.

The trained engineer and former investment banker has made significant investments in seven start-ups with a focus on female-led and founded businesses.

Kim Jackson has a focus on female-led start-ups at Skip Capital.

Kim Jackson has a focus on female-led start-ups at Skip Capital.

Photo: Wolter Peeters

It's somewhat incongruous then that her own public relations firm plugs Ms Jackson as the "Atlassian co-founder’s wife".

Sitting in the firm's offices, opposite Sydney's Barangaroo, Ms Jackson has a slightly different take on things.

"I run Skip full time and Scott Farquhar, co-founder of Atlassian, is the co-founder of Skip" is how she prefers to put it. "That’s my day job - it's more than a day job. I’m loving it. Scott obviously has a day job. He gets involved where he can."

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In the past, Ms Jackson has remained in the background, working on her own career and raising the couple's three children, but launching Skip has meant taking on a more public role.

Choosing her words carefully and flushing as she leans in to answer questions, Ms Jackson is a little uncomfortable being the focus of attention.

But she's relishing her role heading multimillion-dollar fund Skip and is particularly delighted that of the seven start-ups Skip has invested in, four are led by women.

"I wasn't going out looking for female founders," Ms Jackson says. "I was looking for phenomenal entrepreneurs who had really deep experience and were solving a real problem with a global outlook and I just found this really incredible pool of female talent."

Ms Jackson says her "unique history" helped her identify these businesses.

From aluminium smelter to Atlassian

Growing up in the Queensland town of Yeppoon, north of Rockhampton, Ms Jackson graduated dux of her school.

"I went to a co-ed school and I studied maths and science because I loved maths and science and right from the beginning there were always more boys in my class than girls and I felt equal, I hardly even noticed it to be honest," she says.

Ms Jackson studied systems engineering at ANU, a course she says was "90 per cent-plus" male, and was president of the engineering society.

"I did a lot of male-dominated things through that period," Ms Jackson says. "I worked every Christmas holidays at the aluminium smelter near Yeppoon. I was on a scholarship with Comalco Engineering and I worked ... on the floor of the smelter wearing my King Gee pants and top, 1000-volt boots and hard hat and respirator. During that period, I got my crane licence and forklift licence and I was the only girl in my crew. I felt very happy there."

I was always either the only or one of two females in a room. I just really want to change that.

Kim Jackson

After graduating, Ms Jackson moved into investment banking - "again 90 per cent-plus male dominated" - at Salomon Smith Barney, which became Citigroup, and Hastings Fund Management, before moving on to board positions, including at Transgrid and Electronet.

Along the way, Ms Jackson met Mr Farquhar "through mutual friends" and married him.

"That's a long way of saying I was always either the only or one of two females in a room," she says. "I just really want to change that."

Ms Jackson is in a unique position to effect that change with software giant Atlassian, the business Mr Farquhar co-founded with Mike Cannon-Brookes, listed on the Nasdaq Composite Index and Mr Farquhar's wealth estimated at $5.1 billion by the Australian Financial Review Rich List.

Kim Jackson (left) of Skip Capital with the founders of the female-led start-ups she has invested in: Katherine McConnell, Gemma Lloyd, Megan Elizabeth and Maryam Sadeghi.

Kim Jackson (left) of Skip Capital with the founders of the female-led start-ups she has invested in: Katherine McConnell, Gemma Lloyd, Megan Elizabeth and Maryam Sadeghi.

Photo: Supplied

Some of that wealth will be invested through Skip, including its four investments in female-led businesses: energy finance start-up Brighte, founded by Katherine McConnell; gender equity recruitment start-up WORK180, founded by Gemma Lloyd and Valeria Ignatieva; skin cancer detection start-up MetaOptima, co-founded by Maryam Sadeghi; and "early stage" craft app Making Things, founded by Megan Elizabeth.

Skip was one of the key investors in Brighte's recent series-B funding round, which raised $18.5 million. For Ms McConnell, having Skip and Ms Jackson on the board has given the energy finance start-up a significant boost.

"Kim was able to understand the complexity of the business," she says.

Ms McConnell says fundraising was tough, particularly the initial seed round where she raised $3.5 million pre-product.

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"I was a sole female founder without a tech background setting up a lending business," she says. "It had never been done before. I am a mum with two young kids and I worked part-time at [investment bank] Macquarie. I think people definitely underestimated my ability to execute and that the depth of experience I had could be a competitive threat."

Ms Jackson isn't surprised and cites a Boston Consulting Group survey that found only 2 per cent of venture capital (VC) funding goes to female-led companies.

"It's a real shame that is happening," she says. "It pains me that 90 per cent of VCs are male. I think that needs to change. Female founders are just as good. I think that the investment community and maybe the world is only just starting to work that out."

Ms Jackson won't divulge the amount of money Skip has to invest but says she is looking to make "significant investments" in the tech space.

"The companies we can add most value to are Australian high-tech companies which can benefit from my background in engineering and Scott's background in computer science and our knowledge and networks and connections," she says.

Husband and wife Scott Farquhar and Kim Jackson.

Husband and wife Scott Farquhar and Kim Jackson.

Photo: Supplied

Ms Jackson says so far, working with her husband is going well.

"It's not like we are working together day to day," she says. "He gets involved in mentoring and he gets involved in particular sectors that are of interest to him.

"We will choose different companies for each of us to lead the investment. We are a really great team and we have separated the roles extremely well."

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