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How collaboration upstart Atlassian and its ecosystem benefit from viral sales

Sep 21, 2015

You can tell a lot about the influence of a software company by the number of startups attempting to tie their own futures to the success of its technology.

The Salesforce-inspired mob scene in San Francisco last week is a vivid example: There were roughly 400 exhibitors in the tradeshow portion of the event, hawking everything from quote-to-cash management systems (Apttus) to enterprise resource planning intimately tied to the Sales Cloud (FinancialForce). Historically speaking, a healthy partner ecosystem has also been one of Microsoft’s (msft) biggest advantages over its competitors.

Expect to hear this refrain sounded more frequently within the increasingly competitive business collaboration software space.

Australian-founded disrupter Atlassian disclosed Monday that the marketplace that distributes roughly 1,800 apps that extend the features of its flagship business software products has reached $100 million in sales over the past three years. That puts this “store” in the same league as the ones backed by Salesforce (crm) (AppExchange) and Amazon (amzn) Web Services (AWS Marketplace), said Atlassian President Jay Simons.

We can’t know for sure, of course, because the other companies don’t share their numbers. “The growth of our marketplace has been totally organic—just like the rest of Atlassian,” Simons said. “We let our products speak for themselves rather than relying on a traditional sales team.”

The most successful business collaboration tools are inherently viral. That is, they become more useful as more people adopt them. Atlassian has reached 48,000 customers, including Citigroup (c), Coca-Cola (ko), eBay (ebay), NASA, and Netflix (nflx) without building out a massive corporate sales organization. (That’s 5,000 more than when I last wrote about the company in April.)

Most of the add-ons in the Atlassian Marketplace are for Confluence, its collaboration platform, or JIRA, a project management framework widely used among software developers. Approximately 40% of the add-ons are “verified,” which lends them more credibility. (There’s no fee for that.) Atlassian takes a 25% cut of sales for handling processes such as marketing and billing.

San Francisco-based developer Gliffy, a 25-person company that sells a diagramming tool that can be used with Confluence, describes the marketplace as great exposure for small companies. “It’s an opportunity for us to get the product demoed within an entire account,” said founder and CEO Chris Kohlhardt.

For more on how technology is redefining workplace collaboration watch this Fortune video:

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