Freelancer tycoon reflects on challenges and success
Your Friday Entrepreneur Fix this week features the man who’s changing the face of the global jobs market – Freelancer.com founder Matt Barrie.
Matt Barrie is the brains behind the Freelancer.com empire, the world’s largest outsourcing marketplace that connects small businesses and entrepreneurs in the western world with freelancers in the developing world – over 3.4 million of them.
Barrie’s been a fixture of the technology world for many years, having founded the successful Sensory Networks Inc. and raised over $US40 million in financing via venture capital, investors and government grants while running or assisting technology companies.
Since launching in January 2009, Freelancer.com has become one of the top 250 websites globally, and Barrie is fast becoming one of the most well decorated entrepreneurs in the country. The 37-year-old Australian has taken home almost every business award worth winning, named BRW Entrepreneur of the Year and Ernst & Young Technology Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011.
Now, Barrie’s reflecting on the challenges he’s faced in building his business and revealing why he refuses to have regrets.
Q. Freelancer.com is enjoying a great deal of success – but looking back, is there anything you’d do differently if you had the chance?
I have no regrets – you live with the choices you make.
I do wish however that I’d learnt from my mistakes a bit quicker! I spent 6 years at my last company beating down doors trying to get customers to buy our product, but the market wasn’t ready and we were selling with the wrong business model. Also I suffered too many years of grief from a couple of miserable venture capitalists, for much longer than I deserved.
Q. What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced while establishing/running the business? And how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge you will ever face, no matter what stage your company is in, has to do with people. Attracting the right talent, incentivising them and retaining them is the biggest challenge you’ll face. This challenge will also change over time.
I can imagine Zuckerberg back in 2005 pulling his hair out when the first person left Facebook. At the beginning of your company’s life you might not have a lot to show for yourself, so you have to attract risk takers. Later in the company’s life, those risk takers will leave when the company gets too large for them, and you’ll have to attract a different type of person.
Q. What kind of impact has winning the Ernst & Young Technology Entrepreneur 2011 award had on the Freelancer business?
It’s great to add credibility, but at the end of the day if you don’t have a good product, you don’t have a business.
Q. If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Just go do it. It’s the most rewarding thing you will ever do. What’s the worst you can do? Start back where you are now but have two fantastic years of experience?
Q. What do you most enjoy about building and running businesses?
You get to change the world and forge your own destiny.
Q. What’s next for Freelancer.com?
We’re working hard to try to become Australia’s first big consumer internet company.