The stars of Australia’s crowd-sourcing hub
Originally founded in Sweden in 2004 as GetAFreelancer.com, the business was acquired and renamed by Australian company Ignition Networks in May 2009. Chief executive Matt Barrie and his team have since grown it to become what he claims is the largest website run by an Australian company as rated by the Alexa web traffic service.
"We're actually the largest outsourcing site in the world, and we get twice the global traffic of (US-based competitor elance)," says Barrie.
Traffic to the site grew by 40% in April alone. Freelancer.com claims 1.5 million users from 234 counties. Barrie says that 43% of jobs come from the United States, followed by the UK, Canada and Australia, while workers come from markets such as India, southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe. He says Freelancer.com has even been used by people in Antarctica and Vatican.
Average job size is under $200, making it inexpensive for small businesses to use it, and it is open to just about any company.
"You might be a fish and chip shop that want to get a website up where people can place orders, or get some graphic design or a menu done, or the interior of your shop designed," Barrie says. "We are constantly amazed by the sorts of jobs we see posted on the site. If you put up a job saying you need a lion tamer you'll hear from someone who works in a zoo or a circus."
Barrie previously ran the semiconductor company Sensory Networks, which continues today. He had started using the service himself to get some website development work done and was impressed by the number of bids, the quality and the price.
Barrie expects to process US$50 million in project turnover in the next 12 months, with Freelancer.com earning around 10% of the value of the work that it allocates. He says the business is highly profitable and is looking to double its core team of 15 based in Sydney.
It is not surprising that a service that helps generate ideas for others had a somewhat unusual genesis. Motivational speaker and facilitator Yvonne Adele had been keen to reach a wider audience for her innovation workshop program, so in July last year she went for a walk and used her own word association technique to generate ideas. She picked the word 'pillow' as a starting point and came up with the concept of 'ideas while you sleep'.
"What if people could give us their business challenges, and then me and a team of brain-stormers could do the thinking for them and have the ideas waiting for them when they get back to work the next morning?" she says.
She put the idea out to her Twitter followers (2,000 at that time, now 8,500) and had 72 register their interest within an hour.
That concept has grown into Ideas Culture, which now has 442 brain-stormers in eight countries aged between 15 and 82. Clients have used Ideas Culture to get ideas on topics as diverse as selling apartments in Europe to recruiting people to attend farm dog handling courses.
Adele says the concept is growing quickly, and she is in the process of productising it to sell as a corporate innovation platform.
Rebekah Campbell got the idea for Posse while she was managing a tour for the New Zealand band Evermore. Concerts on the east coast had sold well, but ticket sales in Perth were sluggish. Ads in the local newspaper simply weren't reaching Evermore's fans.
So Campbell reached out to the band's fans directly via email to ask if they wanted to be official promoters for the show, and receive $2 for every ticket sold. She says the response was insane, with some fans selling between 30 and 40 tickets.
"There were so many people wanting to be Evermore promoters," Campbell says. "So I thought this was obviously a good idea, and it worked incredibly well. So then one of the other managers said we should create a network across the country."
Posse now has 1,500 events listed across numerous bands and categories, and offers incentives such as backstage passes and merchandise in addition to cash. Still, Campbell says the behaviour of its crowd of fans is often motivated more by love of the bands than by money. One fan has sold more than 450 tickets across multiple events, while another sold 80 tickets for a single show.
Campbell says the company is planning to launch in the US and UK.
What began as a hobby for one of its founders has grown into a multimillion dollar business using the wisdom of crowds to create benefits for users. Stateless Systems runs a clutch of website businesses, including RetailMeNot, the world's largest directory for discounts and deals where bargain hunters can share and discuss online shopping deals, with coupon codes available for 50,000 stores.
Another service, beatmyprice.com, lets users enter the best price they have found for a product online, and have it compared against other users to see if anyone else has found it cheaper.
"The site is powered by the collective users," says cofounder Guy King. "The more people use the service, the better it becomes, because we get more contributions and also more people ranking the content that we have."
More than 14 million people now visit the Melbourne-based company's sites each month, up 100% from a year ago. King founded Stateless Systems three years ago along with Bevan Clark, and the company's revenue is estimated at more than $5 million.
Lead generation has become big business online, with Australian companies including ServiceCentral, ServiceSeeking, Quotify and WhoCanDo all lining up to provide buyers to Australian tradespeople and professionals.
ServiceSeeking was founded by Jeremy Levitt three years ago to help Australians easily find tradespeople, and has grown it to become what he describes as the largest services marketplace in Australia. More than 8,000 jobs are posted each month ranging from building construction and trade to graphic design and development.
Revenue for the business grew by 437% in the past 12 months to an estimated $3 million, and Levitt says the business is cash-flow positive. The company is distributing its service via TrueLocal, and partnering with organisations such as NRMA to sell services to its members.
"The idea is to grow job volume," Levitt says "Then we can create more of a community and offer people more services so they don't need to go anywhere else."
Ever wanted a crowd of people delivered to your doorstep? Spreets can offer just such a service. Founded by web entrepreneur Dean McEvoy (who has also cofounded Booking Angel, Spreets sources discount deals from businesses and offers them to members.
The catch is that the discount only becomes available if a desired number of customers sign up for it, putting the emphasis on keen members to spread the word far and wide.
"The businesses get a bulk number of customers in one day," McEvoy says.
Spreets was built in a month by the Sydney web business factory Pollenizer and launched in February 2010. Within its first six months Spreets was successful in attracting $2 million in investment from one of the early backers of Facebook and Skype.
McEvoy says he was inspired by the US service Groupon, which in April raised US$135 million from the Russian investment firm Digital Sky technologies. Spreets has also signed a distribution deal with Australia's fastest growing private shopping site, brandsExclusive, which cross promotes deals to more than 300,000 members every day.
WhoCanDo has gone through several changes since its formation in 2008 but is settling into providing leads to 28,000 tradespeople in the construction industry. Co-founder Robert Finkeldey says that by focusing on bigger jobs, including recent tasks related to the construction of townhouses and a brewery, he has been able to grow WhoCanDo to become a profitable business. He is now exploring licensing models to extend its reach, partnering with big companies that want to use the entire or parts of the platform.
"We are getting to the point where we have critical mass," Finkelday says. "We set ourselves the target that in 12 months' time we want to have 100,000 users. There are several paths to that, including licensing models. Ultimately it is about having a supplier base that you can keep happy with enough jobs."