Home' Forge : Vol 1 No 1 Contents 26 // INSIGHT
increasingly see technology do parts
or all of their job in coming years.
The so-called ‘share economy’ will
also disrupt labour markets. People
think of Uber as a new taxi service,
but it is fundamentally much more.
What happens when self-driving
cars are released in the next few
years and are plugged into the Uber
system? Think of the effect on courier
companies and logistics firms – and
on car companies, when people
suddenly have one instead of two
cars, or none at all, because driverless
cars are on tap for people when
they need them, via Uber. Think of
how driverless cars will improve
congestion and reduce demand for
labour in the transport industry.
Technology will displace millions of
white-collar and blue-collar workers,
and increase the urgency to retrain
people and help them move up the
value chain. We will need short, online
‘nano’ degrees that help displaced
workers move from one job to the
next, and develop the skills to build a
portfolio of micro-jobs. Working on a
freelance or project basis, rather than
in one full-time job, will become the
norm for many more people.
Forge: Which attributes does a high-
growth SME need to be a genuine
industry disrupter, or ‘insurgent’,
and rapidly take market share from
MB: The start-up must have
something special that is 10 times
better than the competition. It
can’t be 10 per cent or 20 per cent
better. It has to be so far improved
on what is currently available that
you create a new market space, and
make it almost impossible for rivals
to compete. Remember how hard
it is for customers to switch service
providers: think how much time it
takes to change a bank account, for
example. To get that big customer
migration to your product, you
must offer something that is so
compelling that it would be crazy
not to change.
Forge: What are the main challenges
in starting and growing a disrupter,
such as Freelancer?
MB: Human resources. Freelancer
has more than 400 staff members,
most of whom are Gen Y. The
internet as a profession industry
only got going a decade ago, so
you have really bright young
employees who don’t have a lot
of experience in the real world, or
older employees who don’t have as
much experience in the technology.
Finding employees who have real-
world experience and a strong grasp
of technology can be hard.
Keeping them is another challenge.
Freelancer has hundreds of
ambitious, highly talented, in-
demand staff. Sometimes I feel like
I’m running a day-care centre for
intellectually gifted young people!
So, we give our young people way
too much responsibility, and put
them in positions they would never
have in larger companies at their
age. We put management structures
in place, and give them tools to use,
but ultimately let them go, give them
high autonomy and tolerate the
right kinds of mistakes. Inevitably,
our young staff members seize the
opportunities given to them.
Forge: How do you build and
maintain a culture of innovation
MB: It all comes back to a rigorous
hiring policy and being incredibly
enthusiastic about maintaining and
building the culture. Freelancer has a
list of sacred things. For example, as
Freelancer is data-driven, we value
staff always taking the initiative,
moving quickly, always doing the
best they can, and changing lives.
But it is meaningless if you don’t hire
the right people in the first place, or
if you don’t quickly fire those who
do not fit the culture.
Forge: Freelancer has acquired many
other businesses to accelerate its
global growth. What is the secret to
making rapid-fire acquisitions and
integrating them successfully?
MB: We have focused on a certain
type of acquisition: buying businesses
and merging their sites and user bases
into our site. That strategy has been
very effective, but we have already
bought 13 businesses, so we are
running out of things to acquire.
Our focus is increasingly on
organic growth: building a bigger
presence in the United States,
United Kingdom and Europe,
and expanding in Asia and Latin
America – markets that have very
large bases of freelancers.
Forge: What are the main obstacles
for entrepreneurs in Australia?
MB: Fundamentally, Australia needs
to terraform its economy. We can’t just
fEEl likE i’M
running a day-
carE cEntrE for
WE givE our
Way too Much
and put thEM in
havE in largEr
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