The entrepreneur who has created an 'eBay of services', by linking first world business needs with developing world computer skills, is now attracting interest from UK fund managers.
Matt Barrie, in Edinburgh promoting his 'Freelancer' platform which is now quoted on the Australian stock exchange, said users had jumped more than fourfold to 14m since his first visit to the capital in May 2012.
Mr Barrie started Freelancer when he realised that workers in Vietnam or the Philippines could offer entrepreneurs like himself computer-based services at a fraction of the cost at home. He said the platform offered Scottish businesses the chance to cut their costs - getting a website, app or product designed for a few hundred pounds, a logo sorted for £10 or business cards for £5, helps "create a more level playing-field" for entrepreneurs, he says. Home-based designers meanwhile can move up the value chain.
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"Five billion people live on $10 a day or less," Mr Barrie says. "We help them go to $10 an hour, we are ground zero in helping people connect and go get a job, and one that helps small businesses who have small budgets - they may want a new app but only have hundreds not thousands to spend.
"It is good for small business, good for entrepreneurs, to get things done easily and cheaply. Every white-collar job is being done on software, and for two people to work together on a job in different parts of the world is getting easier all the time."
The fund managers are taking notice, because only 40 per cent of the world's population are on the internet, Mr Barrie says. "For the first time people in developing economies are able to get online, but they have no money to spend, no possessions to sell online, and a lot of them are unbanked. But what they can do is sell their services, work in any field, at any time of day, and set their own pay rates, and in technical fields not available to them in their local economy. That is leading to a global market-place for services. We believe this will be of a similar size and scale to eBay, Alibaba and Amazon."
Freelancer has bought up 13 competitors, and has enabled almost 7m projects so far across 700 categories of work from aerospace engineering to biotechnology, with 10 per cent of its demand from the UK. It has 400 staff, and a London design base which is growing rapidly.
Suppliers are ranked ebay-style for reputation and track record, and the biggest western demand is for website and graphic design. Mr Barrie comments: "If you get your (website) design right, it can make ten times the difference in revenues."