Matt Barrie – Entrepreneur, Chief Executive of Freelancer.com, Technologist & Lecturer

Matt Barrie is an award winning entrepreneur, technologist and lecturer. He is Chief Executive of Freelancer.com, the world’s largest outsourcing marketplace connecting over 3.0 million professionals from around the globe, and in the top 250 websites globally. To date, over 1.3 million projects have been outsourced through Freelancer.com. 

The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences awarded Freelancer.com the “Internet’s highest honour” in the 15th Annual Webby Awards as best Employment Site of the Year, as well as the Webby People’s Choice Award for the same category – from a field of 10,000 entrants from 60 countries.

Matt is serial entrepreneur, previously as founder and CEO of Sensory Networks Inc., a vendor of high performance network security processors. Prior to this he founded a telecommunications hardware company. Matt has raised over $40M USD in financing from venture capital, strategic investors and through government grants while running or assisting technology companies.

For the last ten years has been an external lecturer at the Department of Electrical and Information Engineering at the University of Sydney, teaching Network Security, and starting in 2010, Technology Venture Creation. He is the co-author of over 20 US patent applications. 

Matt is a prolific speaker and has spoken at or featured in the Summit Series, the New York Times, Bloomberg TV, The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, The Atlantic, Switzer, BRW and The Economist.

In 2006, he was awarded the State Pearcey Award for contribution to the IT&T industry. In 2010 he was named Alumnus of the Year for the Faculty of Engineering and IT at the University of Sydney. In 2011, Smart Company named him in the 10 most influential Australians in IT. In 2011 he was named inaugural BRW Entrepreneur of the Year, by Australia’s most prestigious business publication. He is also a national finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Describe yourself in 3 words: Technical. Analytical. Fast. 

What is your life motto? Just do it. 

When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I’ve always been entrepreneurial since I was young, just didn’t know that it was a valid career path! I think it depends on your definition of success, I think we’ve got a long way to go still. 

How much time and effort did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? If it’s your dream, you live it 24x7x365.

What are the challenges in your line of work? There’s lots. One that will always exist no matter where in the life cycle you are in your company is to find great talent, motivate them and retain them.

What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? Every mistake teaches you something. Anyone can hold the rudder when the sea is calm but when the shit hits the fan, that’s when you really learn.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? 

“If anyone asks you if you can drive a forklift, just say yes. It’s a bloody forklift, how hard can it be?” 

“If you don’t listen to your board, you may or may not get fired. If you do, you will definitely get fired at some point”. 

In your mind, is formal training essential? Yes. If you want to be great in technology- go to university and get an engineering degree. We never hire candidates who don’t have a university education. We’ve done that before and there are too many holes in their knowledge. When you’re self taught, you study the subjects you like and don’t look at the ones that are boring. The boring ones are often the most important! 

Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? I was lucky and had some great mentors in my last company. It’s important for you when you’re starting out as they can teach you from their mistakes! That might save you a fair bit of time.

What are some steps those starting out can take to start/further their career? Don’t ask for permission. It’s easier to beg for forgiveness later.

What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? The only way is up!

Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? Luck plays a part in everyone’s career. Timing is also very important. I’d rather be late to market than early to market. If you’re early, you might have to boil the ocean to get everyone educated about your product. If you’re late, you can learn from other’s mistakes. Google was the last search engine to market. When Facebook hit town, they said social networking was over!

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