Freelancer.com chief executive and founder Matt Barrie has turned down numerous acquisition offers worth hundreds of millions of dollars and instead opted to list his company on the Australian stock exchange.
"It's way too early for me to put my feet up and sit by the beach," Mr Barrie, 40, said from his Sydney office.
As foreshadowed by Fairfax Media last week, the CEO has decided to turn down one of the largest acquisition offers the company has received to date – $US400 million ($430 million) by Japanese recruitment site Recruit Co. – and instead list on the local stock exchange by the end of the year.
Speaking with Fairfax Media on Wednesday, Barrie said the decision was made "after careful consideration".
KTM Capital will be the brokers and underwriters for the initial public offering (IPO).
The announcement of Freelancer's intention to list came on day one of Australia's first technology start-up festival, Startup Spring, which will see more than 100 events and activities held around Australia to celebrate and promote the local start-up community.
The Freelancer listing is likely to create a number of new Australian millionaires, with Mr Barrie telling Fairfax Media he will open up an employee share scheme. It will also make rich early investors in his company, including Australian technology entrepreneur Simon Clausen, who now lives in Switzerland and founded PC Tools, which was sold to Symantec for $US262 million.
It is understood Mr Barrie is eyeing a valuation close to $1 billion on the ASX, although he wouldn't comment on this due to there being a blackout period before and after filing a prospectus for an IPO. Such a prospectus had yet to be filed, he said.
"I think it's the right time for the company to go out there and raise some money," Mr Barrie said. "It's the right time to go out there and put the foot on the pedal to go out there and landgrab."
Barrie said he wanted the ASX listing to pave the way for other technology companies "in whatever stage of their life cycle" to come to the ASX as a place to raise funds rather than all go overseas, "which is a traditional Australian venture capital model that I think is somewhat broken".
He decided to list on the Australian stock exchange because it was "a national imperative" to build the technology industry locally, he said, and because more money had been raised by companies on the ASX than on the Nasdaq.
"We need to build the sector here and build some companies up and really build the industry up," he said. "To a certain extent I'm putting my money where my mouth is and doing this."
Freelancer claims to be the world's largest outsourcing marketplace, allowing users to post projects online, which freelancers then bid to carry out. More than 9 million users have signed up with more than 4 million projects posted since the firm launched in 2009, its website says. It takes a cut on all jobs listed.
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