Australian freelance services marketplace Freelancer.com today announced that it has acquired Scriptlance, a Toronto-based company fonded in 2001 by René Trescases. The acquisition expands the reach and breadth of Freelancer.com’s outsourcing marketplace, and is also timed to coincide with the Australian company’s launch in Canada. While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Freelancer.com Chief Executive Matt Barrie explained in an interview that his company sees Scriptlance as an early leader in the space, and valuable addition to the team in terms of reputation and experience.
“We’ve been talking to [Scriptlance founder] René [Trescases] for a while, and our marketplaces are highly aligned. Obviously, they’re a fair bit smaller than us, but very similar nature of business,” he said. “I think the timing was right for René. He’s been running the business for 11 years, so this is a site that’s probably one of the earliest ones in the space, and he built it up to where it is today, and it’s had over 600,000 projects so that’s a fair bit of volume.”
Scriptlance has users across 244 different markets, as well, and has resulted in over $43 million in payouts to its freelancer members. Those are big numbers, but they do indeed pale in comparison to Freelancer.com’s figures, which include 2.3 million projects posted and, also announced today, more than four million members worldwide. To put that in perspective, competitor oDesk had around 1.4 million as of last May.
As well as adding to its user base and reach, “the company is based in Toronto and has got a really strong Canadian user base and history,” Barrie explained. “Canada for us is the fifth biggest country overall on our site in terms of employers, so it’s pretty much a key country that we want to have a strong foothold in.” Most of Scriptlance’s team, which spans Canada and India, will be joining Freelancer.com, though founder Trescases will be moving on to pursue other opportunities.
This is the latest in a series of acquisitions Freelancer.com has made, which have been a big part of helping it achieve the market leadership it enjoys today. Barrie thinks that the company has still only just scratched the surface of the opportunity present in the freelance and crowdsourcing market, however, and that there’s plenty more room for additional growth to come.
“It’s early days for the industry,” he said. “The 2007/2008 global financial crisis really put the wind in the sails of the whole industry, because there were a lot of people out of work, partially looking for jobs, but more importantly looking to cut down on their budgets and tighten up. There were all these people sitting at home and they weren’t so much looking for jobs online, but they had all this spare time available to explore extra side projects that they’d been wanting to do for ages.”
Barrie says the industry has been growing exponentially ever since. That growth has also prompted the introduction of services like TaskRabbit and Zaarly, where people can outsource everyday jobs and tasks to motivated freelancers. Freelancer.com isn’t going after the same kind of extremely limited engagement casual services, but long-term these startups could evolve to become the website’s strongest competition, especially because of their strong focus on mobile. But if Freelancer.com continues locking down the market with additional acquisitions, that may not matter.