A few days ago I wrote an article on the acquisition of Escrow.com by Freelancer.com. This morning, I had an opportunity to speak with both Brandon Abbey from Escrow.com and Matt Barrie, the CEO of Freelancer.com about the why the deal was good for both companies.
Although he is an Australian, Matt completed his Masters in Electrical Engineering at Stanford 1998. It was during this time that he found himself immersed in the burgeoning technology boom. Matt said, “I remember using Google because it happened to be on one of the universities servers and it seemed pretty cool at the time.”
His Stanford background helped provide him with a unique insight into what makes tech companies really flourish. “It’s all about providing a superior customer result,” he said.
For the last 11 years Freelancer has been acquiring companies (over 19 to date) within the crowdsourcing and freelancing marketplace. Since listing on the Australian stock exchange at the end of 2013 Freelancer.com now has a market cap of more than $460 million.
So after consolidating the freelance industry why acquire Escrow.com? Matt indicated that when you look at all of the major online companies such as Alibaba, Amazon etc. each of them have a payment solution.
Matt said, “When we looked for a payment solution, Escrow.com stood out as it had already solved many of the problems in the payment space. Freelancer’s scale combined with the Escrow.com team’s expertise in payments seemed like a natural fit.”
It’s clear that the scale that Freelancer brings will drive the Escrow.com revenue line dramatically. From the published figures Escrow.com is a low margin, high volume business that will benefit greatly from this acquisition.
Brandon said, “What the Escrow.com team is really excited about is having access to the significant amount of resources and knowledge Freelancer brings with them. Not only from a product enhancement opportunity, but the marketing expertise they have is truly impressive. This transaction is good for all involved – our customers, our employees, our former owner and Freelancer, everybody wins.”
Matt reiterated that Freelancer highly values the expertise developed by the Escrow.com staff and plans on retaining them moving forward. He said, “It’s great to be working with such a close knit team at Escrow.com that has retained exceptional talent over the years.”
Many people have commented on the $7.5m price paid by Freelancer, suggesting that it was way too cheap. I would have to disagree. At multiple of 6.25 seems a reasonable amount to pay for the business. If you look at the numbers, to take the business to the next level Escrow.com needed to breakout with massive scale.
This would require a large injection of capital as well as changing the core culture of the business to one that is highly sales focused. To balance the existing fanaticism for detail that is required for conducting an escrow business with the exuberance of many sales people would be a herculean task.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the sole Escrow.com shareholder weighed these challenges up and contributed to the reason why he took the money. In addition, when you’ve been working at a business for many years sometimes it’s better for the business that someone else takes it to the next level. It often takes a very special person to look in the mirror and admit this.
When I questioned both Brandon and Matt about the amount paid, what was clear from the conversation was that both the operational sides of the two companies were exceptionally pleased with the outcome. Escrow.com was clearly not a financially stressed business and this positive attitude bodes well for both Freelancer.com and Escrow.com moving forward.
Brandon also said, “Escrow.com is highly committed to the domain community and looks forward to expanding additional financial services for domain investors into the future.” This will be welcome news to all those domainers out there that may be wondering about the impact the acquisition could have on their own businesses.
Over the years I’ve looked at a lot of businesses that have been purchased and not many of the acquisitions actually make any sense. They are more based in ego rather than facts. I personally believe that the Freelancer.com purchase of Escrow.com is actually a match made more in heaven than hell and makes perfect sense at so many levels. So much so, that I find myself wondering why some other business hasn’t snapped Escrow.com up already!
Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.
Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.