SydStart rebrand on the cards after Freelancer.com acquisition

Australian technology startup conference and community network SydStart could be looking at a rebrand and a regional expansion following its acquisition by Freelancer.com.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor

Australian online freelancing services marketplace Freelancer.com has acquired local technology startup conference SydStart, and taken on the event's founder Pete Cooper as its new regional director of Australasia to lead media, communications, and business development in Australia and New Zealand.

Freelancer told its shareholders in a statement (PDF) on November 3 that it had acquired for an undisclosed amount the technology startup conference and community, which has been going since 2009, with its annual events growing markedly over that time.

The event and its broader community now include around 5,000 tech startup professionals, investors, and ecosystem participants.

Given that Freelancer CEO Matt Barrie has been heavily involved in SydStart since 2011, the acquisition does not come as a total surprise to Cooper, who said in a blog post published on the SydStart website on November 2 that it had been looking at the possibility of operating under a new model and owner since 2012.

Cooper said that SydStart would be able to share a number of synergies with the Australian Securities Exchange-listed Freelancer following the purchase.

"In the marketplace, there is a synergy, and in financial markets as well," Cooper told ZDNet. "It's basically a continuation of Freelancer's existing commitment. It will allow us to expand nationally and regionally, and see more exposure to the larger market."

In his post, Cooper said that he hopes the move was a good choice, and that he looks forward to it increasing Australia's presence in the regional tech startup community.

"I ... hope it was a good choice, all the signs are very good, but there are few certainties in life. This new model will certainly give us more leverage to help make Sydney and hence Australia a recognised top 10 centre of the global startup ecosystem," he said.

Freelancer has executed several acquisitions over the past 12 months, taking on a number of online marketplace businesses, including Warrior Forum, which it says is the largest internet marketing marketplace and community, along with virtual content marketplace Fantero.com, and Polish pure play marketplace Zlecenia.przez.net.

However, SydStart is unique among its string of acquisitions, in that it is not an online marketplace, even if it does come with a substantial built-in community with which Freelancer may be able to pad its overall user numbers.

Cooper said that not only would SydStart have the opportunity to look further afield in the region with Freelancer's backing, but it may also rebrand in the mid to long term.

"A rebrand is very likely," he said, adding that this would have more to do with identifying itself as operating in regions further afield than Sydney, rather than simply to fall in line with its new owner's brand.

Meanwhile, SydStart's co-working space in Sydney CBD, which was not included in the acquisition, is set to continue to receive some backing from Barrie, along with other existing supporters.

"Other projects from the SydStart parent company will be kept separate from SydStart's new owners to avoid confusion," said Cooper in his post. "Projects like the fledgling and tentatively named http://icentral.co mega co-working space in the CBD will be separated from the future of SydStart, same goes with other projects."

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