Australian Entrepreneur of The Year And SEEK Founder Wasn't a Good Employee

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Andrew Bassat, CEO and co-founder of SEEK, was never a good employee.

This was part of the reason which drove him to start in 1997 what is now the world’s largest employment site by revenue, profit and market capitalisation.

Bassat has been named EY Australia’s Entrepreneur of the Year for his persistence and determination in starting and building Seek.

“I was a terrible employee,” he says. “I found it much easier to run the company.”

The former lawyer and management consultant says he “always had an inkling that I wanted to build something for myself.”

He started SEEK with little knowledge of the Internet.

His brother Paul was looking for a house. They realised just how inefficient the newspaper classified system was and thought they could improve it.

“We’d just started using the internet ourselves and recognised that, once it became more mainstream, it could provide a better way of doing anything that classifieds used to do, like looking for a house or, in SEEK’s case, finding a job.”

SEEK now has operations in Australia, New Zealand, China, Southeast Asia, Brazil and Mexico, with more than one million job ads and about 275 million visits to its websites a month. SEEK also provides education to 20,000 students annually.

Bassat has straightforward and simple advice for those wanting to be an entrepreneur:

  • You need to have a good idea
  • Perseverance is a requirement. There are no shortcuts
  • Get good people
  • Believe in yourself and to keep going
  • Keep taking risks

“We’ve also had a willingness to continue to back ourselves, to remain entrepreneurial and to keep taking risks which, as a listed company, can get harder in the public environment where anything that even smells like a mistake can cause a lot of trouble,” Bassat says.

Bassat will next year to represent Australia at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year awards in Monte Carlo competing against national winners from over 60 countries.

SEEK’s total shareholder return since it went public is 381 per cent, compared to 83 per cent by the ASX 200. This includes $360 million of fully franked dividends.

Chief judge Michael Smith, of boutique strategy consultancy Black House, said: “With great conviction and a clear-sighted view of the opportunity, Andrew has evolved his model along the way and achieved considerable scale. SEEK is a quality and transportable business which is already operating in other international markets and has the potential to have a significant global impact.”

Five other entrepreneurs also took home trophies from the awards ceremony in Sydney. The 2013 EY Entrepreneur of the Year winners, by category are:

  • Emerging category – Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, BlueChill
  • Industry category – Vanessa Garrard, E3 Style
  • Services category – Kim McNamara, KJM Contractors
  • Social entrepreneur – Professor Stephen MacMahon, The George Institute for Global Health
  • Technology category – Dale Carr, LeadBolt

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