Michael Bailey Deputy editor

Michael has been a business journalist for 12 years. He has extensive experience editing magazines covering funds management, commercial property and the travel industry. In 2011 he won a Citi Excellence in Financial Journalism award for a BRW cover story on economic indicators.

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Mark Harbottle named BRW Entrepreneur of the Year

Published 28 March 2012 15:00, Updated 29 March 2012 05:19

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Like all entrepreneurs, Mark Harbottle has an eye for opportunities but what sets him apart is his capacity to run not just one business but many.

Although all five finalists in this year’s Entrepreneur of the Year competition have outstanding and successful businesses, Harbottle stands out for the repeatability of his approach.

Click here to see a video of Mark, and get some insight into his approach to business.

Thanks to his bruising experience in the 2000 tech wreck, Harbottle keeps his overheads low and his expansion gradual, rather than windmill-punching for growth.

His best-known business, 99designs.com, is a web-based marketplace for crowd-sourced graphic design but he also runs SitePoint.com, a portal for web developers; Flippa.com, which may be the world’s only auction site for websites; Learnable.com, a vendor of online courses; and Wave Digital, a mobile applications developer.

Having set them up, however, Harbottle knows himself well enough to then leave them alone.

“I do all the experimenting around product concepts, get to know the customers, come up with the brand names, launch the business, hire the initial teams, get things up and running and profitable ... then I promote or hire talent to run them,” he tells BRW.

“From that point, I sit on the board and dive in only when and where I’m needed. My sweet spot is $0 to $5 million in revenue.”

This recognition of his limits sets Harbottle apart in the ego-fuelled world of entrepreneurship and may help explain his attraction to foreign investors such as Accel Partners, an investor in 99designs.com. Accel knows it doesn’t have a control freak on its hands.

To hear directly from Mark Harbottle and learn more about the other 2012 Entrepreneur Of The Year finalists, head to BRW TV and pick up a copy of this week’s BRW magazine.

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