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Late night hobbyist turned serial entrepreneur

Many university students can barely focus on getting through their next assignment, let alone start their own business.

For Australian entrepreneur Fred Schebesta, creating a tech start-up out of his university dorm room at the age of 20 came out of nights spent tinkering around on the internet.

“One day I opened an old Yahoo Geocities site and built a site, then showed my friend. Then we went off and starting building websites, spending day and night learning about coding and building. It was addictive, it was more fun than computer games,” Schebesta says.

The hobby turned into a business, Freestyle Media, when a friend of Schebesta’s parents asked him to build him a website and paid him $2,500 for his work.

“That was a lot of money for a uni student! I was so happy, it was so fun to do something with computers and earn some money from it.”

While the business grew steadily, with Schebesta’s current business partner Frank Restuccia coming on board after two years, he says they were frequently struggling to stay afloat.

“I made so many mistakes hiring people in my first business. I didn’t know anything about anything, really, I was just learning on the job. The big mistake is when you just have so much to do that you’ll pretty much hire anyone. Because of that problem sometimes you hire the wrong people, and that’s really expensive. This time around, even if we’re growing, we wait until we hire the right people,” Schebesta says.

Another mistake was lack of focus.

“You need to really laser in on what the business is actually going to do, what its value proposition is. In the first business we were very diversified, we did lots of different things. We didn’t do them all terribly well, but we did do some things really well, and we should have focused on those few things.”

Schebesta and Restuccia sold Freestyle Media for $1.3 million in 2007, and focused on creditcardfinder.com.au. Eventually, this grew in to the financial product comparison service finder.com.au, launched in 2009.

“Because we were so frugal with the first business, the second business, which is all about saving money, came naturally. It’s about comparing products, so it felt natural. It was two frugal guys creating it,” Schebesta says.

While Finder has grown to double its staff over the past two years, Schebesta is still working long hours – not that he sees it as work.

“I don’t see it as work/life balance, work is part of my life. If you’re serious about something, like I am, it’s not work anymore. I don’t go to work, it’s just what I want to do. It’s addictive, I enjoy it, and I have fun. It’s not work for me,” he says – but acknowledges he’s got a very understanding partner.

The hours Schebesta puts in all go towards making Finder the most it can be for users.

“It’s working and it’s helping a lot of people, so our goal is to keep running a great service and make it an even better service.”

Gina Baldassarre

Gina Baldassarre

Gina is a journalist at Dynamic Business. She enjoys learning to ice skate and collecting sappy inspirational quotes.

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