oDesk plans to turn around hiring with Upstarts for startups

Startups often run into the catch-22 problem of being too small to hire someone full time, but not having that perfect hire who can help grow the business. oDesk thinks it has the solution to the problem — hire half a person — and is willing to freely prove its point.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

Outsourcing company oDesk is partnering with three Australian startup accelerators to provide early stage businesses with access to talent.

Matt Cooper
Matt Cooper.
Image: oDesk

Together with Melbourne's AngelCube and Sydney's Pollenizer and Startmate startup communities, oDesk has formed its Upstarts program. Through the program, participating startups will be given oDesk credits that will allow them to hire freelancers and work with online recruiters to find the right people for jobs.

oDesk will also provide participants with mentoring from its executive team, who will share their experience from their time at organisations like eBay, PayPal, Netflix, and Amazon with entrepreneurs.

oDesk vice president of international Matt Cooper compared the model of outsourcing work to that of cloud computing, where organisations can be made more agile by paying for only what they need, when they need it.

"By having a flexible online workforce, you can scale your capacity along with your business. It's particularly important for startups where resources are precious and you don't always have the visibility into where your business is headed. Being able to dial up and dial down is a matter of life and death," he told ZDNet.

The Upstart program is initially only being offered in Australia, with oDesk hoping that the success here will serve as an example to roll out similar initiatives in other parts of the world. In particular, Australia represents one of the company's most popular markets.

"Despite the fact that we're a US-based business, we have actually twice the penetration rate in Australia on a per capita basis than we have in the US."

Until February this year, the company had not visited the nation, and its market growth has been through word of mouth and other organic means.

Startups are not the only focus for oDesk, though. Cooper said that it is increasingly seeing interest from the enterprise sector.

"Right now, the enterprise market's grown about twice as fast as our traditional core customer," Cooper said.

One of the company's challenges now focuses on helping the enterprise get the most out of outsourcing work, as startups do.

"All you hear coming out of big enterprise companies is, 'How can we be more innovative?' We see it in the Bay Area, where they're putting groups of execs in co-working spaces, sitting next to the 25-year-old entrepreneur so that they can become more innovative."

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