Elance-oDesk rebrands as Upwork, starts new chapter as the freelance marketplace for the information age
Well-known freelancer marketplace Elance-oDesk unveiled new hiring technology today, and, at the cost of the brand cache it has built since it launched a decade ago, rebranding as Upwork.
The move is based on the belief that the company is poised to be the leader in the freelancer industry starts a new phase of its existence.
Stephane Kasriel, who was named the chief executive of Upwork last month, believes that within six years the company will hit $10 billion in annual revenue, even though it took Elance-oDesk 10 years to reach the $1 billion in annual revenue threshold.
What is leading Kasriel to make such lofty predictions? A major shakeup in the freelance industry as the more and jobs are shifting to the Web. "The entire freelance market is moving online," Kasriel said. "Within a few years we are going to go from having 50,000 freelancers on the online marketplace to 500,000 independent workers online."
For Upwork to continue to be a major player in the freelancer space, Kasriel said that the company needs to change how they've been operating to date. "We need to reinvent ourselves," he said.
To do that, the company just launched a new freelance talent platform that cuts down the possible hiring time for a worker-for-hire, which had taken multiple weeks in the past, down to a few minutes. Built on improved worker-to-company matching algorithms, Upwork's freelancer marketplace puts a premium on improving the speed at which hiring takes place, shrinking the amount of time it takes for projects to be completed in the process. In addition to making it possible to hire a freelancer in as little as three minutes, the company also released a mobile app that allows job applicants to be hired on the go, and added a way for freelancers looking for jobs to make the status of their availability known to potential employers.
Another new feature of the relaunch is a focus on improving the way freelancers and companies collaborate in real-time. With a new Slack-like tool (Kasriel even referred to it as a "Slack killer") that is built specifically for businesses to connect with freelance workers, Upwork hopes to allow companies to more quickly assign work and engage with part-time hires all through a single platform.
Making it easy for freelancers to find work and companies to find help when they need may become vital to the Internet economy as more and more work is being done collaboratively online. One of the biggest problems to arise as the independent workforce has grown has been how to correctly pay and classify for-hire workers. According to Kasriel, part of Upwork's suite of tools for employers makes it easier to navigate the tricky tax and employment laws, which can differ by state as well as country.
"We comply with the laws in every country and every state where we are working, and we help companies figure out how to make sure they are correctly identifying their freelance workers," Kasriel explained.
When I asked whether he was concerned about losing the brand recognition and identification as a decade-long leader in the freelance work space by rebranding, Kasriel said, "When you think about what is best for the business for the next 10 years, we felt that this new name serves us better for what we are trying to achieve as a company."
"We believe that Upwork is a name that both freelancers and companies can rally around," Kasriel added.
It's a big bet, but one that has worked for a some Internet companies — Wayfair rebranding from CSN Stores is one successful example that comes to mind. As more and more workers are finding the benefits of independent and freelance work &mdash working from home, flexible hours, etc. — being the go to source for companies and workers to connect and collaborate may pay off for the former Elance-oDesk.
"The idea behind the new vision is that the workplace of today is designed for the industrial age," Kasriel said. "We are building a platform for the information age in Upwork."