Case | HBS Case Collection | February 2011

oDesk: Changing How the World Works

by Boris Groysberg, David A. Thomas and Jennifer M. Tydlaska


It is 2010, and Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, is contemplating the next steps for his organization. Founded in 2004 in California, oDesk operates an online marketplace which matches Employers with Contractors. oDesk provides fact-based information on Contractors, including experience, skills and certifications, to Employers who use this information as a basis for interviewing and hiring Contractors. oDesk's online marketplace also includes a payment platform and tools which allow Employers to audit and verify Contractors' work and time sheets. oDesk collects commissions, approximately 10% of gross services, on all work which goes through its platform. oDesk has enjoyed robust growth since its inception, and, to date, has focused on a very distinct market segment: small and medium sized employers, Contractors who provide computer programming services, and U.S. based employers hiring overseas Contractors. Swart believes that the time has come for oDesk to expand beyond this niche, but he is concerned about maintaining oDesk's strong reputation and market positioning and, as such, he wants to grow in a very focused manner. Should oDesk expand its customer focus to include large employers? Broaden the services its marketplace offers beyond computer programming? Or, widen its geographic reach? Each of these growth options offers opportunities and entails costs. Swart considers each of these in turn.

Keywords: Recruitment; Leadership; Growth and Development Strategy; Market Platforms; Marketplace Matching; Corporate Strategy; Online Technology; Consulting Industry;


Groysberg, Boris, David A. Thomas, and Jennifer M. Tydlaska. "oDesk: Changing How the World Works." Harvard Business School Case 411-078, February 2011.