[Episode 11] Leading oDesk to Market Leader

Gary Swart of oDesk and Polaris Partners

Gary Swart joined oDesk in 2005 as CEO and led the company for over 8 years, turning into the market leader in the online work industry. It was the first workplace to reach $1 billion in work, and has over 5 million freelancers and thousands of jobs posted daily. Gary led the company through a merger with #2 player eLance before leaving to join Polaris.

In this Episode he shares with us his path to oDesk and how he was able to grow the company the way he did. In next week’s episode (part 2), we dig more into the topic of focus, iterating quickly, why he thinks being an execepreneur is a good idea – and why Gary’s ok being hit by a pitch.

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This week’s question:

My question for Gary this week? How were you able to lead oDesk to become the number one online workplace in the world?

“I think the job of the CEO is really creating an environment where everyone can do their best work…  Making sure you have clarity of where you’re going and a good vision.. It’s really navigating the trail, removing obstacles, and empowering your team to take that hill…”

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  1. Set the stage for us – how did you become the CEO of oDesk?
  2. What did you grow it to become the world’s largest online workplace with over 5 million freelancers?

Key Takeaway:

  • Know what you value:  For Gary, he knew he cared about impact, growth and development, financial reward and balance.  If he wasn’t getting those things over the long haul, he knew he needed to make a change.   What do you value?
  • Focus: 90% are CEOs are underfocused, and 10% are overfocused, and neither is good. (Gary Swart quoting his friend Reed Hastings).  How do you navigate that fine line of focus?  We start the conversation in this episode and continue it on next week.

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