ODesk is on a roll. The eight-year-old company that helps companies recruit and manage workers announced Thursday morning that it's hired board member Thomas Layton to be Executive Chairman. Layton, who's been on oDesk's board, will now take on a more active role in operations.
"I think oDesk has done a fantastic job and executed well," said Layton, in an interview with me. "But they've just scratched the surface... I wasn't looking for a hands-on operating job. But Gary (Swart) wanted help and the board thought it was too good to resist."
Layton brings some executive heft to the oDesk upper ranks as well as experience in marketplaces with his time at OpenTable. In the summer of 2010, he sold his company Metaweb to Google (for an undisclosed amount). Prior to that, he was the CEO of OpenTable from 2001 to 2007, before he handed the reigns to Jeff Jordan, who eventually took OpenTable public. Before OpenTable, Layton co-founded CitySearch, one of the early Internet pioneers.
Layton is one of the many executives that have joined oDesk in the past year. Nilesh Lakhani, who's had experience at publicly-traded companies, was appointed CFO in 2010. This past November, oDesk hired Jeff Jackson, who's managed a team of 1200 engineers at RIM, to be head of engineering and Jaleh Bisharat joined as vice president of marketing.
With that much bench strength, one has to wonder if oDesk is teeing up an IPO.
"We have a huge opportunity and we're executing well," said Gary Swart, CEO of oDesk, in an interview. "For the near term, we're on execution mode. If we do all the right things there will be plenty of opportunity to go forward. And, we think it's a big enough opportunity to be a big public company."
Indeed, it appears oDesk is already proving that there is a big market for companies seeking to supplement their workforce with contractors. What oDesk offers isn't really outsourcing, Layton explained, adding "it's more of an extension of a company."
ODesk, which was founded in 2003 and has raised $29 million in funding, is essentially a marketplace that connects employers with job seekers. It essentially allows companies - about 250,000 companies that are mainly small- to medium-sized - to hire talent for certain projects. Today, about 60% of the 1.5 million contractors on oDesk have technical skills - engineers, Web developers - and 40% are marketing, writing and managerial jobs. ODesk hopes to continue that expansion. The majority of the workers are outside the U.S, in places like the Philippines, India and Bagladesh.
Contractors determine their fees. In the past year, more than $200 million in contracted jobs have gone through the platform, representing the fifth year in a row the company has doubled, said Swart. ODesk took roughly $20 million, or 10%, in commission. Indicative of growth, the numer of assignments that have lasted six months or longer has also increased by 500%.
ODesk also "eats its own cooking," as Swart puts it. The company has 75 employees but roughly 200 EFT (equivalent full-time) employees. "We're roughly three-to-one contractors to employees," said Swart. "if every company did that, that's a massive market."