Today's Entrepreneur: Gary Swart

Kristin Karaoglu · May 6, 2013 · Short URL:

No.1 mistake: Assuming a product-market fit

Today's Entrepreneur is Gary Swart, CEO, of oDesk. According to his VEQ, Gary is good at sales execution, sales management and team motivation.

Vator’s community is the home to entrepreneurs who embrace their passion and follow their dreams. Our profiles allow members to express themselves by sharing their interests, lessons learned, as well as bits and pieces of their roller-coaster journey.

These profiles give entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase themselves and tell their story. So if you are an entrepreneur, a serial entrepreneur, or even an aspiring entrepreneur, we'd like to hear from you.

I am a(n):

Startups I worked for:
oDesk, Intellibank, Pure Software

If you are an entrepreneur, why?
I want to change the world.

My favorite startups:
oDesk, DropBox, Mint,

What's most frustrating and rewarding about entrepreneurship/innovation?
Rewarding: Seeing the impact you can have on peoples lives.
Frustrating: How long it can take to have an impact.

What's the No. 1 mistake entrepreneurs make?
Assuming a product-market fit. Entrepreneurs often build for themselves, not their customers. It creates an innovator's dilemma, where the passion moves in one direction, while the potential profits move in another. Success comes when an entrepreneur can recognize and balance both the innovative idea and the customer needs to create a product that speaks to both.

What are the top three lessons you've learned as an entrepreneur?
First and foremost, the importance of the team. Not just the best people, but also hiring the right people at the right time for the business. Think of your business lifecycle in terms of jungle-dirt road-highway: You don't want a resource who is great with a machete in the driver's seat when your company is ready to enter the highway at 90 mph.

The second is to focus and prioritize. You can't be all things to all people, and creating a successful company relies on a clarity and a commitment to the acknowledged priorities of the business.

And last, but not least, is to stay customer-focused. Ensure product market fit not just at the onset and concept stages, but throughout the life of the product. Keep a finger on the pulse of your customers' needs, and use that knowledge to inform (but not dictate!) your product decisions.

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Kristin Karaoglu

Woman of many skills: Database System Engineer; SplashX event producer; Author of Startup Teams

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oDesk is now Upwork, the world's largest freelancing website:


Gary Swart

Joined Vator on

Gary has two decades of experience in technology. He was previously the VP of Worldwide Sales for Intellibank and a Business Unit Executive for IBM's Rational Software.