Scale Your Startup Smarter: A Fireside Chat with oDesk CEO Gary Swart


We had such an awesome Friday afternoon at Start-Up Chile, we can´t just go on without sharing. Gary Swart, oDesk´s CEO, made himself available to talk to us and help us start the weekend inspired and well-directed. Gary´s company, oDesk, is the world´s largest online workplace, and Gary talked to us about the challenges of managing global, flexible teams. He shared tips on hiring teams to scale our startup smarter.

First of all, it needs to be pointed out how great Gary was. He really made himself available to answer all sorts of questions, in detail, always encouraging people to keep the questions coming and not worry about the clock ticking. First lesson learned: you don´t need to be an as* to be successful. Its always great to see folks embodying that. He sweats experience and inspiration.

Trying to summarize what he shared, here are the main points.

Tips to scale your business in the smart way:

1.- People
You need the right people to join you, and “right” will depend on the stage that your startup is at. In early stages, building a startup feels like being in a jungle: you need to be able to find people that can work hard to get out of that jungle and get your startup to the highway. Once in the highway, you´ll need diferent people.
Most important things you need to look for when hiring?
  • Personal/Personality Characteristics: “Why are you going to train a chicken to climb a tree, when there is plenty of squirrels!”
  • Motivation: you don´t need people who wants to go home at 4pm every day. There are other companies where they can do that.
  • Post really good job description, be precise. Post questions they need to answer before the interview.
2.-  Product Market fit and Focus
  • To validate the market early is extremely important because you need to go in the right direction from the beginning
  • Focus! Customers want specific diferent things. If you try to please all of them you risk end up creating a really complicated product. You need to focus, otherwaise you are going to build products for the wrong markets
  • Customer Experience is key. It is one of the reasons why people will recomend you
3.- Customer Acquistion
You have to have all of this
1.- SEO
2.- SEM
3.- Blogs
4.- Friends, this is by far the most important one, for two reasons. First, because it costs you 0. Second, because people is starting to see the real value behind your product if they see all your friends backing you up.
4.- For Ecommerce sites? Liquidity is super important. Your product needs to create the match between the chicken and the egg 😉 Are you capable?