ODesk is, IMHO, one of the most innovative start ups that I've looked at in quite a while. Its business model is a hybrid software + services model, or maybe more accurately a staffing outsourcing company backed up by a very innovative software solution. So what exactly does ODesk do? ODesk is a one stop shopping experience for the hiring and management of offshore technical resources for staff augmentation and other software development needs. Through the SaaS application a customer can search, interview, select, manage, monitor, and pay offshore technical resources. The search / selection process is facilitated by several tools including full profiles, test results that demonstrate skills, work samples, interviewing tools, and most importantly community reviews of each resource. Once a resource is selected and the contracting process completed the ODesk tools again add value by providing a full management and monitoring system. Once a project is assigned the selected resource must log in to ODesk while completing all work (offline work can also be pre-approved and there's caching for poor Internet connections) so that billable time can be captured automatically AND, the key feature here, so that random snap shots of the resource's desktop can be recorded to validate the time and the work in realtime. Once the project is complete (or on agreed milestones), ODesk handles the payroll for each resource, removing the burden of dealing in multiple currencies and the burden of understanding local employment laws and regulations in multiple countries. To summarize the process, ODesk finds the resources, builds online profiles / resume's, maintains a community based rating / evaluation system, facilitates interviewing, handles contracting the resource, provides tools for monitoring and managing the resource and handles all compensation related activities. As the customer you select the right resource(s) based on skills and need, provide the specifications of the desired development effort, monitor the progress using ODesk tools, pay ODesk on agreed milestones in your local currency, and once the project is complete and accepted close out the project.
From the provider perspective ODesk provides an easy way to get access to projects, a way to work effectively with a remote manager and a way to make sure you get paid for what you do. ODesk provides the marketplace, the tools and most importantly the process that builds trust relationships.
So why do I like them?...if you couldn't guess, this is the most complete and elegantly executed staffing solution I have seen. The tools and the process make for a very easy to use experience and add significant value in a various unique ways. There's even a community section on the ODesk web site that provides forums, ODesk statistics, trends developed from the data collected from jobs executed on the site and resources. With close to 117,000 resources and over $45M in services delivered the business is healthy and growing. And if this isn't enough, the product is developed using the ODesk process. ODesk is VC backed and is funded by Benchmark Capital, Globespan Capital Partners, Sigma Partners and DAG Ventures. The seasoned management team is headed by CEO Gary Swart.