IDCEE 2013: Building Startup Teams - Mollie Carter (Director of Freelancer Marketing @ oDesk)


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As Director of Freelancer Marketing, Mollie Carter brings to oDesk extensive marketing experience in the Internet and software industry.
As an early member of the oDesk team, she led the Product Marketing group, helping oDesk reach $1 billion in cumulative online work. Prior to oDesk, as Director at PayPal, Mollie led the Merchant Acquisition Marketing and Consumer Engagement Marketing divisions, developing and executing customer strategies to help grow payment volume to more than $30B at PayPal's Merchant Services business. Mollie holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, an MA in Sociology from Stanford, and a BA in Economics from Stanford.

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  • oDesk is the world’s largest online workplace as determined by the metric that counts--- how much clients are spending to pay contractors on the platform, which is Gross ServicesoDesk is bigger than all its competitors combines and almost twice the size of its second largest competitorBiggest in terms of jobs posted, # of contractors, and most importantly– gross services
  • Ukraine #4 total, #2 in IT/tech earningsRussia is #6 in total earnings, and #3 in IT/technology earnings(India #1 IT/tech)Add up all earnings in 2012 of CEE / CIS– over $70M
  • Strong, steady growth1.2M hours = $25M earned (UKH?)
  • One of the main reasons people want to work on oDesk is they can earn what they’re worth in a global market, not limited to what local employers can pay; UKH?>$21 in Russia
  • We’ve seen strong growth from both clients in ukraine hiring, and contractors getting work. Ukraine is our fastest growing country when we look at growth over the last 2 years; 22K hours were billed by clients in ’12 = GS$?
  • From outside KyivIgor’s IT business didn’t survive the recent economic slump. After his business collapsed, and he couldn’t find local jobs in his area of expertise, his friend recommended he sign up on oDesk.Outcome: Now a full-time freelancer on oDesk, Igor works with clients across the globe on engaging projects that allow him to learn new skills, like how to use different plug-ins for Microsoft Office. He says his clients on oDesk not only pay him fairly for his expertise, but also go the extra mile to make him feel like an integral part of the team. What’s great about online freelancing and oDesk – you become a vital part of the team
  • Startups don’t have much - money, customers, product, resourcesYou have 2 thingsAn ideaPeopleMost ideas suckVery few successful startups end up building the business they set out to buildYou will pivot in some way - small or large - at least several timesWhat makes a startup work is the peopleTo prepare for this topic, I interviewed our exec team to get a broad range of perspectivesIntroduce our exec team quickly - establish their credibilityNot surprisingly, there were both some very unique insights and some common themes
  • I’m very proud to be part of the team we’ve built, and I’m part of a team that has built some of the best teams out there:Thomas, Exec Chair – cofounder of CitySearch and former CEO of OpenTable and Metaweb (acqu by Google)Gary , CEO – VP Sales at Intellibank, and led SMB sales for Rational, which was acquired by Our VP of Marketing was their VP MarketingOur VPs of Product and Operations came from PayPal and ZongOur CFO is on the board of Kayak and was previously on the board of Netflix and ExpediaThis team has been around the block – they know what great teams look like and they’ve done it themselves at some of the best run companies in the world.I’ve taken their contributions and distilled them into 8 things to think about as you build your startup team.To prepare for this topic, I interviewed our exec team to get a broad range of perspectivesIntroduce our exec team quickly - establish their credibilityNot surprisingly, there were both some very unique insights and some common themes
  • Let’s start with finding a cofounder. The first question is do you even need a cofounder? Let’s listen to what one of oDesk’s co-founders has to say.[play quote]Starting a company, as many of you know, is hard. Having someone to share the experience and burdens with makes a big difference. And as Stratis said, you don’t know everything. In talking through this with our team, 3 themes emerged as to what makes a great cofounder
  • A very strong personal relationshipMost founding partners are friends, or have worked together beforeThey have a history of working together in some wayThey know how to negotiate with each otherOdysseas and Stratis knew each other for decades; they were friends growing up and roommates in collegeMark Zuckerberg and Sherly Sandberg did not have a long history together, but they manufactured itThey spent a lot of time together to make sure they had chemistryThings are going to be tough. You will have a lot of doubt and questions. There’s a lot of friction. If you don’t have a great relationship to fall back on, the hard times are going to be really hard.I’ve experienced this myself. I was one of the early execs at a company, and the founder and I didn’t have a strong personal relationship. It was good, but it wasn’t great – in 5.5 years of working together, I never once went to his house and he only came to mine once. When things were good, we were fine. When the company struggled, our relationship fell apart and we were both miserable.Stratis: “We just thought it was fun to work together on something”
  • Complementary skillsIt allows you to draw lines in responsibilitiesStratis was the engineering lead -- when they debated technical issues, Odysseas deferred to himOdysseas was the business lead -- when they had strategic debates, Stratis deferred to OdysseasIt created a check and balance -- both parties were part of the decision, but there was a mechanism in place to make a decision and move forward when they were at oddsIt allows you to fill in weaknesses and balance stylesYou can’t have 2 introverts coding all day longIn a lot of companies, you see founding pairs that are VERY differentSteve Jobs and Steve Wozniak; Jobs had the big idea to sell a fully assembled printed circuit board, but Wozniak made it happen technically
  • A passion for solving the problem at handYou have to be all inYou are going to spend your first few years (maybe longer) having people tell you your idea sucks, it will never work, you’ll never raise capital, nobody will buy it, etcIf both of you aren’t passionate about solving the problem, it’s going to be really hardYou have to both a) be an eternal optimist, and b) be ruthlessly critical of your own performance
  • Starting a company is like getting married and having a kidYou need a base to build onIf you don’t get along that well when you’re dating - DON’T GET MARRIED; you should be having more fun than you’ve ever had with anyone everIf you don’t have an awesome marriage that’s a lot of fun - DON’T HAVE A BABY! IT DOESN’T GET EASIER!You may be lucky and sell your company to FB for $1Bn in 12 mos, but more likely you’re in this for 5-10 yearsIn hard times -- and you will have them -- you will need your relationship, your complementary skills and your shared passions to fall back on
  • I’ll wrap up the cofounder topic with this quote from our other co-founder, OdysseasTsatalos.[read quote]
  • [play video if there is one]This piece of guidance came from JalehBisharat, our VP of Marketing. She was the VP of Marketing at Amazon, reporting directly to Jeff Bezos. Within oDesk, she channels much of Jeff Bezos’ focus on the customer. Customer-focused employees get to the heart of the issue. They find the value that matters to the customer, rather than guessing at what they think the customer wants.The term “utility player” is a phrase from American baseball. A utility player is one that can play any position – 3rd base, shortstop, first base. In in the early days, you absolutely must hire people that can do lots of different things – you can’t afford the luxury of hiring specialists that don’t want to work outside their comfort zone.
  • One of the most important things you can do as you start to grow your company is build a functional org chart.Notice there are no names – it’s all about what work needs to be done. In the early days, one person may be doing all of this – any specific function isn’t enough to be a full-time job. But as you grow, each box becomes a full time role, or a team of people. Once you understand the work that needs to be done, you can start to think of who best to do that work.
  • And as you think about this functional org chart, it highlights how your hiring will change. We use the Jungle-DirtRoad-Highway analogy a lot. The skills it takes to survive in the jungle are very different than driving fast on the highway.In the early days, you need the front-end developer with some design sense who can also manage your SEM campaigns – you need utility playersAs you grow, you hire a) a front-end developer, b) a designer, and c) an SEM managerYou should start identifying (or bringing in) experienced managers -- who can lead teams?
  • So you’ve build your initial team, but now you have traction and it’s time to start scaling the company. Let’s hear from our CFO, Greg Stanger, on how Netflix built its team.[quote from Greg about Netflix - “One of the best managed companies I’ve seen is Netflix. Reed Hastings has scaled his team on the idea of ‘talent density’ -- very talented people with a lot of communication and as little restrictive process as possible. Everyone is aligned, but not restricted.”]
  • Great people have a lot of opportunities, with companies big and smallWhat do you sell? How do you get them on board?What you sell and how you sell it can be both a) an attractor, and b) a filter
  • IMPACTThat’s your #1 sales pitch against a big, better funded companyI can’t give you the compensation, benefits, perks or job security of GoogleWhat I can give you is a guarantee that what you do every day will make a difference on our businessThere’s 5 of us -- your effort will be 20% of our total output
  • EXPOSUREWe are a startup - there is nowhere to hide, and nobody else to give the work toIf it needs to be done, one of us will do itDon’t know anything about finance, sales, marketing, operations? You will shortly
  • OPPORTUNITY [stephane]A company like PayPal is going to do $6Bn this yearThey need to grow $2bn every yearBig companies aren’t slow because they are dumb, they have no choice -- it’s the law of large numbersThere is a ton of opportunity to create businesses that aren’t big enough (for now) for the big players to pursue; even if they had the idea, they can’t afford to chase $50mm opportunities
  • In the early days, you can build your company from people you know. But as you grow, you have to expand your pool.Thomas Layton, our exec chair, says you shouldn’t even bring a candidate into the office until you have a few back channel references, references not from the candidate. You can use the references they give you to find references they didn’t:“Who else worked with Bob that I should talk with? “The magic question for back-channel references:“Is Bob the best person you’ve worked with in this capacity?”If not: “Who is the best person, and why is he/she better?”
  • So now that you’re building and expanding your team, how do you keep them around?Let’s hear from our CEO, Gary Swart, on the 4 pillars of retaining great employees.
  • Impact can come in different forms:The impact of their job on the company’s performanceThe impact of the company on the worldThe key is that each employee wants to know that their job matters, and that the company and the world is a better place because of the job they do every day
  • Great people want to get better. A players don’t want to stagnate. One of the most common reasons that big (and great) companies like Google and Facebook lose employees is because they don’t feel like they are growing.We owe it to each of our employees to help them learn, develop and grow. Find new challenges, give them new problems to solve. How is what they are doing today going to help them get to where they want to be tomorrow?
  • Nobody wants to talk about compensation, but let’s face it – you can’t pay the rent with impact or development. One thing to keep in mind is that compensation comes in many forms:SalaryBonusEquityHealthcare (in some countries)Perks such as mealsFlexibilityVacation timeYou have to think of the whole package. As you know the American healthcare system is a bit of a disaster, and very expensive. I once had an offer from a small investment bank that paid for EVERY SINGLE PENNY of their employer’s healthcare. Now most companies pay for most of the cost, but the fact that they paid for all of it was a) a great form of compensation, and b) sent a really positive message about how they treat their employees. They wanted me to know that they wanted to be certain I would never have to worry about my family’s healthcare.
  • We never stop working these days. When I’m at my kids soccer game, I’m checking my email. When I’m on vacation, I’m catching up on my business reading. When I’m surfing, I’m sitting there thinking about work. It’s really hard to find balance, but balance makes you better. Balance isn’t just about taking time off or not working late hours so you can spend time with friends or family. Balance is also about having fun as a team – getting out of the office, having lunch together, getting the team together outside of work. You build a great company culture through shared experiences – you have to find ways to create shared experiences within your team.
  • Every person in the company should have clearly defined objectives. Objectives do several things for you:They constantly reinforce the impact that person has on the companyThey should include developmental goals – areas of weakness or opportunity, where the person can show clear growth and development3) Clear objectives make it clear who is performing and who is notAnother great insight from our CFO about firing people – you don’t fire people because they are inadequate – fire them because they are not EXCEPTIONAL. A players only want to work with A players
  • Your team is much broader than your direct employees: Board,Advisors, Friends & family, Consultants, Contractors,People you meet online, on the subwayWe’re more connected than ever - put it to useTALK TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CANCommon misconception - “someone may steal my idea”Guess what - if your idea is so simple to execute that anyone can steal it, come up with a better ideaIt’s about your execution -- that’s what mattersFacebook wasn’t the first social site; Ebay wasn’t the first auction siteThe Samwer brothers have made a great living on their execution
  • IDCEE 2013: Building Startup Teams - Mollie Carter (Director of Freelancer Marketing @ oDesk)

    2. 2. oDesk: World’s largest online workplace $1B in client spend 900K clients oDesk 4.5M freelancers Other online workplaces combined 35M hours worked 1.5M jobs posted *Gross services in 2012 exceeded $360M, making us 1.9x our next largest competitor. Source: oDesk database 2
    3. 3. Strong growth in hours worked 3
    4. 4. Three trends are driving online work • Technology: Communication, collaboration, payment • Globalization: Accelerating acceptance of distributed workforces • Economy: Need for flexible, cost-effective talent 4 4
    5. 5. Ukraine and Russia are emerging powerhouses • #1 and #2 fastest-growing client countries (by dollars spent, 2-year CAGR) • #1 and #2 source of engineering talent (by # engineers working for oDesk full-time online) • #4 and #6 contractor countries (by dollars earned in 2012) 5
    6. 6. CEE / CIS are among the freelance leaders Thousands Top 15 Contractor Countries (Gross Services Earned) $25,000 $20,000 $15,000 $10,000 $5,000 $0 Source: oDesk database 6
    7. 7. Russian hours billed on oDesk growing rapidly Annual Hours Billed by Russian Freelancers 1,200,000 970,377 1,000,000 754,376 800,000 600,000 508,484 400,000 332,901 253,830 200,000 0 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Source: oDesk database 7
    8. 8. Ukrainian hours billed on oDesk growing rapidly Annual Hours Billed by Ukrainian Freelancers 1,400,000 1,180,693 1,200,000 1,000,000 844,885 800,000 546,882 600,000 400,000 321,157 200,334 200,000 0 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Source: oDesk database 8
    9. 9. Competitive global wages $19.88 Average hourly rate of a Ukrainian developer on oDesk. *Q2 2013 Source: oDesk database 9
    10. 10. Explosive Russian Client Growth Annual Hours Billed by Russian Clients 90,000 77,124 80,000 70,000 60,000 50,000 40,000 30,111 30,000 20,000 7,873 10,000 448 865 2008 2009 0 2010 2011 2012 Source: oDesk database 10
    11. 11. Similar Ukrainian Client Growth Annual Hours Billed By Ukrainian Clients 25,000 21,725 20,000 15,000 10,000 4,615 5,000 2,038 38 582 2008 2009 0 2010 2011 2012 Source: oDesk database 11
    12. 12. From contractors to clients Clients per 100 Freelancers For oDesk’s Top Freelancer Countries
    13. 13. Top jobs Russian businesses hire for Q2 2013 top categories: (by dollars spent) 1. Web programming 2. Mobile apps 3. Website project management 4. Website quality assurance (QA) 5. Web design 6. Desktop apps 7. Graphic design 8. Ecommerce 9. Scripts & utilities Tech Non-tech 10. Translation Source: oDesk database 13
    14. 14. Freelancer Profile: Igor Zagorodniy oDesk Freelancer Since: 2011 Current Role: Enterprise Software Developer Skills: Adobe SDK, C#, DBMS, MS Office Average Hourly Rate: $40/ hour “oDesk satisfies all of my needs and gives me employment stability. If I were working locally, I would not earn as much and I wouldn’t be able to get involved in some of the interesting projects I have done. ” – Igor Zagorodniy, Software Developer 14
    15. 15. Code your way to Silicon Valley • Contest is 19 Oct 2013, 11:00 to 15:00 • Test your coding skills against Russian and Ukrainian developers • Winner will receive a 1-week trip to Silicon Valley • 5 nights – flight and accommodations included • Visit oDesk, Facebook, Google, eBay and more Source: oDesk database 15
    16. 16. Startups have two things: An idea People
    17. 17. Meet the oDesk team
    18. 18. 1 yu rt Great startups come from great cofounders Stratis Karamanlakis oDesk Co-Founder, VP of Development
    19. 19. Strong personal relationship
    20. 20. Complementary skills
    21. 21. Shared passion
    22. 22. It’s a marriage
    23. 23. Odysseas on his co-founder “There were things that I didn’t know how to do very early on. I knew I couldn’t go from 0 to 1 if I didn’t have someone who could complement my high-entropy, high-energy style by grounding it with an entropy-reducing style. With him I went from 0 to 1 and 1 to 12, where otherwise I would still be making circles around my zero.”
    24. 24. 2 yu rt Recruit customer-centric utility players
    25. 25. 3 yu rt Understand the organization you are building Reactive Support Customer Service Proactive Support Premium Services Marketplace Quality Risk Management Trust & Safety Chargebacks & Disputes Operations Compliance Partner Acquisition Business Development Partner Management Sales & Acquisition Enterprise Account Management Professional Services
    26. 26. What you hire will shift over time
    27. 27. 4 yu rt Your execs should be the best recruiters in the company Greg Stanger oDesk CFO
    28. 28. Great people have great options
    29. 29. Sell the impact
    30. 30. Sell the exposure
    31. 31. Sell the opportunity
    32. 32. 5 yu rt Back-channel references are the best source of candidate feedback
    33. 33. 6 yu rt Retain your top performers Gary Swart oDesk CEO
    34. 34. Impact
    35. 35. Development
    36. 36. Reward
    37. 37. Balance
    38. 38. 7 yu rt Manage by objective
    39. 39. 8 yu rt Joy’s Law “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.” Bill Joy Co-Founder, Sun
    40. 40. Thank you! @odesk @molliecarter