Upwork, formerly Elance-oDesk, is an American freelancing platform.[2] In 2015, the Elance-oDesk merger was rebranded as Upwork and the company's full name is now Upwork Global Inc.[3] Upwork is currently based in Santa Clara and San Francisco, California.

Upwork Global Inc.
Upwork logo
Type of businessPublic
Traded asNasdaqUPWK
Russell 2000 Index component
Founded1999 (as Elance)
2003 (as oDesk)
2013 (as Elance-oDesk)
2015 (as Upwork)
HeadquartersSanta Clara, California, U.S.
Area servedWorldwide
Founder(s)Beerud Sheth
Srini Anumolu
Sanjay Noronha
Odysseas Tsatalos
Stratis Karamanlakis
Key peopleHayden Brown (CEO)
Thomas Layton (Chairman)
IndustryFreelance marketplace
RevenueIncrease $373.6 Million (2020)[1]

In 2017, Upwork had over twelve million registered freelancers and five million registered clients.[4] More than three million jobs worth over $1 billion USD together were posted in 2017.[4][2][5][6]


Elance was founded in 1998 by MIT graduate Beerud Sheth and Wall Street veteran Srini Anumolu in a two-bedroom apartment in Jersey City. In December 1999, the company's 22 employees relocated to Sunnyvale, in California's Silicon Valley. Elance's first product was the Elance Small Business Marketplace.[7]

oDesk was founded in 2003 by two friends, Odysseas Tsatalos and Stratis Karamanlakis, who wanted to work together even though one of them was in the U.S. and the other was in Greece.[8][9] Originally created as a staffing firm, oDesk was eventually built into an online marketplace that allowed registered users to find, hire, and collaborate with remote workers.

Elance and oDesk announced their merger on December 18, 2013 to create Elance-oDesk.[10] In 2015, the new company was rebranded as Upwork, which coincided with an upgrade of the oDesk platform under the same name. The newly named Upwork also planned to phase out the Elance platform within a couple of years.[11] The Upwork platform has experienced brief outages, with one in September 2015 leading to an apology from then-CEO Stephane Kasriel.[12]

The company was listed on the Inc. 5000 list from 2009 to 2014 and filed for an initial public offering on October 3, 2018.[13][14]

How Upwork worksEdit

Upwork allows clients to interview, hire and work with freelancers and freelance agencies through the company's platform. The client posts a description of their job and a price range they are willing to pay for a freelancer to complete it. The client may invite specific freelancers to apply for their jobs, or else post the job for any freelancer who is interested to apply. Once the client has chosen who they want to complete the job, they hire that freelancer by sending a contract with set hours, pay rate, and a deadline for the work to be completed.

The Upwork platform includes a real-time chat feature that either clients or freelancers can use to message prospects.[3] The Upwork's time tracker application records the freelancer's keystrokes and mouse movements and takes screenshots to be submitted to their client.[15]

Size, scope, and changesEdit

In March 2017, Upwork reported 14 million users in 180 countries with $1 billion USD in annual freelancer billings.[16][17]

In 2020, the company purged 1.8 million freelancers, possibly due to changes made under the leadership of new CEO Hayden Brown.[18][19] In a 2019 call with investors, Brown said that Upwork would be focusing more on serving the needs of Fortune 500 companies rather than smaller companies just looking for a quick job with a single gig worker. During this call, Brown also spoke of a "skill gap" between what companies were looking for on the Upwork platform and what they were getting. Many of the freelancers purged were rated as "less skilled" or had lower rankings on the platform.[20]

Upwork has also made other changes under Brown's leadership. The platform adopted paid client subscription rates, increased client payment fees from 2.75% to 3%, raised the cost of "Connects" (virtual tokens used by freelancers to submit job proposals), and changed the number of "Connects" needed for freelancers to submit job proposals.[20] Brown has said that these changes were made to improve the quality of freelancers and freelance work available on the platform, but they also led to increased financial gains for Upwork and its investors.[20]

In March 2021, Upwork released a report claiming that up to 25% of professionals expect to permanently work remotely.[21]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Annual Report 2020". www.investors.upwork.com. p. 12.
  2. ^ a b "Elance-oDesk Becomes 'Upwork' In Push To Build $10B In Freelancer Revenues". Forbes. May 5, 2015. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Lunden, Ingrid (May 5, 2015). "Elance-oDesk Rebrands As Upwork, Debuts Slack-Like Chat Platform". TechCrunch. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Two Pakistani organizations selected for Upwork Social Impact Program". www.techlist.pk. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  5. ^ "Tech in Asia - Connecting Asia's startup ecosystem". www.techinasia.com.
  6. ^ Lawler, Ryan (November 25, 2014). "Eight Months After Merger, Elance-oDesk Raises Another $30 Million Led By Benchmark". TechCrunch. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  7. ^ Thomas W. Malone; Robert J. Laubacher. "The Dawn of the E-Lance Economy" (PDF). Harvard Business Review. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 31, 2012. Retrieved December 25, 2010.
  8. ^ "California Secretary of State. Corporate filing date 1/27/2003". Archived from the original on 15 March 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  9. ^ "The story behind launching oDesk - with Gary Swart - Mixergy". Mixergy. March 19, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  10. ^ Levy, Ari (December 19, 2013). "Elance Merges With oDesk to Boost Service for Freelancers". Bloomberg Technology. San Francisco. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  11. ^ "oDesk becomes Upwork, but what about Elance?". news.smallbusinesstrends.com. May 5, 2015. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  12. ^ Kasriel, Stephane. "Update on Site Performance and Issues". Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  13. ^ "Upwork Just Made a Surprising Decision That Will Change Everything For Freelancers". Inc.com. July 25, 2018. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  14. ^ Jiang, Ethel (October 3, 2018). "Upwork — the largest freelancers' network — soars 50% in trading debut". Markets Insider. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  15. ^ Hardy, Quentin. "Big Brother in the Home Office".
  16. ^ Snagajob. "Snagajob Appoints Former Upwork CEO to Board of Directors". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  17. ^ "TechDay - Upwork's SVP of Marketing Explains What It Takes To Perfect An Offering That Relies On People". techdayhq.com. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  18. ^ "Hayden Brown, Upwork Inc: Profile and Biography". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  19. ^ "1.8 million gig workers were purged from Upwork - here's why". media.thinknum.com. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  20. ^ a b c Upwork. "Q4 and Full Year 2019 Prepared Remarks". investors.upwork.com.
  21. ^ "5 Essential Remote Work Trends and Learnings | Upwork". www.upwork.com.

External linksEdit