All Things oDesk
March 26, 2013 by Jenna Weiner

Ever wonder how oDesk came to be? Or what our name even means? Then today is your lucky day — come along on our trip down memory lane!

Where it all began

As our co-founder Odysseas Tsatalos likes to say, oDesk was born out of the best entrepreneurship inspiration there is — "personal pain.”

At his previous startup, Odysseas wanted to work with one of his closest friends, Stratis Karamanlakis. The two grew up together in Greece; Odysseas had become an entrepreneur (he was then on his third startup), and Stratis had become a talented developer. They were a perfect pair for Odysseas’s new venture, but there was just one problem — Odysseas and his startup were in Silicon Valley, and Stratis was still living in Athens, with no plans to move anytime soon.

Co-founder Odysseas Tsatalos

Co-founder Odysseas Tsatalos

The co-workers at Odysseas's startup knew Stratis was truly the best person for the job, but how could they be comfortable working with someone who happened to be halfway around the world? In response, Odysseas and Stratis created a new technology platform to provide visibility into 'remote' work and instill trust in work relationships happening via the Internet.

The technology and remote work arrangement went so well that the two realized their solution had much broader value. They were confident that many companies could benefit from gaining access to a broader pool of quality talent, and that workers would want the freedom and flexibility to work on the projects they choose, whenever they like, from wherever they are. They decided to found a company based on the technology, and oDesk — an abbreviation of 'online desk' — was born.

oDesk as we know it officially launched in 2005, when the network of clients and freelancers were added to our tech platform.

Chickens, eggs, and a remote work culture

As is all too familiar to any business with a marketplace model, oDesk initially experienced the ‘chicken and egg’ dilemma — trying to balance acquisition of both clients and freelancers. We had to build out both sides at the same time, knowing that clients wouldn’t join a network with no freelancers and freelancers wouldn’t join a network with no clients.

Stratis Karamanlakis

Co-founder Stratis Karamanlakis

“It was really high-touch,” oDesk CEO Gary Swart says of building out the platform at this stage, adding that we hand-screened each freelancer and personally matched every client with the right worker. “But we quickly realized that wasn’t scalable. We also got a wake-up call when a client asked us to accept a freelancer he knew was great and wanted to hire, but who we had already rejected in the phone screen. We thought, you know what, maybe we’re not the best judge of which freelancer is right for which business. So we opened the floodgates.”

From there, demand exploded. Today, our market (the online work market) is more than $1B, and is expected to reach $5B within five years, according to Staffing Industry Analysts.

PS: Wondering what happened to Stratis? He is still happily living in Athens, helping guide the company’s direction from thousands of miles away. His remote presence has shaped a culture of remote-friendliness — in addition to having 250 full-time-equivalent oDesk contractors that work for us every day from around the world, our office has big-screen TVs in every conference room for Skype and Google Hangouts, and we have company-wide work-from-home days every Tuesday. Stratis visits our Silicon Valley headquarters several times a year, but we’re still keeping our fingers crossed for a company retreat to the Greek islands...

Jenna Weiner

Content Marketer

Jenna Weiner is the former content marketing manager at oDesk and was the editor-in-chief of the oDesk blog. With a background in business and technology writing, she specializes in content marketing and strategy, public relations, and branding. Before joining oDesk, Jenna was a writer and editor for Monitor Group’s marketing department (now Monitor Deloitte) and was the Business & Technology Section Editor for Brafton Inc.… read more

  • Gurpreet

    Odesk is really doing perfect job to match the developers to the clients directly. In the above artcile it is mentioned that current odesk market place is $ 1 B and going to increase at the rate of $ 1 b per year.

    I would like to share my thoughts & experience , so that odesk marketing & management team would dig more into this concern.

    a) Since from march ( 2013) this year , the number of job posting & clients has been decreased. The ratio is very worst in this month ( June) as the client ( employer posting ) for new project is less

    b) The project posted are very small range & client spending on odesk for mid level project is also decreased

    c) I had also discussed this scenario with my friedns who are using odesk even from last 4-5 years . As per them also, this is very bad phase where the number of job posting has decreased and new client acquisitions ratio is very very less .

    d) I would like to share an example of "Mobile Apps" posting. If we compare , eight month back in october 2012, every day there are more than 25-30 jobs ( hourly jobs) posted on mobile apps category. Now the number is left to 10-15 ( hourly jobs).

    It seems like outsource market is going down dramatically on odesk .

    I would request odesk team look into this scenario & factors behind it . I really wish great success to odesk as our company is also a small part of odesk family. Please, let me know if need my more inputs on this scenario


  • Usman Shahzada

    I signed up on Odesk in June 2008 but actually started working since April 2010. I have by now 124 Jobs (121 Feedbacks) and an average of 4.98/5. All I wanna say is thank you ODesk!

  • Mostafa Al Amran

    Thanks Odesk for engaging large number of unemployed people, thanks for increasing income of low paid employee, thanks again for building confidence, finding out quality, finding out the unemployed brilliance.

    We are really proud of you and respect you for your outstanding beauty.

    • Prashanta Narayan

      Thanks for your success. I am now hesitated for working in Cause I have joined oDesk six(6) month ago. But I only two jobs I have received from client and am completed it successfully. My client’s give me good feedback. But now I have no job. I know web research, data entry and some SEO work. Six month for(09$? I am afraid for that. Please tell me what can I do now and help me

  • Ha Nguyen

    Thanks for sharing Jenna, it is a very inspiring story about how oDesk was founded. Actually, I am doing my master's thesis at Hanken (School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland) about oDesk, and mainly focus on the validity of contractor selection in predicting future job performance compared to personnel selection. So, information from oDesk blogs is very useful.

    I found an interesting survey that oDesk did back in 2009 in this article and wondered if I could access the survey and other helpful data to refer them to my thesis. I contacted oDesk through email at under the title "Academic Inquiry", but haven't received any replies yet. But hopefully, oDesk will reply soon with lots of interesting facts and information. Any information will be very helpful and beneficial, because there are few studies in this new field, and I believe oDesk or other platforms should receive more recognition from the academic research.

    • Jenna Weiner

      Hi Ha,

      Thanks for your interest in oDesk! We received your email and have tried several times to respond, but the email keeps bouncing back, saying the email address is not recognized. Is there an alternate email address you can provide?


  • Samkit Shah

    An inspiring story proving the fact that a passionate idea knows no boundaries. oDesk has been doing great so far and I have been enjoying my time here. Being an aspiring writer myself with a penchant for web content, blogging and creative writing, oDesk has provided me a tremendous platform to portray my talent, and most importantly put it to effective use. I see great value in oDesk's services and the platform that they present on both sides of the deal - freelancers and clients.

    I went ahead and added two things to my existing bucket list -
    1. To come up with a blog post on my personal blog ( describing in brief oDesk, the concept and my personal experience sharing a few details about initial setup for newcomers.
    2. A wish to be a part of oDesk , in some capacity or the other, whichever works out, to be able to write for them and contribute my 2 cents.

    Finally, I wish oDesk a fantastic climb with a great deal of success!

  • Hassan Mahmud Tanvir

    Thats a great story to know. Thanks for sharing. But before oDesk, was there any market place?

  • Nishad

    Was really an amzing story.

  • karldwalker

    Awesome story! oDesk rocks...

    • Jenna Weiner

      Thanks so much, Karl! : )

  • Ravi Kishor Shakya

    oDesk has been doing great and hope it will do so for long time. It's good to learn about how such a nice company came into being.

    • Jenna Weiner

      Thanks, Ravi! We're glad you enjoyed the story; thanks for your support!

  • Sampath Sri

    Love to know the story behind my favorite company. Thank you.

    • Jenna Weiner

      Thanks so much, Sampath! We are humbled to hear that : )

  • Rudolf Jerome

    Brilliant minds + Technology = Great Company (oDesk)
    Thank you for existing.

    • Jenna Weiner

      Aww thanks, Rudolf! I hate math, but I love that equation : ) Thanks so much for your support!

  • MarieDanilynLagrosas

    yes, it's true in the contractor's point of view the opportunity to choose your work hours and the kind of projects to work on is the big pull remote work has for us....especially the kind of platform oDesk provide....

    • Jenna Weiner

      Hi Marie -- I'm so glad to hear you've found success with remote work! Thanks for sharing!

      • Marlon

        Im happy being odesk member!thank u odesk!Great company!

        • dolibegom

          Hello all people you can say me . why suspended my financial account. odesk is not better.because I create odesk real account odesk suspended the acount . my many friend is afraid for odesk .They cannot work in odesk . Have I any solve in odesk suspended .


            Very good story. Kindly Give me some Tips