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Upwork Global Inc.
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]
URLwww.upwork.com Edit this at Wikidata

Upwork Global Inc., formerly Elance-oDesk, is an American freelancing platform headquartered in Santa Clara and San Francisco, California.[2] The company was formed in 2013 as Elance-oDesk, after the merger of Elance Inc. and oDesk Corp. The merged company was subsequently rebranded to Upwork in 2015.[3]

In March 2022, Upwork was named on Time's list of TIME100 Most Influential Companies of 2022.[4]


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.[5]

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.[6][7] 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.[8]

Elance and oDesk announced their merger on December 18, 2013 to create Elance-oDesk.[9] 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.[10]

The company was listed on the Inc. 5000 list from 2009 to 2014 and filed for an initial public offering on October 3, 2018.[11][12]

On March 7, 2022, Upwork started suspending operations for freelancers and clients in Russia and Belarus as a sanction following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.[13]

Service and business model[edit]

Clients post 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.[14]

Size, scope, and changes[edit]

In March 2017, Upwork reported 14 million users in 180 countries with $1 billion USD in annual freelancer billings.[15][16]

In 2020, the company purged 1.8 million freelancers.[17][18] In a 2019 call with investors, CEO Hayden 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.[19]

In October 2020, Upwork launched a new feature called "Project Catalog" that allows freelancers and agencies to offer pre-scoped services at fixed prices, similar to Fiverr marketplace. [20]


  1. ^ "Annual Report 2020". Investors.upwork.com. p. 12.
  2. ^ "Elance-oDesk Becomes 'Upwork' In Push To Build $10B In Freelancer Revenues". Forbes. May 5, 2015. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
  3. ^ Lunden, Ingrid (May 5, 2015). "Elance-oDesk Rebrands As Upwork, Debuts Slack-Like Chat Platform". TechCrunch. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  4. ^ Van Houten, Alison (March 30, 2022). "TIME100 Most Influential Companies of 2022 - Upwork". TIME. Retrieved August 2, 2022.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "California Secretary of State. Corporate filing date 1/27/2003". Archived from the original on 15 March 2015. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  7. ^ "The story behind launching oDesk - with Gary Swart - Mixergy". Mixergy. March 19, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  8. ^ "Elance-oDesk unveils platform, name". www2.staffingindustry.com. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  9. ^ Levy, Ari (December 19, 2013). "Elance Merges With oDesk to Boost Service for Freelancers". Bloomberg Technology. San Francisco. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  10. ^ "oDesk becomes Upwork, but what about Elance?". news.smallbusinesstrends.com. May 5, 2015. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  11. ^ "Upwork Just Made a Surprising Decision That Will Change Everything For Freelancers". Inc.com. July 25, 2018. Retrieved July 25, 2018.
  12. ^ Jiang, Ethel (October 3, 2018). "Upwork — the largest freelancers' network — soars 50% in trading debut". Markets Insider. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  13. ^ "A Letter From Our CEO".
  14. ^ "How to use Upwork effectively to hire quality talent for business?". webdew. Retrieved May 22, 2023.
  15. ^ Snagajob. "Snagajob Appoints Former Upwork CEO to Board of Directors". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  16. ^ "TechDay - Upwork's SVP of Marketing Explains What It Takes To Perfect An Offering That Relies On People". techdayhq.com. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  17. ^ "Hayden Brown, Upwork Inc: Profile and Biography". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  18. ^ "1.8 million gig workers were purged from Upwork - here's why". media.thinknum.com. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  19. ^ Upwork. "Q4 and Full Year 2019 Prepared Remarks". investors.upwork.com.
  20. ^ "Introducing Project Catalog™". Upwork. October 27, 2020. Retrieved April 20, 2022.

External links[edit]

  • Business data for Upwork: