oDesk Challenge gives startups a staffing kickstart

oDesk, a site that helps companies recruit and coordinate online workers, has launched the oDesk Challenge, a program to help young startups piece together teams of staffers quickly and efficiently. It is promoting it today at TechCrunch50, a conference in San Francisco.

The first 20 venture-backed startups to upload their job openings to oDesk will win free, premium services from the company — making it more of a challenge for oDesk than anyone else. Account managers from the company will scour its database of 320,000 job candidates, screen resumes, conduct interviews, and select the top workers for each startup.

Using temporary or remote workers found online can save companies up to 80 percent on labor, oDesk says. At the same time, the workers found through the site have more specialized skills than those drafted via services like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Many are software engineers, graphic artists, web developers, writers and customer service agents.

Venture-backed startups are oDesk’s key clients, contributing the bulk of the $65 million in work opportunities the site boasted as recently as July. And as a startup itself, oDesk uses its own products, contracting 80 international staff members via the internet to supplement its small staff. It uses its software for hiring, managing workflow, and providing compensation.

Companies racing to be a part of the oDesk Challenge should first post their jobs on the site, and then alert the company that they want to be part of the program over email. For each job listing, oDesk says it will present three screened job candidates within a week.

In addition to hiring and billing capabilities, oDesk provides accountability assurance. It takes screenshots of workers’ computer desktops at random, so that companies can verify which hours were actually worked, shift course, or provide guidance if necessary. To appeal to workers, the site touts that payment for hours worked is guaranteed without the need to invoice or wait for slow payroll departments to process forms.

Based in Menlo Park, Calif., oDesk has raised $29 million to date, most recently $15 million last summer. Its investors are Sigma Partners, Globespan Capital Partners, Benchmark Capital, and DAG Ventures.


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