Big News in Online Freelancer Space: ODesk and Elance To Merge

Freelance oDesk Elance merge

Yes, it’s big news in the freelancer world.  oDesk and Elance today announced that they are merging.  The two giants of online freelancing marketplaces have both signed a definitive agreement to merge.  The deal is expected to close within four months, and is subject to regulatory approval.

Today, both oDesk and eLance run large online marketplaces where they bring freelancers and other service providers together with the businesses and entrepreneurs who hire them.   Elance has over 800,000 businesses and 3 million freelancers using it, from over 170 countries.  On oDesk, the numbers are over a million businesses registered, and nearly five million freelancers.

Together they say they will have 8 million freelancers and 2 million businesses in over 180 countries.

According to a prepared statement issued jointly by the companies today, the merger brings strategic benefits. These include a greater combined investment in technology and the ability to accelerate growth and scale as a result of combining forces.

oDesk had flirted with the idea of going public several years back, AllThingsD reports. But the company has apparently decided against that for now.

Today oDesk chief executive officer Gary Swart notes in the release, “oDesk is thrilled to join with Elance in order to innovate faster.”

The companies have a big vision — as in Amazon and Apple big.

“Just as Amazon reinvented retail, and Apple iTunes transformed the music industry, we will greatly improve how businesses hire and people work online. This merger will  … allow businesses of all sizes to more easily access the best available talent,” said Fabio Rosati, the CEO of Elance.

One concern raised by the oDesk community is over fees. Today there are differences in how the two sites operate. Elance charges fees in exchange for certain protections. oDesk does not charge freelancers fees, and reaction from some oDesk members is that they want to see the free memberships continue. Responding to the announcement on the official oDesk Blog, one member writes:

” Elance charges for memberships because they offer protection with escrow. Will Odesk be offering this protection? I’d rather not pay for the protection if it means charging for memberships. I always get 100% upfront or do hourly work to guarantee payment. I don’t have to rely on escrow and I don’t want to have to pay for a membership for this protection.”

The two companies will continue to run separate platforms at and

Fabio Rosati will serve as CEO of the combined company, and oDesk executive chairman Thomas Layton will continue in the same role of the combined company. Gary Swart, currently the CEO of oDesk, will act as a strategic advisor.

The name of the new company post-merger will be announced after the deal closes.

The companies are headquartered in Silicon Valley — with oDesk located in Redwood City and Elance headquartered in Mountain View, California.

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