Thank You for Being Part of Our Journey—Cheers to You
Today, Upwork transitioned from a private company to a public one with its initial public offering (IPO). This transition enables us to better fulfill our mission of creating more economic opportunities so people have better lives.
We are keenly aware that we couldn’t have reached this point without you. Thank you!
Our priority has always been—and will always be—taking care of the people who make Upwork possible.
This means you, the freelancers and clients who use Upwork to find work and find talent. And this means our employees, the passionate people who come to work each day to do good.
Our success is directly tied to yours. The move from a private company to a public one will not change how Upwork operates or how you use the website.
This transition aids us in fulfilling our mission of creating more economic opportunities so people have better lives. The awareness that comes with going public will hopefully generate more opportunities. For freelancers, this should help attract more clients. For clients, this should help attract more top talent.
We’re forever grateful for your support, and we’re excited to step into this next chapter together with you.
For more on the meaning of today and my thoughts on Upwork’s mission, read this in-depth letter on Upwork’s next phase:
Why does Upwork exist? On the surface, a simple business explanation is that people need a better way to connect and work together and Upwork provides just that. But Upwork is more than that, because we are doing good for the world while operating an efficient, growing business. We are a team of people creating economic opportunities so people have better lives. That is our mission and working towards this goal is what brought me to Upwork and what motivates me as a leader.
I believe that right now we are in the midst of a transformation in how we work. As a recent co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future Council on Education, Gender and Work, I have had the honor of participating in conversations about this transformation, which the WEF calls the “fourth industrial revolution.” Essentially, technology is enabling an increasing number of people to work how, where, when and with whom they please. Simultaneously, businesses need better access to talent in order to remain competitive.
Why is this the “fourth” revolution? A couple of hundred years ago most of us were farmers. Then the first industrial revolution came, and most of us became factory workers. During the second industrial revolution, electricity enabled more mass production. Next, the information technology revolution arrived, and during the third industrial revolution we became office workers. Now, we believe our world is changing again.
Over the last 20 years, tech companies have created efficient online marketplaces for just about every imaginable product, from shopping, to cars, to houses, to clothes… each of which moved from offline to online. What is one of the few products for which the internet has not yet enabled an efficient online marketplace? Talent. Until now…
Upwork is the largest global online marketplace for highly skilled freelance talent.1 We are a part of a fundamental change in technology. Our innovations are bridging skills gaps caused by rigid traditional hiring methods that no longer make sense and, in doing so, are removing friction from the job market. The challenge prior to Upwork was matching talent with the right opportunities, which are concentrated in specific geographical areas where much of the talent does not happen to live. Upwork is helping people find jobs much more efficiently and flexibly. And in doing so, Upwork’s platform and others like us are potentially creating trillions of dollars in GDP.
The last industrial revolution didn’t remove many of the limitations in the way that we work. This industrial revolution is an opportunity to make a more positive future of work a reality. We believe we can provide economic opportunity for millions of people. This is what drives us at Upwork.
Right now, our economy is becoming more fractured not less. For many, the education system is broken. Our urban infrastructures are overloaded. I am a father and I want to make sure future generations live in a world where, if they are willing to work hard and learn throughout their lives, they can find opportunities and feel fulfilled in society. We owe it to future generations to create a job market where each individual has the best chance of having a constructive role to play.
Every day I think about how to create more value for our society. So does our entire team — countless people have told me that our mission is the reason they are excited to come to work. We will stay true to our mission and, as we make decisions, filter them through what best furthers it.
I am proud of my team, our community, and what we are achieving together.
What really brings our impact to life is the people. The highlight of my job is meeting people and hearing their stories. While it is impossible to do them justice in a short letter, a few stories that stand out most in my mind are:
- Shari, an instructional designer in Hawaii, who previously was in the military and whose husband is still in active duty. As a military spouse, Shari had to look for a new job every time her husband’s job moved, which happened on average every three years. Via Upwork, she can continue to work and grow her career wherever she needs to be. As a mother, being in control of her schedule and work enables Shari to live the life she wants — being with her family and having fulfilling work.
- Joana, an architect in Portugal, where there is not a lot of work in her industry. When Joana had a baby, her [non-upwork] client did not want to work with her and let her go. At first she was scared she would not be able to find work but when she found Upwork, she suddenly had access to clients all over the world and has grown into managing teams of freelancers for her clients. Joana’s future changed from being at the mercy of one client to now controlling where and when she works and having the stability she always dreamed of for her family.
- Brad, a virtual and augmented reality developer in St. Louis, Missouri, was worried he would have to move to a major tech city in order to find meaningful work in this cutting-edge field. When he found Upwork, he not only realized he could stay in St. Louis, but he saw so much opportunity in his field that he is building his own agency. By being able to stay in Missouri, Brad is also helping grow the local technology scene by participating in the small business community and connecting with other local companies.
As we anticipate Upwork’s next chapter, I believe being a public company will help us increase our positive impact. My personal commitment is to try harder than ever to maximize this impact. We already connect with stakeholders to try to help create better functioning job markets, including through my participation with the WEF. We’ll also work with others such as government, educational systems and non-profit organizations to improve the support systems professionals and businesses need to thrive.
We believe that more flexible work will result in not only better quality of life but in better economies. Today’s technologies, including Upwork, can be a source of job reinvention the likes of which the world has not seen since the inventions of the assembly line and the steam-powered engine. We will change how people find opportunities and work together to shape the outcome of the current work revolution for the better.
The people who work together through our site are groundbreakers, already working in a way that creates more freedom and flexibility to live the lives they want in the locations they want. By using Upwork, they’re not only able to increase their quality of life but by empowering more remote work we’re also decreasing the number of commuters and congestion and pollution that come with them. It is my duty, and that of the entire Upwork team, to be the catalyst for positive change not only for the individuals in our community but for the optimal functioning of job markets. I truly believe that the future of work can be a better one and that Upwork will be at the center of shaping this future.
I hope you will join us in this journey to make the way people work together, and the world along with it, a better place.
1 As measured by gross services volume.
As CEO of Upwork, the largest freelancing website, and co-chair of the World Economic Forum Council on the Future of Education, Gender and Work, Stephane Kasriel is in a unique position to share his perspective on future trends—from global forces impacting the job market and the rise of the freelance economy to how companies are changing the way they build teams and the way education should evolve. An expert in staffing innovation and remote work, Stephane led a distributed team of engineers as Upwork's SVP of Engineering before ascending to be CEO. His book Hire Fast & Build Things details how to use freelancers to power businesses. Stephane holds an MBA from INSEAD, Master’s from Stanford in Computer Science and a BS from Ecole Polytechnique in France. Harvard Business Review and Bloomberg View have featured him on topics including the future of work, entrepreneurship, and how to strengthen our global economy.View Stephane Kasriel’s other articles