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

Freelance oDesk Elance merge

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

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

Together they are saying they’ll have 8 million freelancers and a pair of million businesses in over 180 countries.

According to a prepared statement issued jointly by the businesses today, the merger brings strategic benefits. These include a better combined investment in technology and the power to accelerate growth and scale because of combining forces.

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

Today oDesk chief executive officer Gary Swart notes inside the release, “oDesk is thrilled to sign up for with Elance with the intention to innovate faster.”

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

“Just as Amazon reinvented retail, and Apple iTunes transformed the music industry, we can greatly improve how businesses hire and folk work online. This merger will  … allow businesses of all sizes to more easily access the most efficient 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 both sites operate. Elance charges fees in exchange for certain protections. oDesk doesn’t charge freelancers fees, and reaction from some oDesk members is they like to see the free memberships continue. Responding to the announcement at the official oDesk Blog, one member writes :

” Elance charges for memberships because they provide protection with escrow. Will Odesk offer this protection? I’d rather not pay for the security if it means charging for memberships. I always get 100% upfront or do hourly work to ensure payment. I don’t must depend upon escrow and that i don’t desire to need to pay for a membership for this protection.”

The two companies will continue to run separate platforms at odesk.com and elance.com.

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

The name of the hot company post-merger should 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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