What Upwork’s IPO Means for the Future of Remote Work

Firstly, I want to congratulate the Upwork team. I worked at Elance, the company that merged with oDesk to become Upwork, while in college and for a few months before joining Google. I loved the idea and learned a ton from Beerud, the founder; Fabio, the CEO; Imran, my boss, and countless others.

Today, one of the largest companies in the business of remote talent, Upwork, went public at $14 a share, the upper end of its $12-14 range. It raised close to $100M in its public offering. I’ve kept tabs on Upwork for nearly two decades, in part because I paid my way through Stanford working for Elance (not on the Elance platform) but mostly because it’s an incredibly elegant, and in some ways altruistic, business idea.

Throughout my entire career in tech, there has been a steady conversation about the gig economy and how the internet has forever changed workplace collaboration. Slack, Google Hangouts, and ubiquitous smartphone ownership have already unchained employees from a physical workspace or geographic location. It’s no longer a hot topic at conferences in Palo Alto.  It’s the new normal.

I’m a firm believer that real transformative change will come in the next iteration of remote work. 

Freelance communities (Fiverr,, Upwork, and others) capitalized on this new world order by building talent marketplaces that connect small businesses and individuals with temporary graphic design or software development.

However, I’m a firm believer that real transformative change will come in the next iteration of remote work. Upwork and Fiverr offer great resources for launching a basic website or designing a logo, but building a platform or security protocol requires a different approach.

Why? Because freelancers are risky as you move up the market. Enterprises in all industries are dealing with a shortage of tech talent and customer expectations for digital experiences. To build software that transforms a Fortune 500 company, you can’t gamble on freelancers. Even Upwork has a vetted marketplace called Talent Cloud to de-risk freelancing.

At Wizeline, we see magic happen when the right team is assembled. There is an intangible richness in building a remote team with compatible skill sets, personalities, and experiences.

We developed a fairly standard checklist that Wizeline uses with new clients to ensure that remote development can be successful. Here are some of the most important:

  • Clear communication: The nature of remote work demands best practices in both product management and project management. A structured approach to both eliminates any misinterpretation of product vision and maintains alignment on deliverables.
  • Cultural alignment: Nearshore proximity, time zone overlap, multilingual talent, and cultural compatibility are significant advantages when selecting a partner and ensuring long-term success.
  • Team alignment fosters individual accountability: Each member of the team should clearly understand business and project objectives so he or she has the agency to be self-managed and self-organized. Individuals will need space to learn and adapt as project parameters change.
  • Mutual adaptability: In any project, the various moving parts are unlikely to remain constant throughout the entire product lifecycle—businesses change, technologies change, and new issues will always come up along the way.

Regardless of how your company builds software, people are always at the core of its ultimate success or failure. Wizeline is committed to helping our partners develop the right team, technologies, and skill sets to grow their businesses and launch successful products.

Written by Bismarck Lepe, Founder & CEO of Wizeline
Written by Bismarck Lepe, Founder & CEO of Wizeline

Sarai Castañeda

Posted by Sarai Castañeda on October 4, 2018