Sramana: You mentioned that eBay is one of your customers. What do you do for eBay?
Lukas Biewald: We do a lot of different things for them. The most mature application for them is classifying products. They get a lot of products in from their users, and they want to make sure they are going to the correct category.
Sramana: I am a huge fan of this mode of work. Today on oDesk there are people from all over the world. I have people working for me from all over the world. What is the geographical distribution of your service?
Lukas Biewald: Our general rule of thumb is that our group is half U.S. and half non-US. It follows what our customers are asking for. Some customers really feel their croudsourced tasks have a cultural component and want only U.S. workers. We would probably be a little bit less U.S. if customers did not ask for U.S. workers all the time.
Sramana: What are examples of the types of tasks that require US workers?
Lukas Biewald: Some of the eBay tasks require a U.S. workforce. Some things such as determining if Twitter comments are positive or negative can require U.S. workers because they need to understand the cultural nuances.
Sramana: Would you give me a distribution of the types of projects or applications you do?
Lukas Biewald: I would say that we have productized a few of our offerings. Some of our services have indeed become productized. One of those products is checking the locations of businesses. I had no idea going in that this would be so popular. Another one is categorization for ecommerce companies. The third biggest product is concept moderation. Sites want to know if an image fits the guidelines for their site or not.
I would say that 20% of our work is new applications. For example, we had a guy who was a solar panel salesman. He was looking at satellite photos and getting people to label roofs that were at the right angle for solar panels or labeling if they had a solar panel on the roof for him to offer repair services. Leads are really valuable in that space.
Sramana: Do you see a lot of social media projects?
Lukas Biewald: We see a lot of Twitter sentiment analysis. A lot of companies that say they work on AI realize that using AI to determine sentiment is just really bad. A lot of them end up coming to us to power their sentiment analysis. We will also do searches for brands. We have a self service tool. People can come in and pay with a credit card. We will often have people come in and do some very creative stuff that we would never expect them to do.
Sramana: You mentioned that 50% of your workforce is outside of the U.S. Where are they located?
Lukas Biewald: They are literally everywhere. We have somebody in virtually every country. The next biggest country is India. One group is developing countries with good Internet connectivity. Another group is the European group, primarily because we have made a concerted effort to recruit language skillsets.