Sramana Mitra: The truth is, there are a tremendous number of developing countries, the same countries you mentioned, India, the Philippines, Malaysia. Those are just as present on oDesk and Elance as well.
Matt Barrie: They are. When I checked earlier in the year, the number one demographic of users were Americans.
SM: Because Americans are in a real mess right now. There are so many unemployed people. So, yes, there are people signing up. But if you actually look at how people are hiring, I’m not so sure Americans are getting hired as much.
The cost structures don’t match up. I get bids from Americans for my projects, but in terms of cost structure, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. I would much rather for data entry projects or for projects that have $2 an hour or $1 for 70 records data entry pricing structure, but Americans won’t do that.
MB: Absolutely. One thing we’ll do is we’ll ask them to send in testimonials, and we’ll get testimonials saying, “You saved my life. My parents died when I was young. I was on the streets. I couldn’t afford to feed myself. But now, thanks to your company, I’ve got a house, a car. I’ve got people working for me. They always want to tell me they’re married. I presume it’s because they can afford the ceremony or whatever. But they’re always very happy to tell me, “I’m married now.” Some of them are really heart touching. The stuff that’s really crazy is we’ll run these competitions, which are basically, just go promote Freelancer.com any way you can possibly think of in your local community. And the videos that will come in . . . in Dakar [Senegal], they got something, like, 500 people. They made headbands, bandanas, signs, T-shirts, marched through the city, had this giant party, then went down to the water and played all these games and what have you. They made a cake and had all these performances. And when you watch it, the sheer scale of it . . . I mean, I couldn’t assemble 500 friends if I tried. But they’ve got the whole community together, and they’ve made these amazing things.
I’ll see it in the Philippines where they’ve got 200 people, and they played Laser Tag, and they made all these Freelancer-style robots and all the decorations and so forth. And then I’ll see a 45-meter (148 feet) snow bird carved out of the snow in Poland by some of our freelancers. I’ll see out in the cane fields of the Philippines, there’ll be a giant Freelancer.com logo, just on and on and on. Someone even made a music video where he hired about 100 freelancers, and they all held up Freelancer signs, and it went around the world. That was fascinating as well. Seeing that stuff, and seeing how excited the users are, it’s amazing. I certainly think that freelancing is the vanguard of an economic revolution that’s going to sweep through emerging and developing countries.
SM: I agree with you. I think what’s happening in terms of pairing people up with skills and projects is phenomenal and promising.
MB: What’s so good about it is it’s win-win. You’ve got this frustrated small-business owner in Kansas who wants a website built. And you’ve got someone over in Bangladesh who wants a technical job where technical jobs are scarce and wants to actually get paid well, compared to where they are. The two can come together because the wage differential is something like 55:1 between the U.S. and India. Both sides are really happy. One side is making a month’s wage in a few days, and the other side is getting stuff done cheaply. They help each other out. One of the interesting things is, in a lot of cases, probably if these two people met each other in real life, they’d probably never work together. You know, social biases, cultural biases, whatever it may be.