SM: What percentage is that?
FR: It’s less than 10% of the total community of Elance that’s on the premium model. The membership that we’ve designed – it’s funny because we really designed it to be fair to our community. It’s a month-to-month. We don’t try to lock people into membership for as long as possible. They can actually upgrade and downgrade every month. When they need it, it goes up. If they decide the next month they want to go on vacation, or they don’t need to work, or they don’t need to submit any proposals, if they like to, they can go down to free.
SM: And what is the charge?
FR: It starts at $10 a month. Ten dollars goes up to $40 if you’re a large business.
SM: That’s not a huge amount.
FR: No, not at all. But $10 a month, in some countries, is a lot of money. So, keep that in mind. We think that $10 in the global marketplace is a lot of money for some people.
SM: What is the total volume of transactions that you’ve been processing lately?
FR: We are in about in Q1 [of 2012], we should announce a $500 million market, first half billion transactions going through the system since we re-launched in 2007. It’s a huge milestone. A 150 million have gone through the system so far this year. The current run rate is 180 million. We don’t do crowd sourcing projects. We’re not involved in that, so all of the transactions we focus on are true, freelancer type, independent projects. We don’t touch [the crowd sourcing] part of the market right now. We’re not focusing on it.
SM: How big do you think this market is right now?
FR: We just released our year-end review. We estimated that this year, the market was $1 billion. We started to aggregate everything we know between all the different platforms, all the different spins and ways. I am absolutely confident that next year, [the market size] will at least double. This year we’ve seen more than twice as many businesses hiring on Elance than we did the year before. We had more than 600,000 jobs posted on our site. The number of contractors signing up on Elance grew 120% this year. Right now, we’re signing up 17,000 contractors per week, three per minute. These contractors are not just giving us their email addresses. They’re going through admissions testing. It’s not easy to become a member of Elance. We do put some filters to make sure that only the more committed people come on the system.
SM: What is the geographic distribution of all this, on both sides?
FR: Let’s start with the contractors, the team of Elancers. We have about 50% of the individuals based in the US, which is surprising. Most people don’t realize it. The other half is primarily Eastern European, Asian — India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan – Philippines. Increasingly, we have a growing number of African countries represented, which is very exciting, and Latin America as well. Of course, we have also Australia and New Zealand, but the percentages are not as significant.
SM: Is India the largest outside of the US?
FR: India is the largest outside the US, absolutely. Then when you look at businesses, the distribution of businesses is different. Actually, when you look at businesses, India becomes number one. So, the number one country in terms of businesses active on Elance is India because of the outsourcing thing. Out of the 60,000, India is number one. I would think Philippines number two, but I would have to check, and then the US and so on and so forth.
SM: And on the hiring side?
FR: On the hiring side, we have 60%, 65% of the employers are US based and the rest is around the world. The second largest group is in Europe. Europe is a fantastic market for us. It’s growing very fast, just starting to grow into this idea. They have a strong flexibility. They have tons of small businesses. And they’re beginning to understand the power of this model.
SM: And in Europe, do you use all different language sites?
FR: No, people can post jobs in any language they want. They can post in any language and people can respond in any language. We have people all over, making money in 40 countries. So, that is not an issue. The official language of Elance, however, is English. When you land on Elance, we have what we call visitor sites, and you’ll see them at the top. There’s a little flag that drops down. You can switch and see, depending on where you’re coming from, Elance in German or in French or Spanish, but once you’re logged in, past the visitor, the official language is English.