There’s a lot of controversy around whether virtual teams scale. Taso Du Val has scaled a sizeable business using a virtual team. Read on to learn more.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal entrepreneurial journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background?
Taso Du Val: I grew up in Massachusetts and Westchester, New York. I’m a high school dropout who started Toptal at the age of 25.
Sramana Mitra: What was going on in your life around 25 that led you to start Toptal?
Taso Du Val: I was working at a company called Tap that was trying to connect individuals around the world based on interest. It was sort of an IRC 2.0. At that time, I started doing some consulting and trying to fund that on my own when I realized that other platforms that were trying to arbitrage the labor market had poor services. I ended up trying them out myself and had phenomenal success. I realized that it was my expertise that allowed me to find these individuals. That couldn’t be put into an algorithm. Therefore, I created processes and ways to find talent and started Toptal.
Sramana Mitra: What is the concept behind Toptal?
Taso Du Val: The concept behind Toptal is precisely finding top talent. We find the best software engineers all over the world and contract them to companies all over the world. We work in 93 different countries. We have, I would say, pretty great growth and a great team running this operation.
Sramana Mitra: Let me see if I got you. Are you then finding freelance talent from platforms like oDesk and Elance and introducing a management layer on how to manage these talent on behalf of clients?
Taso Du Val: We’re certainly not finding them on oDesk or Elance. We are finding them all over the Internet and in different mediums. We use forums. We have a very strong community and a very good network. We have probably the single best engineering blog in the world. We have blog that has absolute A+ content. If you think of one of the top quality content producers, we’re precisely like that for our blog, but for engineering. That resonates strongly with engineers.
Sramana Mitra: You are an engineering recruitment portal. Is that accurate?
Taso Du Val: I would say we’re more of a network of on-demand engineering labor. We happen to have a recruitment pipeline that allows us to consistently contract out those engineers, but we don’t consider ourselves as a recruiting company or a company that is in the staffing business. Uber has a recruitment process and so do a lot of the other on-demand companies. What makes them special is the core service they offer.