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Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to Scale: Taso Du Val, CEO of Toptal (Part 2)

Posted on Saturday, Aug 1st 2015

Sramana Mitra: You’re more of a freelance engineering talent exchange?

Taso Du Val: That’s accurate. We think of ourselves as Uber for engineers. It’s funny. A lot of companies have pitched this.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s go from there. At 25, this is what you decided you wanted to do. How did you get the business going?

Taso Du Val: I started to do software consulting with a few individuals, and then contracting out engineers to them that were already working with me. I had individuals in Russia, Argentina, and other places who I was working with for my startup. One day, I said, “I need to focus more on my startup.” I didn’t want to do the consulting thing anymore. I ended up contracting engineers to clients I was working with. They were extremely satisfied with what I was doing. That’s when I realized this was a real business. It made a lot of sense.

Sramana Mitra: You had to build a platform to make this thing flow, right?

Taso Du Val: Right. If you think about it, it started off as a bootstrapped business. There was a lot of operational processes involved. No one has been able to do what we’ve done in any vertical and we do the most challenging vertical. Doctors and lawyers are probably equally as challenging.

Sramana Mitra: What was the process of bootstrapping? Was it you alone coding and putting a platform together? Were there other people involved? I’m trying to double-click down and see how you got this together.

Taso Du Val: When I ended up contracting engineers to companies, I realized that was a high-value proposition. I did it about a hundred times pretty much through my personal network. I ended up doing it in a shoe and leather manner for almost two years. If you look at it from an operational or scale perspective, it’s not a very attractive business model. It was a lot of operational and intensive work for the first two years. We basically made no money. It has been an extremely difficult journey.

Sramana Mitra: How come you didn’t make any money? You were placing these engineers for employers. Were you not charging them?

Taso Du Val: We weren’t growing fast. We were making money but it was very difficult to grow the company. We had very big issues figuring out how to grow, how to create a marketplace, and how to sustain it. By the time we got to where we were two years in, we almost gave up because it was so difficult. It was a difficult journey.

We stepped through it and we ended up figuring out ways to do very clever marketing, build a very innovative software platform, get our operations together, figure everything out, and scale the company to where it is today.

This segment is part 2 in the series : Bootstrapping a Virtual Company to Scale: Taso Du Val, CEO of Toptal
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