oDesk and Elance, two sites that connect freelancers and gigs, announced Wednesday plans to merge into one big online employment hub. The deal is expected to close in four months, pending regulatory approval.
Both companies will continue to operate as they always have. But together they'll comprise a global community of more than 8 million freelancers and 2 million businesses that reaches over 180 countries, according to the brands.
"This merger is a landmark in the evolution of work," oDesk chief executive officer Gary Swart (pictured left) said in a news release. "With 2.7 billion people now connected online, people are hungry for more freedom to work flexibly and for teams to come together more easily."
The hope is that joining forces will enable users of both platforms to do just that but more efficiently. The merged company plans to scale more quickly, deliver faster, smarter results to customers, and pour "significant" funds into technology. Mobile accessibility and new hiring tools will also be a focus, the company says.
According to All Things D's Liz Gannes, the merger was only a matter of time. Swart, who will stay on as a "strategic advisor" for the new company, said working just a few exits off Highway 101 from Elance helped him come to "realize these are decent people" and found they shared the same vision. Elance CEO Fabio Rosati (pictured right), who will become CEO of the soon-to-be-named company, told Gannes he saw "synergies in investments and data science, trust and safety, mobile technology, education," and more.
oDesk, the older of the two, has raised a total of $44 million in venture capital from the likes of T. Rowe Price, Benchmark, and others. But Elance has raised about twice that funding, despite having fewer customers--800,000 businesses and 3 million freelancers compared to 1 million businesses and 5 million freelancers on oDesk.
"Fundamentally, we have a shot at building a business on the scale of Amazon or LinkedIn or iTunes," said Rosati.
Let the rumors of an initial public offering commence.
(Disclosure: Matt Cooper, vice president of oDesk, is a columnist at Inc.com.)