The demand for top talent is monumental, and the process of finding and hiring the best workers can be excruciating. There are many marketplaces on the web where one can go to find talent, but how do you know that their work is quality? Reviews aren’t always reliable, and there is stiff competition on many gig platforms, making the prices undercut, the stakes lower and the work shoddy.
Toptal, founded in 2010, aims to relieve the difficulties of hiring freelancers. Developers, designers, and finance experts from around the world go through a rigorous process that includes live screening and weeks-long test projects before being invited to join Toptal’s network. The freelancers and consultants that contract through Toptal are getting better paying jobs, and the companies that hire them are getting vetted talent, solving both problems at once.
I spoke with Toptal Co-founder and CEO Taso Du Val to find out more about how Toptal got started and his predictions for the future of the talent economy.
How did you come up with the idea for Toptal?
After looking at poor online labor marketplaces and expensive consulting firms, I decided there was a need for a high quality labor services driven by technology. None of the solutions that were in play could deliver the kind of nimble, re-configurable teams and resources that businesses wanted. Consulting companies were expensive and better at giving advice than they were at giving help, and staffing firms were better at giving you lots of options instead of the exact people you really needed.
Friends and colleagues would often ask me for help finding top talent, so finally I gave in and started giving them just that. We built a great platform to make finding the right talent into a fast and repeatable process, and added a white-glove service on top of that with domain experts hand-picking the perfect people from our network out of that selection. The whole platform works because everyone in our network is heavily screened; they’re all experts. That’s Toptal in a nutshell -- the best talent, from all over the world, accessible and ready to work.
Where are you located?
We don’t have a centralized location. We have arguably the largest distributed workforce in the world. We hire the best talent no matter where they want to work from.
Online talent recruitment and management is a crowded space. Why have you been successful?
There are a number of online marketplaces for commoditized talent, but that’s not how clients view our network, and it’s certainly not how we see ourselves. Marketplaces are a free-for-all, where freelancers often feel like they are in a race to the bottom. The most talented people consistently lose out to competing bids that get increasingly lower.
We really wanted to build a network of top tier talent, similar to the caliber of talent that’s working in-house at top Silicon Valley tech companies. Our emphasis is on community, not commodity, and it’s about quality, not quantity. Because everyone in our network has been through a rigorous screening process first, and then gets matched to a project by someone who knows them, knows their work, and spends time to understand the business and the problem we’re being asked to solve, we have a 98 percent success rate. On average, we find the right candidate or candidates in less than 24 hours. All of that sets us apart.
What do you see in the future of the jobs market?
The talent wars are real, and those companies sticking to traditional workforce models are going to be left behind. In a recent study by PwC, 77 percent of CEOs described the talent gap as a significant impediment to company growth and performance. Highly skilled workers value variety, and they value inspiring work, so being able to attract and motivate top talent will be a defining characteristic for success. At minimum, companies that want to be nimble should leverage the right mix of full-time employees and independent talent.
What’s next on the Toptal roadmap?
We’ll continue to grow by creating world-class networks of top professionals in other fields and markets, but we’re choosing the ones we plan to expand into thoughtfully. Our most recent addition is Toptal Finance, which connects companies with seasoned finance, investment banking, and fundraising experts on-demand. And we’ll be expanding into more business verticals soon.
Why did you prioritize finance over another capability? Who are your target clients and what kind of services are they looking for?
Finance was a logical expansion for us, though coming across the right acquisition while having it on our strategic roadmap accelerated the launch. Our target clients are high-growth businesses as well as established Fortune 500 companies who need financial consultants, FP&A specialists, pricing analysts, or top financial analysts. Companies are turning away from the consulting firms like Accenture, Deloitte and others with expensive talent opting to go with our service at a fraction of the price and often better results. During our two month beta test of the service with our existing clients, we were able to grow Toptal Finance to seven figures in revenue, with a 17 percent week-over-week revenue growth rate.
What are the key things you have learned as a tech founder that you think it is most important to share with other founders?
Focus on what to focus on. Most software entrepreneurs focus on software, but great software often takes too long to build before you can operate a sustainable company. Learn how to run a business and make it sustainable, then you can focus on the fun stuff.
Murray Newlands is founder of chatbot builder Chattypeople.com and Sighted an online invoicing company and you can follow his personal blog at www.murraynewlands.com
This article appeared first on Forbes.