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Gary Swart      

CEO of oDesk

Gary Swart is the CEO of oDesk, the world’s largest online workplace—which has more than 2.5 million registered freelancers, and on which 9 million hours were worked in Q3 2012 alone. Gary is a thought leader in entrepreneurship; how best to hire and manage teams; and the future of work, including online work. He is passionate about helping small businesses thrive, fueled by his extensive experience working with startups and small businesses that use oDesk, as well as by mentoring entrepreneurs and business school students.

Gary has spoken at the Inc. Leadership Conference, The Economist’s Ideas Economy panel, South by Southwest, TechCrunch 50, TiECon, GigaOM’s Net:Work Conference in 2010 and 2011, and at Harvard Business School which teaches a case study on oDesk. His commentary has appeared in a variety of publications including Forbes, TechCrunch and The Washington Post. He has also appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, including BBC, National Public Radio, and the Fox Business program “After the Bell.”

Previously, he led SMB Sales for the Americas at IBM’s Rational Software Product Group, and also served as VP of Worldwide Sales at Intellibank, where he was responsible for leading the sales organization.

Gary holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Maryland.

Speech Topics


From the Jungle to the Highway: How to Scale Your Company without Losing Your Primal Edge

Scaling a business from startup to enterprise requires a broad skill set that must evolve significantly over time. What was once most important in the early stages could kill your company once it reaches maturity. In this discussion on the company journey, Gary will share valuable lessons learned from scaling businesses throughout his three decades as an operator, and most recently building oDesk from inception to a globally recognized brand. He will also touch on how company founders should set priorities and make critical decisions at meaningful inflection points in the company’s lifecycle.

The Universal Entrepreneur: Where, What, When, Why and NOW

You don’t need to own a business or work out of a garage to be an entrepreneur in 2015. Today, being “an entrepreneur” is actually a mindset, not a job title, that’s critical to business success. Companies that encourage their team to develop entrepreneurial practices—experimenting with new, big ideas or trying radically different processes—are seeing incredible organic growth and innovation from within the organization. Sharing practical strategies for identifying and inspiring the entrepreneurs at your organization to embracing your own aspirations of becoming an innovative leader, you will walk away from this discussion with a strong understanding of what it takes to find the entrepreneur in everyone. Gary will guide you through the entire process—touching on the pitfalls and benefits of this approach. Equal parts startup stories and practical tips, it’s a message that resonates with students, early stage entrepreneurs, and veteran business leaders who want to ignite innovation within their business.

Beyond Perks: How to Create an Inspiring Culture and Win the Talent War

Every CEO knows the importance of creating a strong culture that reflects the core values of their organization and why it’s key for attracting and retaining the best talent. But how many CEOs are actually getting it done? The reality is that most leaders can’t define their core values, let alone build a meaningful culture around them. As the war for talent heats up, there is no better time to talk about how a well-defined culture can actually be the strongest recruiting and retention tool a business can leverage. In this conversation, Gary will walk you through his culture creation roadmap (starting on Day 1), complete with fast track options and tips for working around roadblocks. Touching on how to identify your company’s needs and core values, to creating the clarity necessary for brilliant execution, to ultimately ensuring the success and delight of your teams, Gary will share tactical approaches and anecdotes from more than three decades operating in both small startups and leading global enterprises about what it takes to grow a great organizational climate.

The Future of Work

Pay a visit to any Silicon Valley startup and you’ll hear about the disruptive technology that is being deployed across any number of vertical markets. But are these innovations actually disruptive? Or are they, instead, transformative? As the builder of one of the largest online marketplaces in the world and investor in the next generation of revolutionary companies, Gary will speak about how today’s innovations are expanding the size of the pie to include more players, not less, and how this “lift, not shift” dynamic offers incredible opportunities for efficiency and innovation. In this candid discussion, Gary will identify the major drivers of the future workplace along with winning strategies to inspire leaders to think outside of the box and thrive in the new normal.

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