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Upwork holds IPO, shares jump

October 03, 2018

Upwork, the largest B2B human cloud platform, held its initial public offering today. The company is now traded on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol UPWK.

Shares jumped in early trading. Upwork priced the shares at $15, but trading began at $23.

The IPO will help raise awareness of the company and freelancing, especially among large, Fortune 500 firms, said Rich Pearson, Upwork, senior VP of marketing.

“Today’s announcement really signals a new chapter in the way people work,” Pearson said. “It really sends a signal that the freelance economy is not a consumer fad, that it’s a trend here to stay.”

Already, 30% of Fortune 500 companies use Upwork, but increased awareness of Upwork and the human cloud through the IPO could bring more large firms on board.

That would, in turn, mean more opportunities for freelancers. And images of Upwork’s top-rated freelancers were shown on some 200 screens throughout New York’s Times Square as part of the IPO as a way to recognize them.

“We’re a mission-driven company, and that mission is to create opportunities so people can have better lives,” Pearson said.

Upwork provides talent in 5,000 skills across 70 categories, examples include content marketing, customer service, data science and analytics, graphic design, mobile development, sales, and web development.

The company had revenue — including marketplace and managed services revenue — of $202.6 million in 2017 up 23.2% from the previous year. However, it reported “gross services volume” of $1.37 billion for the year. Gross services volume includes the total amount clients spend through the site on freelancers as well as additional fees. Marketplace revenue reflects fees paid by freelancers to the site.

Upwork posted a net loss of $4.1 million in 2017 compared to a net loss of $16.2 million in 2016.

Revenue for the first six months of this year was up 27.6% to $121.9 million, but net loss was $7.2 million compared to net income of $1.4 million in the same period last year.

Upwork shares were up 39.9% to $20.98 at 1:22 p.m. Eastern time today.

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