Gary Swart

  • Former CEO of Odesk, the world's largest online martketplace
  • Venture Partner, Polaris Partners
  • Venture Capitalist

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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 ...

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.


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 bu ...

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 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 ide ...

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.

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 fr ...

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.

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Biography

Gary Swart is a veteran Silicon Valley executive and venture capital investor. He is credited with building the world’s largest online marketplace oDesk, which grew to more than eight million freelancers and one million clients under his leadership. He guided the company through periods of great change and hockey stick growth, and then through a successful merger with Elance in April of 2014, all the while serving as a champion for entrepreneurship and workplace innovation.

In 2014, Gary sought to leverage his operational experience and passion for growing startups and joined Polaris Partners as a Venture Partner. Polaris is a venerable venture capital firm that invests in exceptional technology and healthcare companies across all stages of their lifecycles. At the firm, Gary leads the Silicon Valley technology practice where he mentors business leaders at innovative companies working to change the way we live and work. He is a LinkedIn Influencer and regularly shares his commentary via the social network.

Gary has held numerous leadership positions at technology organizations including Intellibank where he was VP of Worldwide Sales responsible for building the direct and indirect sales organization and channel development. Prior to Intellibank, he was a Business Unit Executive for IBM’s Rational Software Product Group, which he joined following the acquisition of Rational by IBM. Gary also served in numerous leadership and management positions at Pure Software early in his career.

Gary has held a seat at the table of some of the most innovative and fastest-growing companies in Silicon Valley. He has translated these experiences into an inspirational, forward-thinking, and collaborative approach to building and motivating young business minds. Gary’s messages draw on his three decades as a business leader and entrepreneur, offering strategic and practical methodologies for success in a dynamic, ever changing business ecosystem.

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 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 been described as inspirational, charismatic, down to earth, passionate, energetic, fascinating, enlightening, and gives “invaluable entrepreneurial and business insights”.