The Future of Work

Upwork’s CEO on the nonsensical building of cities and how gig work changes our relationship to learning.

Chris Hill
Chris Hill
Jun 25, 2019 at 12:00AM
Other

On this week's episode of Motley Fool Money, three Foolish analysts take a look at the biggest business news.

The market seems elated about interest rate news, but lower rates aren't necessarily a good thing for the long-term macro. Slack (NYSE:WORK) is open to the public markets, and investors are snapping up shares. CarMax (NYSE:KMX) and Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) reported earnings. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) announced ostentatious cryptocurrency plans. Also, the analysts share some stocks on their radar this week. Stay tuned for an interview between Motley Fool analyst Bill Mann and Upwork (NASDAQ:UPWK) CEO Stephane Kasriel on the future of Upwork, how the gig economy changes how we work and where we live, and more.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on June 21, 2019.

Chris Hill: It's the Motley Fool Money radio show! I'm Chris Hill. Joining me in studio this week, from 1623 Capital, Jeff Fischer and Motley Fool senior analysts Andy Cross and Ron Gross. Good to see you as always, gentlemen! We've got the latest headlines from Wall Street. Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel is our guest. And as always, we'll give you an inside look at the stocks on our radar.

But we begin with the big macro. The S&P 500 index hit a new-all time high in the wake of this week's Federal Reserve meeting. The Fed indicated a willingness to cut interest rates in the coming months. Andy Cross, I'll start with you. It doesn't seem like our strong U.S. economy necessarily needs interest rates to go lower, but I'm not going to complain about my index fund going higher.

Andy Cross: Yeah, absolutely! Compared to where we were in December, it seems like years ago. It's been a nice run this year. A little bit rocky earlier on. But clearly a lot of excitement. I think the Fed talk over the past few months has driven a lot of the big macro money that's flown into the U.S. markets that's driven a lot of the stock prices, because we are clearly just the best economy of the big economies out there. We're one of the few large growing economies. There's a lot of money that still is going into our stocks because that's where the growth is. A lot of excitement with some of the initiatives from the IPO market, but just from the S&P 500, big companies continuing to put up fairly good numbers on the growth side. Not great, but fairly good. And when you're looking for some growth, if you have a lot of money to spend, you're going to look in the U.S.

Ron Gross: Yeah, for sure, Wall Street loves lower interest rates. That's just a given. But let's not forget why the Fed may feel the need to do this in terms of lowering interest rates, easing monetary policy. They see slowing growth, both domestically and internationally, which can be problematic. That can lead to recession, obviously, which is something no one wants to see. So they're trying to be proactive about it. Inflation remains tame, so I think they feel that they can get this done if they need to. In fact, traders are pricing in a 100% chance of a cut --

Hill: A hundred percent?


Related Articles

Gross: A hundred percent.

Jeff Fischer: [laughs] Is anything 100%?

Gross: In this case, it is. It looks like it'll happen, barring any unforeseen circumstances over the next few weeks. But we really do want to keep an eye on GDP because somebody's seeing some slowing growth there, for sure.

Fischer: Well, I have to ask this question, even though I think we all know the answer: is the Fed here, is the ECB, are we all now addicted to stimulus or to propping stocks up whenever they drop? We're seeing the markets more manipulated, is the word I'll use, than any time in my lifetime.

Gross: Yeah, I think the answer is yes. It's part political, the political climate. I'm sure the Fed feels pressure there, although they're not supposed to. Let's hope they remain independent. But for sure, we like our stimulus. I don't know if we ever go back to the monetary easing, where we build up the balance sheet again. I'm not even sure that really served its purpose. It seems like interest rates are much better way to stimulate the economy. But for sure, we focus awfully a lot of our time on the stock market itself rather than underlying economics.

Cross: You're seeing also in multiples, Jeff. The price-to-sales of the S&P 500 is at a 15-year high at more than 2.2 now. The IPO market is as hot as it's been really since we practically joined The Motley Fool back in the late 1990s.

Fischer: Good times! [laughs]

Cross: A lot of excitement around people spending money pretty much on U.S.-based stocks, although the IPO market globally is pretty hot, but really on U.S.-based stocks. That's really the creme de la creme of investing right now.

Fischer: Definitely. The economy is doing pretty well here. But if investors are always hoping that the government will step in and prop things up... it's interesting to see how that'll play out long-term.

Hill: Let's get to some earnings. Shares of Oracle up more than 5% this week. Fourth-quarter profits and revenue came in higher than expected. Jeff, Oracle is closing in on a market cap of $200 billion.

Fischer: Yes, Chris, and it's the stock that everyone thinks went nowhere in recent years, and in some ways it didn't. But it actually doubled in the past seven years. It more than doubled the past seven years. It's gone up more than the S&P does on average over its lifetime. And this quarter, finally, they saw real good growth in database license sales. Everyone's happy to see that. Overall revenue growth is still modest at 3% year over year, but they expect that to tick higher next year in this new year. They expect earnings per share to grow at least 10% year over year.

Now, that said, Chris, they bought back $36 billion in stock in the past 12 months, at an average of $49 per share. The stock is more than 10% higher now, but still, that's a lot of money to spend on your own stock. Does that speak to how strongly they feel about their business and the software industry as a whole? Or does that speak to "We don't know where else to put this money"?

Gross: Yeah, that one!

Cross: [laughs] Option B!

Fischer: The shares are still inexpensive at 14.4 times estimated earnings for next year, but it's also still a slow revenue growth story.

Hill: First-quarter profits in revenue for CarMax came in higher than Wall Street was expecting. Shares of CarMax up on Friday. Ron, hitting a new all-time high.

Gross: Boy, is this company getting it done! Up 37%, the stock this year. Metrics continue to be really positive. Net sales up 12%. Comp sales 9.5%. They're strong on the used unit sales, up 13%. Also strong on wholesale. The auto finance unit, kind of lackluster. Up slightly, nothing to report really there. But that all translated into a profit growth of 12%. Really doing well. They're now focused on this omnichannel experience, they're calling it, rolling that out to majority of customers by 2020. You can use their services at home, in-store, a combination of both. That's their next move.

Speaking of repurchases, they've repurchased three million shares during the quarter, average price of about $68. The shares are at $86 right now, though, so that seems like a nice use of capital, as long as things remain solid. So, really nice job by the folks over at CarMax.

Fischer: Ron, they sell cars, right?

Gross: [laughs] They sell cars. They buy and sell cars.

Fischer: It's funny that they're doing so well, and yet the automakers are not.

Gross: They're mostly focused on used, obviously. But, it's interesting, you see them trading only at 16 times earnings. Some of the typical AutoNations and the Penskes of the world trading at 8 or 10. You're paying a premium for the CarMax experience versus your typical used-car dealers.

Hill: I actually bought a car from CarMax a year ago, and I have to say it was the best experience I've had by far, and it still can be improved. There's still a market opportunity for someone out there to make this even better, even more streamlined, and take less time.

Gross: The omnichannel, baby!

Cross: Well, speaking of that, Chris, there's a relatively new IPO called Carvana, CVNA, on the market that is trying to disrupt the used car buying experience.

Gross: What do they call them, vending machines filled with cars on the side of the road?

Cross: Yeah, exactly!

Gross: It's interesting!

Hill: Another week, another hot public offering. This time, it was Slack. Shares of Slack made their public debut on Thursday. Technically not an IPO, Andy, but shares up nearly 50%.

Cross: Yeah, a direct listing. They didn't actually issue new stock into the market. It was a matching of buyers and sellers. Slack has really become the proverbial office cubicle and water cooler, all wrapped together into a slick cloud-based architecture where people and companies, like The Motley Fool, use it as their primary collaborative tool to communicate and to work better together. Slack pretty much is defining how people and how offices and workplaces communicate. One billion messages sent per week. Average usage is 90 minutes per day. I think mine's probably a little bit higher than that. 600,000 total customers, Chris, but 100,000 of those are paying. They have a freemium, free to pay kind of model. 645 customers contribute 43% of revenue. Those are the ones that generate more than $100,000 in annual subscriptions.

A lot of excitement around Slack. Obviously, a lot of excitement, as I mentioned earlier, around the IPO market in general. As a direct listing, the last one and the only one that I know, Spotify did this. This was more successful than Spotify. Like you said, Chris, the stock listed at about $26, now it's about $38. Very successful debut.

Gross: Still not profitable, interestingly. Thirty-four times revenue at IPO -- er, direct listing. I don't know if we can use the word "IPO." Even higher multiple now. They've got to really put up that growth to get me interested. But I do like the product quite a bit.

Cross: The growth side, they're nearly doubling sales every year.

Hill: Well, I think we all like using Slack, but it seems like it was maybe a year, a year and a half ago, we were talking about the private market valuation of Slack being somewhere in the neighborhood of $8-10 billion. Here we are, it's $24 [billion]-$25 billion. It's hard not to look at this, even as a great business -- to your point, Ron, it's unprofitable, and they've got some high expectations built in.

Gross: High expectations. Six largest shareholders are institutions, control 60% of the stock. It's going to be interesting to see what they do with their shares. That's going to control the supply and demand, which will impact the stock price.

Hill: Shares of Adobe hitting a new high this week after second-quarter sales rose 25% compared to a year ago. Jeff, I get that the end of 2018 was a little ugly for Adobe shareholders. But in general, this thing has just been a monster for five years or more.

Fischer: In the last three years alone, it has tripled. The stock has tripled. And yet it still looks pretty reasonable. As you mentioned, Chris, sales are growing 25% year over year. 25% earnings-per-share growth is expected in 2020. The shares trade at about 31 times that estimate. A bit of a premium to the growth rate, but merited given the strength of the business. They're really dominating in digital experiences. Creating content online, promoting your content online. Their creative cloud, which offers pretty much all of their products, or you can buy them piecemeal, really helps them sell both to enterprises -- they have giant corporate customers -- and individuals as well. Their customer base is so diverse. It really makes for a strong business.

Hill: This week, Facebook unveiled Libra, a new digital currency set to launch in early 2020. Andy, this is not being run by Facebook directly. They're part of a group that's setting up a nonprofit association, although my assumption is at some point, Facebook is hoping to make money off this.

Cross: There's the foundation, Chris. I think the real purpose of this is just to continue to grow the Facebook reach across their 2.7 billion monthly active users. I mean, there are 500 billion non-cash transactions made globally each year. There's a lot of transactions made that Facebook doesn't really see. I think they spend so much time trying to build the social connection through Facebook and WhatsApp and Instagram that they now want to try to tie into the actual transactions, connections part of our daily lives. It's a pretty exciting endeavor, but a lot of questions out there. How it will work? It'll be backed by some of the big currencies, like the U.S. dollar and the pound and the euro. But a lot of questions about how it actually works and who actually uses it and how.

Fischer: Yeah, how and why. [laughs] 

Gross: Details! Come on! 

Cross: If you think about the way that we will be transacting through currencies over the next 10 years, clearly moving more into a digital space is going to be the way of the future, and Facebook wants to get a piece of that.

Hill: Darden Restaurants wrapped up its fiscal year, the parent company of Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and other restaurant chains. Darden's same-store sales in the fourth quarter rose just 1.5%. Ron, that is not lighting the world on fire.

Gross: I think that's what the investors are focusing on because it was a solid report overall, driven by the addition of 39 net new restaurants. Sales were up 4.5%. But, as you say, 1.6% blended comp store sales. Olive Garden is getting it done. Longhorn is getting it done. Cheddar's Scratch, not so much. Comp sales down 3.2% there. They had a few other concepts with negative comps as well. They know where they need to focus on, for sure. But still, overall, 27% increase in EPS from continuing operations is strong. Darden continues to execute really well. The stock's been very strong over the last five years, up 15% this year. They continue to purchase stock. Raised their dividend. Shareholders should still be pretty happy.

Hill: You and I were talking about this before the show. It's worth remembering that once upon a time, Starboard Value activist investors came in and got a lot of attention in part because one of their recommendations for Darden was, "Hey, stop giving away so many breadsticks at Olive Garden." But, while they got attention for that, you can look at the point where Starboard Value got involved in this company and draw a straight line to how well it has performed over the last few years.

Gross: And stop salting the water so the pots last longer, yes. For sure. They've executed well. Restaurants are not my favorite investments. Specialty retailers are not my favorite investments. But you can't deny the success. The stock's even not that pricey right now at 18 times. You see a lot of restaurants in the low-20, mid-20 range. Even now, it could still be a good investment.

Hill: Normally we'd go to our man behind the glass, Steve Broido, who's well known for many things, including being arguably the biggest fan of Olive Garden on the Eastern Seaboard. Steve is out this week, but our man behind the glass Dan Boyd is here. He's going to hit you with a question, because it's time to get to the stocks on our radar. Ron Gross, you're up first. What are you looking at this week?

Gross: I've got Carter's, CRI. Leading manufacturer of children's clothing in the U.S. and Canada. Stock got smacked in May after a strong first four months of the year. Traded down from a high of $108 to $84 on weak international sales, fear of tariffs. But it's rebounded nicely, back to $95 a share, but I still think there's a nice entry point here. Dominant position in the children's apparel industry. Strong financial performance across economic cycles. 2% dividend yield, only trading 14 times.

Hill: Dan Boyd, question about Carter's?

Dan Boyd: Ron, I keep hearing that millennials are having fewer and fewer babies than the generations that came before them. How's that look out for Carter's?

Gross: Demographic shifts are important to the industry, for sure. They've got to keep an eye on it, maybe start appealing to some older folks as well.

Hill: Jeff Fischer, what are you looking at this week?

Fischer: Well, I've only taken a fresh look at this idea in the last few days. With that caveat, Papa John's Pizza as a short. Betting against the stock potentially. The company is still really struggling since the founder was ousted from it last year, and they lost the NFL promotional deal. Sales have fallen 12% in the past year. Same-store sales are down sharply. They're still trying to write the ship there. Former founder is selling his shares in giant boatloads at the same time.

But, Chris, Starboard Value has stepped up, so look out. They've invested $250 million in the struggling company. It makes for a very interesting, will it do poorly or will it recover, type of situation. 

Hill: Dan, question about Papa John's?

Boyd: Not really. Jeff, my favorite pizza toppings are pineapple and jalapeno. Thoughts?

Gross: Together?

Fischer: I don't know if pineapple should be on pizza.

Boyd: Yes, together. It's delicious!

Fischer: I've never tried that. Dan, I respect you, so I'll have to try it.

Hill: Jeff, I know you're just taking a fresh look at Papa John's. Are you're aware that Shaquille O'Neal, one of the more beloved professional athletes of the last 30 years in America, is involved in this company? You're also betting against Shaq.

Fischer: [laughs] I am aware. It's not personal. I haven't made the bet yet. But it's potential.

Hill: That's good that it's not personal because he's enormous and you're not. Andy Cross, what are you looking at this week?

Cross: With Starboard coming on board, maybe we're not going to see breadsticks at Papa John's. I'm going to FactSet Research, FDS. It's a company that provides global financial and economic information, company research, data, portfolio analysis, trading solutions to lots of different financial firms. Serves more than 5,400 global institutions. $11.5 billion company. Generates $1.4 billion in revenue. Very profitable. Stock has almost doubled over the past three years. Has returns on equity north of 50%. Operating margin close to 30%. Client retention rates exceptionally high, 95%. I'm looking to see if their subscription revenue growth can continue to grow above 5% this quarter.

Hill: Ticker symbol?

Cross: It's FDS.

Hill: Dan?

Boyd: Generally it's Ron that brings in these very straitlaced buttoned-up boring stocks. Did he get to you or something before the show today?

Gross: [laughs] That's not a question!

Cross: He did not! But I'm looking more and more at these B2B, business to business service providers. FactSet's one of the best out there.

Hill: You got a stock you want to add your watch list, Dan?

Boyd: I love the Papa John's short, because Papa John's Pizza is vile!

Hill: Ron Gross, Jeff Fischer, Andy Cross, guys, thanks for being here!

Hill: At our recent Fool Fest investing conference, one of our featured guests was Stephane Kasriel, the CEO of Upwork. If you're not familiar with the company, Upwork is the largest site when it comes to freelancing. Motley Fool analyst Bill Mann interviewed Stephane Kasriel in front of a live audience, with their conversation covering a range of topics including the future of work, the state of freelancing, and some of the weirder jobs that have been posted on Upwork. They'll kick things off by asking Stephane what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Stephane Kasriel: It changed many times. I think I wanted to be a jet fighter pilot until I was 11 or so. Then my parents bought me -- you guys might remember -- an Atari 800. [audience laughs] And I learned to code because that's the only thing you could do when you turned on the machine. You had to code. So I learned to code, and it was a life-changing moment. I then lived in Silicon Valley, I grew up in Paris. Learning to code in Paris was not something that was cool or well known. I was probably one of the few kids. I sold my first computer program when I was 12. I made 75 bucks and I was like, "I'm a millionaire. I'm God here. This is amazing!" Then I became a computer scientist.

Bill Mann: Why don't we start a little bit with Upwork? It's a $1.5 billion company, focused on matching freelancers with jobs. What does this group of investors need to know about your company?

Kasriel: I think the main thing is that it's a really big market. We're solving a really big problem for the U.S. economy and the world economy more generally. We're at the beginning of a very long journey. As you said, we do about $1.5 billion per year, meaning that's the amount of money that freelancers earn on Upwork. It also happens to be our market cap for no particularly correlated reason, I assume. Freelancers in the U.S. last year made $1.5 trillion. We essentially have 0.1 market share in something that is growing much faster than the U.S. economy. The number of freelancers in the U.S. right now, it's about 35% of the U.S. workforce, and it's growing 3 times faster than the traditional full-time W2 population. We're at the very beginning of a very long journey where we're helping transform what people refer to as the future of work. I hope it's also the present of work because I have to sell it today. I can't just wait for it to materialize. But the reality of it is, there's a really big shift happening in society and in the economy. It's happening in the U.S., but it's also happening across the world. We see it happening in India, we see it happening in Latin America, we definitely see it happening in Europe as well.

Mann: So it's a newly public company. Came public in October of 2018. Is that correct?

Kasriel: Yep. After 20 years. Overnight success, 20 years.

Mann: You've been in business since...

Kasriel: Ninety-nine.

Mann: Since 1999. Maybe talk a little bit about what that development path has looked like.

Kasriel: Sure. I am not the founder of the company. I was not there in 1999. I joined in 2012. But fundamentally, it's a company where the founders had an absolutely brilliant vision, but they were way too early compared to the market. If you come back to 1999, the idea that you could work online, work from home, work remotely, meant you were doing this with expensive long distance calling and fax machines. Not exactly great for relationships with your customers.

The business started to take off when broadband became a big thing. Around 2008, broadband became ubiquitous. People started to build video conferencing hardware, the first Logitech webcams, and then software that went with it. Skype essentially took off at that time. That also became the time when tools that people used moved to the cloud. Things became digital in general, things moved to the cloud. So, suddenly, you could work from anywhere. And that's really been the beginning of the journey. First 10 years were great vision, but smart enough not to burn too much cash because the market was not ready for us. And last 10 years has really been about exponential growth.

Mann: I made a search on Upwork yesterday, just in case this whole Fool thing doesn't work out. There were 12,000 jobs that were being offered. One was "Help me manage my Instagram feed." One was "I'm developing a plastic injection mold prototype." One was requiring an incredible depth of programming knowledge. Your corporate description points to 5,000 skills in about 70 categories. What are some of the areas where you're having the most success?

Kasriel: I would say generally, all things grow. Part of the reason why they grow is because companies that need X typically need Y. I should mention, by the way, The Motley Fool is a great client, and has been a great customer for many, many years. We're deeply thankful for the partnership. You would be an example. You started in one category, and then you started using us in many, many different ways. Generally, all the categories tend to follow a similar path.

That being said, we do $1 billion worth of software development every year. The law of gravity does kick in at some points. There's only so many mobile apps and websites people want to build. Whereas in the smaller categories, emerging trends in AI, or things that are really nascent for us, like legal services or strategic consulting or what have you, where they start from a base of $50 million a year, let's say, grow much faster.

Mann: What's the weirdest job you've seen advertised?

Kasriel: Oh, there's so many weird jobs! [audience laughs] It's amazing. Probably one of the most interesting things about building a middleware, a tool that people can use, is that they find ways to use it that are totally different from what we designed for them to do.

I would give you one example, just because this is an investor community, one that I found surprising, but apparently it's very well known. As part of taking the company public, we started talking to a lot of investors. We've been cash flow positive for many years. We haven't had to spend time with the investor community up to preparing for the IPO. And as a result, I expected nobody to know us because we're not a consumer brand and we haven't raised money. How would anybody know us? During the IPO process, every single person we talked to was a customer. That was shocking to me. So after a while, you start to ask questions. What do you guys use us for? It turns out, you can build all sorts of technologies on Upwork to get an edge to try to understand -- some of them are amazing. We power some of the predictive models, some of the AI for some of the best hedge funds in the world, where they find the amazing talent, people that have three PhDs in neuro linguistics and live in Romania and nobody else knows about them. They find them and they build a quant model that beats everybody else in the industry. Some of it is less glamorous, but probably very effective, where they take satellite imagery, and they count the number of cars in the parking lot of Walmart, or they look at the shadow that is projected by the shopping bags of people and from there, they infer how big the bag is, and from there, how big the shopping cart was, and therefore, whether Walmart's is going to make their numbers or not.

Mann: Wait, wait, wait!

Kasriel: Yeah, no, they do that!

[audience laughs]

Mann: We are terrible at our jobs! I don't know anything like that!

Kasriel: That's when you realize the wisdom of the crowd, right? You've got a billion people that wants to invest in the stock market, everybody tries everything. There's a company that looks at satellite imagery, looks for oil tankers that are carrying oil, looks at the size of the shadow of the tanker, and from there predicts how heavy the tanker is, and therefore, how much oil. So, not only do they know where it's going, where it's coming from, but also how much oil is in there. From there, they can build models that say, "This is what the oil price is going to look like." There's stuff like this, which is not at all what we intended for the product to be used. But clearly, it's being used to make people... what's your expression? Smarter, happier -- I don't know about happier, but smarter and richer, for sure!

Mann: [laughs] I'm not sure how happy tracking oil tanker girth is. One of the things that you said that I thought was so interesting is that in the gig economy, skills and not pedigree are what's going to matter for the future workforce. What does that mean for the future of education? There's a famous Broadway show called Avenue Q, and they have a song called "What Do I Do With a B.A. in English?" What do you do with a B.A. in English in a gig economy?

Kasriel: First of all, I would say, if you can afford to put your kids through college, especially a really good college, it's still very much valued by the industry. There's still tons of companies that will say, if you've got a Ph.D. from Stanford or a B.S. from Yale, or whatever you have, you will get a better job and you'll get paid more. I'm not claiming that you shouldn't put your kids through college.

However, the reality is, most children will not go to college. That's true in the U.S., and it's true in the world. In particular, children whose parents didn't go to college and can't afford to go to college most likely will not go to college. If you look at the economy today, the real wages of that population has been going down over the last 50 years. It seems like there's no end to this. At the same time, you hear companies saying, "There's a huge shortage of skills. We can't hire good enough talent. We also care deeply about diversity. We really struggle to find underrepresented minorities," all of that stuff. And you realize, well, the solution is in the problem statement itself. If you keep putting in your job description, "I need somebody who got a bachelor's degree from an Ivy League University," and then you're wondering why you don't get underrepresented minorities, well, here's the answer. Fundamentally, a bachelor from Yale is a proxy for something else. You don't really care that they need a bachelor from Yale. You care that they learned how to learn, you care that they're very competitive, you care that they're very analytical, whatever it is that you care about. And so we encourage companies to break down what they really mean by that bullet point, which looks innocuous, but is incredibly discriminatory in your job description. We've removed it. We don't put college degree requirements in our job descriptions. An increasing number of companies are doing it and we find that it really helps us bring a lot of diversity and not just for the sake of diversity. Obviously, we care deeply about diversity, belonging, and inclusion in our company, but it actually makes the company better. You bring people that have a totally different background -- by the way, who might look more like your customers. If you have a bunch of, not to be pejorative, but young white dudes who went to Stanford, and you're serving a much more diverse community of customers, well, maybe your employees are not relating properly to the potential customers. There's all sorts of good reasons.

I think it is going to be a better world, a world where people don't stop learning when they're 25, but they're learning throughout their lives, and they're learning in bite-size shrunks. This approach of convincing employers to think a lot more about skills and convincing people to think a lot more about where they want to take their skills, what is the next set of skills they want to acquire, and, invest in their reskilling, either the companies need to help them invest or people should set money aside to do it. In some countries -- Singapore, most notably -- is giving people $500 a year that they can only use in personal training. As a result, the Singapore economy is extremely competitive from a talent standpoint because people always have the best possible skills.

Mann: Having said that, I promise everyone that we didn't plan ahead of time. My next question is, lots of businesses use degrees, school eliteness, and other educational achievements as proxies of competency. What are some of the things that freelancers must do to stand out? Or is that something that the platform itself is helping them manage?

Kasriel: Our role in helping freelancers is essentially two things. One is giving them access to jobs that they would never hear about otherwise. Typically, in the real offline freelancing world, people hear about jobs through their personal networks, and their personal networks tend to be deeply local. If you happen to live in San Francisco or New York, you get access to the cool gigs. If you live 250 miles away in the center of the country, you have no idea what's going on.

Mann: That speaks a little bit to the diversity you're talking about.

Kasriel: Right. The main issue we have in this economy today is, we destroy jobs in the center of the country, and we create jobs in a smaller and smaller number of cities, the superstar cities of the U.S., where the cost of living is rising even faster than the wages. If you're a young person today, there's very much a Catch-22. You either stay in your small college town, and then it's going to be really hard for you to get access to really good jobs, or you move to the big cities, and now, in addition to having unbearable student debt, you have an unbearable mortgage on top of that fine. That is not a good place for us to go to, and it doesn't have to be that way.

The No. 1 thing that I tell employers is, the way you do college recruiting today is fundamentally broken. The worst thing you can do is take a kid who's graduating from the State University of Fresno, top 25 research university within the U.S., which is 200 miles away from San Francisco. The worst thing you can do is hire them and relocate them to San Francisco. You've made the San Francisco housing crisis and income inequality even higher. Meanwhile, you've depleted the city of Fresno from a highly talented person who was going to pay taxes locally and create jobs locally.

Mann: And she could do that job just fine in Fresno.

Kasriel: Frankly, the commuting issue tends to be the same in every city. Where I come from in Paris right now, there's all these strikes going on. The issue is, the people whose jobs really need to be done in the town, tend to be people that can't afford to live in the town. Meanwhile, the people that live in the town have jobs that can be done from anywhere. The way we're building our cities right now is completely broken. But the good news is, the solution is pretty clear -- a lot of people that have knowledge jobs that can be done from anywhere, relocate to another part of the country where they're going to have a higher quality of life, they'll be closer to their community. We do the opposite of college recruiting. We do what we call delocation packages. We have our people that are in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and we tell them, usually when they start to have multiple kids, they start to say, "Look, it's unbearable. I can't raise my kids here. It's not even healthy for my kids to live in this environment." We pay them to actually move to another part of the country and they choose where they want to live.

Mann: Don't they tend to move to Austin?

Kasriel: No. Well, yes, actually, that does happen. [audience laughs] Guilty as charged. I would say, Austin at this stage doesn't seem to be too resentful about it. The place that is resentful is Portland. We definitely have seen a lot of people that say, "Hey, I'm moving out of San Francisco. I'm going to Portland." And the Portland locals are saying, "The last thing we want is for our town to undergo the same thing that has happened to San Francisco in the last 20 years." The best way for this to happen is to have a very decentralized and dispersed approach to it. We're just porting the same problem -- we created the Silicon Valley situation and we created the Seattle situation, which is almost as bad. Last thing we want is to create the Portland situation thereafter. We need a place where cities invest in building livable places where people actually want to go, in particular young, educated people that tend to bring a lot of consumption and economic development with them. We need more towns in the U.S. that are successful.

Mann: What do you think are your company's largest opportunities going forward where you are currently not participating?

Kasriel: Well, I would say, probably the biggest one in the long run for us, and we are participating in it, but completely under index, is working with very large employers. Traditionally, our business was early stage tech companies in New York and San Francisco that were struggling to find talent locally. So, we'd find people in the Midwest or people in Chile or somewhere else in the world. But the reality is, more than half of GDP and more than half of employment in the U.S. come from larger companies who traditionally have been really reluctant to the idea of having people work remotely. Famously, IBM fired all of their remote workers and Yahoo brought everybody back in-house and all of that stuff. Unfortunately, they're also the slowest to change. But it is a huge opportunity. We now work with 30% of the Fortune 500. Some of them will spend well over $10 million this year on the platform. It's still small compared to what it needs to be, but it is already 20% of our business. If you ask me, 10 years down the road, the vast majority of our business will be in the enterprise sector.

Mann: You saw, actually, with our last speaker, what the last question is.

Kasriel: Can we do this without the music? [audience laughs] I can't imagine doing it with the music. It's going to be intolerable.

Mann: OK. Set the stage in your mind, though. Let's say you're giving the commencement speech at a mildly prestigious university. Let's call it Duke.

["Pomp and Circumstance" plays; audience laughs]

Mann: Forty-five seconds. These people have already made four years of a mistake, but what have you got for them?

Kasriel: Here's what I'll say... oh, we're in the middle of [the song]. [audience laughs] I would say most careers are linear, and the good ones are exponential. The way you start in exponential is by not doing what everybody else is doing. So I would say three things that people should be doing. One is, take more risks at the beginning. I know it's hard because you have student debts. I know you think it's the worst possible time to do it. It's actually the best possible time to do it because your opportunity costs will only go up, and the amount of money that you owe to take care of your family will only go up. Take a big risk. Don't go do an entry level job at a big company like everybody else.

Second thing is, learn exponentially. What I said earlier, if you get 1% smarter every day, you'll be 35 times smarter at the end of the year. The time when you can make the biggest difference is early in your career. It's compounding interest, just like investing. Invest in your skills, they will pay off over time in a big way.

And I think the third one is, do something that matters. The world doesn't need another burger flipping automation robot or another photo sharing app. There's tons of issues in the world. There's other people that are struggling. Do something that is actually helping create a better world. If you don't know where to go, I'd say, the UN, the United Nations, has something called the sustainable development goals. They're around gender parity, they're around poverty, they're around food security, they're around climate change. Go send a spaceship to the moon. Do something big, do something that really matters, because life is short and you've got to get started now.

[audience applauds]

Mann: Stephane Kasriel, that was amazing! Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, thank you!

Hill: That's going to do it for this week's edition of Motley Fool Money! Our engineer is Dan Boyd. Our producer is Mac Greer. I'm Chris Hill. Thanks for listening! We'll see you next week!