Wasuze otya nno?
That’s good morning in Luganda
So, you want to start a software project, but your company doesn’t have the skills to do it in-house and also doesn’t know how to hire the right talent.
On the other end, some software development freelancers have the right talent but don’t know that your company needs them.
Bringing you (the client) together with the freelancers is the problem that on-demand talent networks try to solve.
And one company that has distinguished itself in solving it is Toptal, short for top talent.
Toptal was founded in 2010. It is credited with pioneering the concept of a “vetted network” where freelancers are screened to ensure that only the best, or rather, top talent is placed on a project.
Toptal is suing Andela, an Africa-based competitor, for allegedly stealing some of its trade secrets.
But Andela didn’t start as a direct competitor to Toptal. When it was launched in 2014, the company’s business model was built on three pillars:
Talent acceleration: Andela didn’t only vet top talent but it also hired less-experienced talent and trained them, while paying them a salary.
In-person, on-site: Andela opened hubs in Lagos, Nairobi, Kampala and Kigali where most of its employees and talent worked from.
Africa-focused: Andela’s talent network was focused on Africans.
However, over the years, the company has made several pivots namely focusing on senior talent, going fully remote and accepting dev talent from Latin America.
Some of these decisions have now landed the company in Toptal’s cross-hairs.
The lawsuit alleges:
Staff poaching: Andela hired a number of Toptal’s ex-employees, who knowingly breached their confidentiality and non-solicitation obligations by taking clients and talent along with them.
Intellectual property infringement: One of the employees that moved to Andela used her extensive knowledge of Toptal’s proprietary software to help Andela build out its remote talent operations.
Toptal’s lawsuit is directed at both Andela and these ex-employees, you can read the full report here
Andela’s pivots – in particular, abandoning its social mission and deciding to focus on the top end of the talent pool – have put the company in the news for the wrong reasons
But the fact that some of those same decisions have now landed Andela on the radar of a market leader in on-demand talent networks must feel like, first, a vindication for the execs and, second, a backhanded compliment.
Andela CEO Jeremy Johnson:
“Frivolous lawsuits are the price of doing anything that matters.”
But this story wouldn’t be complete without Johnson’s parting shot:
“This is the kind of baseless bullying and fear tactics that make employees want to leave in the first place.”
What Johnson might be referring to is Toptal co-founder Taso Du Val’s practise
of not giving anyone, not employees, not investors, not even his co-founder, an equity stake in the business.
This is a practice that’s uncommon in venture-backed tech startups and has made Toptal’s ex-employees also file lawsuits
against Du Val.