In 2008, computer scientist Mark Sears traveled with his wife to Nepal, where he quickly connected with the local community.
“The key thing that I took away from my first year in Nepal, which was 10 years ago now, was the thesis that talent is equally distributed around the world, but opportunity is not,” Sears tells Hypepotamus.
“How can we take an amazing starting point of someone with a ton of talent and desire to join the global economy? How can we use technology and training and systems to really bridge the gap?”
He founded CloudFactory with this mission in mind.
Initially, CloudFactory worked as a software consulting firm that recruited local developers in Nepal, but their clients continued to ask Sears if he could offer data collection services as well.
“We saw the demand on the market. This was the genesis of building the first online work platform and workforce model. We wanted to make it easy, detracting away a lot of the pain that’s required to grow and scale a workforce globally,” he explains.
Software consulting shifted into an online work platform that provides artificial intelligence companies access to a remote workforce, called “cloud workers,” to collect and process data projects. In one hub, CloudFactory is both able to manage the workforce and their projects, and clients are able to submit requests.
Each cloud worker is personally trained and evaluated by CloudFactory. They set their own schedules depending on their lifestyle.
Due to the distributed nature of the company, Sears worked hard to provide a stable work environment for employees to flourish and feel part of the team, no matter where they are located.
Sears clarifies that “it’s more than just a data work job.”
“We have kept a huge focus on purpose and work culture. The majority of our recruiting is through word-of-mouth referral,” he says.
Once onboarded, the employees are placed on a team of up to 10 and go through training and leadership development workshops. They’re also invited to participate in community service projects as a team building exercise.
So far, they’ve completed over 5,000 service projects in Nepal and Kenya.
“It provides a strong unifier, so no matter what CloudFactory office you’re in or how many hours you work, we think of ourselves as one team. Even though we come from very different backgrounds and engage with the company to different levels,” says Sears.
CloudFactory has grown to more than 300 corporate employees and about 4,500 part-time cloud workers across four continents. They are based in Durham, North Carolina, with offices in Nepal, Nairobi, and the UK. They raised a $7.3 million series B funding round in 2017 to expand.
“Data is the new goal, the new oil. In many ways, we’re the picks and shovels that get at that gold,” says Sears. “We certainly fall on the tech optimist side where we get to see the massive need there is for people in creating, augmenting, auditing and sustaining [data].”
“There’s no question there’s a lot of change that’s happening, but we believe strongly on a future of humans plus machines.”