Toptal LLC, an online staffing platform for highly skilled tech workers, filed a lawsuit last week alleging Andela Inc. hired away Toptal execs and is essentially seeking to clone the company, according to court records.
In its complaint filed with the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Toptal is suing Andela and several former Toptal executives for interference with contract, unfair competition, misappropriation of trade secrets as well as breaches of confidentiality, nonsolicitation and noncompete agreements.
“While some lateral movement between competitors might be expected, Andela’s campaign has improper motives and utilizes improper means to expeditiously and expediently recreate Toptal’s model using key former Toptal personnel,” according to the lawsuit.
Andela responded to the lawsuit in a statement.
“The complaint is wholly without merit,” Andela General Counsel Kirsten Canton said in a statement. “But those who cannot innovate, litigate. We are focused on building the first Andela, a global marketplace for premier engineering talent. We will defend our company and our colleagues vigorously.”
Toptal curates highly skilled independent contractors such as engineers, software developers, designers, finance experts and product managers. It was founded in 2010 and serves more than 1,000 clients in more than a dozen countries, according to the company.
Andela began operations as an outsourcing operation focused on in-person, on-site hubs in Africa. In April, it issued a press release about its effort to go global and that it had engineers from 37 countries across five continents though it still works with tech professionals from Africa. Investors in Andela include Generation Investment Management, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Spark Capital and Google Ventures, according to the company.
Toptal in the lawsuit cited examples of what it said were efforts that contravened do-not-compete contracts and other efforts it said were improper.
In one example, a former Toptal executive sent an email regarding a wine tasting invitation, according to the lawsuit. Toptal alleges the former executive mass emailed the invitation to his contact list and that the company found out about the effort because the executive’s own former Toptal email was not removed from the exported contact list.
The company also alleged efforts to recruit Toptal freelance professionals among other allegations.