There are those times when you need a business consultant – and it doesn’t necessarily have to be full time. HourlyNerd is an online marketplace that gives businesses large and small (and medium sized) access to the best and the brightest, when you want them, for as long (or short a time) as you need them. The platform connects MBAs from the top 20 business schools – who may also happen to be alumni of premier firms, such as McKinsey, Goldman Sachs – with businesses looking for a flexible, cost-efficient way to address business challenges.
Cofounder and CEO (and HBS nerd) Robert D. Biederman tells us more about the service, which came out of an HBS competition. They might not have won, but they certainly seem to be winning over clients and investors.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised our $7.8 million Series B from Highland Capital, GE Ventures, Greylock Partners, Intuit Founder Scott Cook, the Kraft Group, Semil Shah, Former Etsy CEO Maria Thomas, Jennifer Hyman (Rent the Runway founder) and Suffolk Equity Partners
Tell us about your service.
HourlyNerd offers a flexible consulting platform bringing experienced professionals directly to your business.
With over 10,000 premier consultants and alumni from the top 40 global MBA programs, our on-demand offering accommodates any and all project needs from SMBs to Fortune 50 enterprises. Simply post your project, select the most qualified candidates, and manage your deliverable with the help of our intuitive software or client services team.
How is it different?
We provide companies of all sizes with elite talent at incredible value. Consultants can work on their own schedules, both remotely and on site, and businesses can pay for consulting work on a per project basis. Our technology driven marketplace allows users to review previous feedback written by businesses that have worked with our consultants in the past, and there are no overhead fees to deal with.
What inspired you to start the company?
We came up with the idea for a Field III class project at Harvard Business School. HourlyNerd placed 2nd out of 150 companies in the HBS “IPO Day” competition in May of 2013.
What is the most requested service?
Marketing and strategy plans.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
The 100 year old consulting industry is a $415 billion dollar market
We are also creating a new market. SMBs cannot afford to hire large consulting firms for their businesses-it is simply not an option.We are providing access to elite talent for SMBs—of which there are 28 million in the US.
What’s your business model?
We connect elite freelance consultants with short-term projects for everyone from SMBs through large enterprises.
What was the funding process like?
We’re lucky to have an incredibly supportive lead investor in Highland Capital. When we were readying our Series B presentation for a formal investor road show, we did a dry run with the Highland partnership. Before we left the building, they gave us an offer we couldn’t refuse. Bringing in the likes of GE and previous investor Greylock was a no-brainer – GE is one of our largest customers and an incredibly innovative company. Greylock has some of the most thoughtful investors we’ve met in a while.
Scott Cook has been an absurdly valuable mentor and coach for our management team since the early days of HourlyNerd, when he responded to a cold outreach from us. His experience conceiving of and building the dominant solution for SMB financial management is a north star for much of what we do.
We had received interest in investing over the past few years from the likes of Semil Shah, Jenn Hyman and Maria Thomas, so were thrilled that Highland allowed us to make the room for them.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
It can always be difficult getting folks excited about an industry as un-sexy as consulting. We also continue to face skepticism over our non-technical founding team. Fortunately, we’ve been able to hire and build world-class engineering and product organizations that more than make up for the founders’ naivete.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
The sheer size of the opportunity and the incredible value we create for those who work with us—on both sides of our marketplace. SMBs previously did not have access to consulting services, and we are providing much needed access for them to gain incomparable advice.
For enterprises, we are providing them with the opportunity to save money on services that they were previously overpaying for.
For our consultants we are providing them with flexibility. The option to stay at home and dedicate time to family, or for enabling their own boutique consulting firms that were previously not an option for them before we existed.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
- Continue growing our recently launched Ask a Pro question and forum to become the definitive free resource for small business advising
- Execute and receive positive results from a substantial paid (traditional) marketing test in selected American cities
- Continue onboarding extremely talented and experienced “senior level” Nerds as our enterprise business continues to double monthly
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Discontinue any meetings with angels or VCs who do not commit quickly to giving you capital – if they need to do a bunch of diligence and collect reams of data, they’re almost certainly never going to fund you. Focus on growing your company, organically, as fast as you can. You can waste infinite time getting coffee with VCs.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
– Continue creating an entirely new market for reasonably-priced, elite consulting for SMBs
– Work to serve existing enterprise clients (particularly managers, directors and VPs) to meet needs in the $10-100K range
Which local brewery do you feel has mastered craft beer?
Certain members of our management team have been obsessed with Blue Point’s Toasted Lager since college. Pairs great with oysters.