HourlyNerd, a Harvard Business School startup that helps small companies rent freelance business consultants, said Thursday it has closed a $750,000 seed investment round led by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
The company aims to address a common predicament for early- and mid-stage businesses: Their leaders are experts in their fields but not experts in business. They need guidance and are willing to pay for it, but aren’t ready to create full-time positions.
HourlyNerd connects these companies to its “nerds”—business school students and working professionals with the skills to tackle projects that companies’ existing personnel is not equipped to handle. Co-founder Patrick Petitti said the idea hit his team of second-year HBS students when partner Rob Biederman kept getting requests for help from his father.
“His dad would always send e-mails asking for Excel help, and it was the kind of thing that would take his dad like 20 hours to do, but Rob could knock it out in an hour and a half,” Petitti said. “We realized there’s a disconnect between what small business owners need and can’t do, and what MBA students can do in a pretty efficient way.”
On HourlyNerd’s website, a business can post a call for help with specific tasks and the range of fees it is willing to pay. Consultants submit pitches, name their prices, and the company makes a selection.
In only a few months, HourlyNerd has linked about 300 companies to more than 900 business consultants, and hopes those numbers will grow quickly with a website redesign, which coincides with Thursday’s funding announcement. The revamped site includes a matching engine to quickly pair businesses that need a hand with consultants who possess the appropirate skills.
Petitti said HourlyNerd envisions its service as a way for students to gain real-world experience and for seasoned professionals to stay in the game if unable to work full time.
“But we would love to see someone try to work on HourlyNerd as a full-time job,” Petitti added. “We had people over the summer who were making five and six thousand dollars a week. We think the new platform is going to bring more business, and we’re convinced somebody could make more money coming out of Harvard Business School working on HourlyNerd than they could in their first year of full-time employment.”