The best business brains can now be hired on the cheap and by the hour. Two new websites make it possible for companies and individuals to get consulting help from young MBAs newly minted from such top business schools as Harvard and Wharton.
The same 35-hour consulting job for which a traditional, blue chip firm might charge $20,000 might cost as little as $1,500 on these sites. That's, in part, because the participating MBAs typically are ones still in school or just starting out on their careers; it's also because the websites don't carry the same overhead as traditional consulting firms.
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SkillBridge, founded last May, offers advice from MBAs and other kinds of professionals, says founder Raj Jeyakumar, 31. He started SkillBridge while at the Wharton School of Business.
"In the same way that Amazon and Seamless.com have reduced marketing and infrastructure costs for independent sellers and local food businesses," he says, "we're providing the same service to independent consultants. Our clients don't want to pay the extra fees that go into maintaining expensive offices and large research teams."
HourlyNerd, started over a year ago, provides MBAs, exclusively. It is the brainchild of a group of Harvard Business School students, and financed largely by entrepreneur Mark Cuban.
Peter Maglathlin, co-founder of HourlyNerd, tells ABC News the platform now has nearly 4,000 MBAs and 2,500 business users.
Says Maglathlin, "We've solidified a partnership with Microsoft to serve their network of thousands of resellers."
The platform, he says, serves a wide variety of clients, including sole proprietorships, start-ups and established businesses such as Microsoft. Cuban offers his advice to HourlyNerd on a monthly basis, Maglathlin says.
On both platforms, clients put projects up for bid. HourlyNerd has 15 projects now that have been posted this month. They range from producing a prospectus for a real estate development firm (budget: $1,000) to writing a business plan for a webcam service (budget: $400). MBAs bid for the jobs, and the client then selects whichever bidder he likes best.
Nathan Friedkin, a video producer in Berkeley, Calif., needed help crafting a business plan for his new yoga-instruction company, Maximum Performance Yoga. He posted the job on HourlyNerd, offering a budget of $600.
Andrew Grochal, 28, a 2012 graduate of Harvard Business School, was first to respond. Friedkin liked Grochal's pitch, and hired him on the spot. The two wrote the plan together.
Says Friedkin, "I can't say enough good things about how great it is to have an MBA at your disposal. He showed me how to communicate with the right business lingo -- the right buzzwords and structure. He was invaluable."
Friedkin is now using the plan to raise money for his business.
"It helped me gain credibility," he says.
Alan Braverman, CEO of Global Business Funding Group, used SkillBridge to find a recent MBA from Wharton to help him do due diligence for a private equity deal.
"He was articulate, and the price was right," says Braverman. "If I'd gone the route of a more traditional provider, I think it would have been more expensive by an order of magnitude -- or maybe half an order."
He paid less than $5,000 for a few months' worth of the grad's part time help, he says.