A Gig Economy for Professional Services

A Gig Economy for Professional Services

Boston Globe columnist Scott Kirsner shines a spotlight on HourlyNerd, an “Uber for MBAs” that promises (or threatens) to disrupt the market for management consultants:

In the same way Uber built a network of drivers, and Craigslist can help you find someone willing to paint your back porch tomorrow, the company that [Rob] Biederman and [Patrick] Petitti cofounded, HourlyNerd, has attracted 22,000 independent consultants with MBA degrees from 45 top universities, all willing to do projects for clients that range from the corner clothing boutique to conglomerates like General Electric. …

And these online expert networks could evolve into potent competition for some of the best-known management consulting firms, like McKinsey & Co. and Boston Consulting Group. The traditional consultants are a bit like the livery companies that were the only game in town before Uber arrived: high-touch and expensive, but don’t try to call them 10 minutes before you need them to show up.

HourlyNerd was born as a class project at Harvard Business School in early 2013 with the theory that business school students and alumni might want to earn some extra cash by taking on consulting projects. By the end of 2013, the company had raised $750,000, the majority of it from Mark Cuban, the “Shark Tank” investor and owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, who had responded to an e-mail pitch from the founders. HourlyNerd has since raised another $9 million, and it employs about 55 people.

But the professional services industry isn’t taking this implied threat to their business model lying down: PricewaterhouseCoopers, for instance, recently launched a freelance platform of its own, as part of a trend of legacy companies embracing the gig economy either by building their own platforms or buying premium services from platforms like UpWork and Hired.