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On websites such as HourlyNerd.com, MBA students and grads can ‘bid’ on job opportunities posted by companies.
On websites such as HourlyNerd.com, MBA students and grads can ‘bid’ on job opportunities posted by companies.

CONSULTING

Rent an MBA: Website connects students to temp work Add to ...

Bartenders, servers, cashiers and retail employees are often students working part-time in order to make ends meet. At the MBA level, it’s not uncommon for students to be employed full-time and completing their studies part-time. All this to say: Business school students usually aren’t just students; they’re part of the work force, too.

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HourlyNerd, a startup based in Boston, helps MBA students (and graduates) connect with businesses in order to gain practical work experience and make money, as well.

The company’s HourlyNerd.com website allows businesses to post job ads to find MBAs or MBAs to search for temporary work from businesses that need professional help, but don’t have the budget to make a full-time hire. It’s like a matchmaking site but with a business slant.

Rob Biederman, Peter Maglathlin, Joe Miller and Patrick Petitti launched HourlyNerd as a school project at Harvard Business School a year ago. Since then, the HourlyNerd network has grown to nearly 4,000 people – a combination of businesses and MBAs.

This kind of service was not new. MBA & Company – a European venture – does the same thing as HourlyNerd (connecting MBAs with large corporations for individual assignments or projects) and was established in 2009. SkillBridge is another company that links independent contractors to companies, but an MBA isn’t required.

However, HourlyNerd is “in it to disrupt the space,” Don Nova, a partner at U.S. investment firm Highland, who led the most-recent round of venture funding for HourlyNerd, recently told The Wall Street Journal.

At the time of HourlyNerd’s launch, only current MBA students could be candidates, but now the model has evolved to include MBA graduates.

The service is not yet available to graduates of Canadian MBA programs, but it hasn’t gone unnoticed north of the border.

Nitin Chopra is the managing director of Core Root Consulting in Ottawa. He graduated with an MBA from the renowned Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in 2013 and uses HourlyNerd as a tool to find new corporate clients.

“HourlyNerd provides a bit of a diversification of the type of projects that I intend to undertake,” Mr. Chopra explains. “The businesses at HourlyNerd usually understand that the quality of consultants is quite high, so they are willing to pay a premium.”

Mr. Chopra has worked on four projects through HourlyNerd for strategy and marketing consulting. Although he admits it’s a “utopian vision” to think that the future of business will be consultant-based, he confirms the model HourlyNerd is using is a strong one.

“Businesses have always called on qualified consultants,” Mr. Chopra says. “The difference now is with a service like HourlyNerd’s, high-end consultants can be accessed by startups and small businesses and can do so in a moderated fashion.”

HourlyNerd claims to be “the future of consulting.”

The group behind it saw an opportunity to have their peers “test new careers and put their skills to use by helping businesses across a variety of different industries,” as Mr. Miller has said.

They also knew that consulting is a hot career. It’s one of the three most popular industries for business graduates, according to a recent Canadian study, and six-figure salaries are typical starting points for prime candidates.

At first, it was a way for smaller companies to save money and bring in top talent, but Fortune 500 companies such as consumer giants Kellogg Co. and Coca-Cola are also posting to the service.

Companies post their requests for talent on HourlyNerd’s website, and MBAs can “bid” on the contract. If an MBA consultant is selected, he or she is notified by the business.

While MBA graduates like Mr. Chopra use HourlyNerd to find clients, current MBA students are able to dip their toes into various projects in order to help them decide which path may be most ideal for them upon graduation, while making money on the side.

Rob Henderson, president of Yconic, a marketing company that focuses on youth, says a recent study found that, in addition to salary, doing interesting and challenging work, career advancement opportunities and flexibility were most important for young Canadians who were making a decision about where to work.

The Toronto-based Yconic operates StudentAwards.com, a Canadian student platform, and Uthink.com, a youth-focused market research panel, and is tapped in to student trends.

“Based on our market research, young Canadians need and want interesting job opportunities that also provide them with flexibility,” explains Mr. Henderson. “HourlyNerd accomplishes that.”

The already-popular service is growing. They’re hiring more staff, and Mr. Maglathlin says that HourlyNerd is looking at coming to Canada soon.

“We do plan to add some Canadian schools once we expand in the near future,” he says.

As businesses move to hire more freelancers, HourlyNerd’s model may become more prominent for students and graduates alike. And although being called a nerd has usually been derogatory, the team behind HourlyNerd just received $4-million (U.S.) in venture backing.

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