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A few ex-consultant friends and I mused over this concept several times in Marriott hotel bars across the country. “Why not set up a two-sided platform (think: VRBO, UBER) where companies can hire consultants for 1/3 of the price? Cut out the middle man.” Yep – an online market for consulting.

Uh, already exists. With a quick Google / Quora search, here are the ones I found. They all have case studies and reputable Fortune 500 client rosters. Some specialize in HR, or IT etc. Some have VC backing. This is truly the gig economy.

Proof of concept – There is a market for this. It’s disruptive innovation, “less for less”.  You might not get the shiny brand name, but you get the work done.

Low fixed costs – What assets do you really need beside a good website, a robust database to store names, and algorithms to match people with projects?

Marketing costs – Gotta get your name out there. With so many similar websites, how do you differentiate yourself? Look at the side-by-side comparison of these two sites.

Client testimonials. Selling professional services (on demand) definitely requires some testimonials and “evidence” that there is some minimal level of quality.  Good press.

What services? While a few sites specialize (Toptal: Developers, Designer, and Finance), others offer almost everything: strategy, marketing, operations, risk management, organizational design, IT advisory, you-name-it-they-got-it. On one hand this makes me skeptical, on the other had, business problems are often more similar than different.

What about scope? Without good scope, clients feel cheated, clients get exhausted, and the marriage usually ends in divorce. When I looked that variables for “creating a project” here, this is what I found.  Looks a lot like a SOW outline, right?

  • Area of expertise: Finance, Marketing, Operations, etc. . .
  • Industry: Agriculture, Airlines, Consumer Goods
  • Onsite / Virtual?  If onsite, which country
  • Languages required
  • Level of Experience: Junior, Mid-Level, Senior
  • Schedule
  • Budget
  • Project Title
  • Project Objective / Deliverables

Does this have a future? Of course. With the big 3 and big 4 firms continually hiring / promoting / laying off staff, there are literally millions+ qualified top-shelf consulting alumni in the job market. Many/most of them are full employed, but clearly many of them are also available for hire.  Expect to see a lot of M&A among these websites. A two-sided platform becomes more valuable with demand+ (client projects) and supply+ (consultants for hire).

Toptal got $1.4M in seed investment from Andreessen Horowitz and had a revenue run-rate of $80M annually in 2015.  Apparently, they only send an average of 1.7 candidates to clients before one is hired. Yikes, that sounds pretty accurate. Talk about HR analytics.

Have you done work through any of these site? What was your experience?

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