SkillBridge is racing to become the freelance consultants' marketplace

By Cale Guthrie Weissman , written on April 29, 2014

From The News Desk

Finding the correct technical talent is hard enough for companies; hiring the right consultants is another issue altogether. There are big consulting firms out there such McKinsey & Company and Bain & Company. Acquiring the services of these firms, however, is quite often too expensive and burdensome for those that needs a quick stint from a seasoned consultant. Additionally, knowing how to find the best freelancers out there is another crapshoot unless you have the right contacts.

New York-based SkillBridge thinks it has created the answer: a curated online marketplace for freelance consultants. The year-old startup, which is currently in the process of raising a seed round, matches companies looking to fill short-term consulting vacancies with hungry freelancers looking for gigs.

SkillBridge co-founder and head of marketing Stephen Robert Morse explained the general use-case as one- or two-month long projects that "don't need someone full time." For projects like these he asks, "How do you find these talented people?"

According to Morse, there's an untapped market of underutilized freelancers -- many of whom hail from large firms but decided to go down other life paths. He says the number of unemployed MBA grads out there is vast, especially those who left their former professional lives to raise a family. And these are people who could spend a few hours a day freelancing, but not hold down a 40-plus hour work week.

SkillBridge's big idea is to give these people short-term projects if they are deemed qualified. People sign up and then go through a vetting process. If they make the cut, which is currently done by a human, they are eligible to be interviewed by companies hiring. SkillBridge checks each freelancer's experience, contacts, social accounts, and even gives them a brief interview.

When companies post potential jobs, SkillBridge helps flesh out the pricing and scope of each project, then searches through its database to provide a shortlist of consultants who would be a good fit. For each match made between project and freelancer, SkillBridge charges a 20 percent commission. Morse told me that the minimum price for each freelancer is around $50 per hour, but it can go as high as $250.

The types of projects posted run the gamut. Often small companies desire help planning the more granular parts of their business model, something the founders may lack the experience to do themselves. This kind of one-off project, Morse says, is perfect for SkillBridge's roster, who quite often complete these tasks remotely. He adds that big companies like private equity firm SFW Capital and executive recruiting firm Spencer Stuart have also used SkillBridge for various projects.

When it first launched last year, the company raised $20,000 from the Dorm Room Fund. Since then it's been bootstrapped and brings in about $125,000 of revenue each month. Morse says there are over 3,000 people listed on the platform with nearly 50 new people assigning up every day.

Right now the company is looking to raise about $750,000 to build out its technology more and bring on a few more staffers.

The question will be whether it can attract more big name companies to use its service. Morse believes his platform is the only one of its kind out there. Other do exist, like HourlyNerd, but Morse says these competitors don't offer the same curated model.

HourlyNerd, however, raised $4 million a few months back, so in some ways it's already ahead. If SkillBridge is to become the go-to freelance marketplace, it's going to have to get its name known, and fast.

[image adapted from thinkstock by Brad Jonas for Pando]