When Vikram Ashok quit his private equity job at Paris-based Quilvest in late 2011, he had no plans to start freelance consulting. Ready for a change, he’d moved to Florida to golf.
But consulting found Ashok when a former portfolio company reached out for help with a short-term budgeting project. It went well, and he started freelancing regularly — which helped finance his golf pursuits for a year, and kept his professional skills sharp.
Then, inspired by his own experiences, Ashok and his lifelong friend Ashwin Krishnan, who also worked in PE, founded SpareHire, an online marketplace for freelance finance and consulting work.
“We said, ‘Look, there’s got to be a bigger opportunity here. There’s a lot of people who have the same skill set that I do, who’ve left Wall Street or left consulting firms, and there’s a lot of companies… out there who need flexible work,'” Ashok told Business Insider.
But unlike other online jobs networks, SpareHire isn’t open to just anyone. Clients and applicants are both carefully vetted before they’re admitted to the network. It’s a niche service for “a specific type of professional” — i.e. highly-trained finance pros with narrow sets of expertise.
Not ‘Kijiji For Finance’
Since launching in October 2013, SpareHire has grown a network of 1,300 professionals, made up of ex-consultants, ex-bankers, ex-private equity buffs, and marketing professionals.
Many of them are stay-at-home-parents; others are ex-industry folks trying to bootstrap their own startups and looking for some income. Almost all of them have experience at large, top-tier firms where thorough training is a guarantee.
“When you work at a place like a Bain or a McKinsey, you just develop a very strong core skill set,” Ashok said.
But just having that experience isn’t enough: once admitted to the network, professionals face stiff competition for projects, which often require a specific type of background and expertise.
“A typical project might be a private equity firm who’s looking at a deal in the consumer space,” Ashok said. “If you don’t have consumer experience, you’re not likely to get that project — even if you worked at a top firm.”
SpareHire’s clients include small corporations, private equity firms, investment banks, and startups.
Company information is usually kept private until matches are secured, but a few regular clients who agreed to publicize their names include Fisker Automotive, an electric car manufacturer hoping to compete with Tesla, and investment firms CampOne Ventures, Striker Partners, and Adlevo Capital.
Typical projects are matched at around $US100/hour and range in length from several weeks to six months. SpareHire takes 25 per cent off the top.
So far, business is growing. Some of their freelancers have even been hired on full-time by clients.
“What we say is, if the platform is really easy to use, and really valuable for both sides, then people will use it,” Ashok said.