When We Became More than Nerds
The Fifth Annual NEVY Awards on May 17th are a celebration of the best people and teams building incredible products and services in New England. Our Nominee Spotlight Series showcases the work of our nominees and what drives them to continue innovating.
Today we’re telling the story of Catalant, a true Boston success story.
By Rob Biederman and Pat Petitti, Catalant Founders & Co-CEOs
At Catalant, we’re redefining how enterprises access and manage top talent to solve an array of business challenges. We’ve reimagined work as a flexible, dynamic experience, and Catalant’s platform accelerates innovation while allowing people to live life by their own design. That means business leaders and consultants alike.
Catalant leverages a blend of machine learning and human oversight for its consultant vetting process. This ensures companies are connected to people with the skills, values, availability and budget to elevate their organization. Today, 38,000 of the world’s best professionals are available for contracted work through Catalant’s platform, and business leaders around the world can find and engage a specialist within minutes. Catalant’s technology and online hiring platform bridges the talent gap — an issue that businesses across industries experience — and makes it possible for enterprises to find the right skill-set when they need it most.
This company vision wasn’t always so crystal clear to us. We had to start somewhere. For us, that somewhere was in a classroom at the Harvard Business School in 2013.
Before Catalant, there was HourlyNerd
We founded HourlyNerd as part of a Harvard Business School course we were taking. The course allotted us $5,000 and set us loose to start a business. We had several ideas before HourlyNerd (some of them less viable, such as “NoseBags,” knitted triangles for your nose in cold weather), but in the end, HourlyNerd was the one that stuck.
We wanted to form a company that would help businesses hire MBA students from a top school to complete research and projects at a more affordable price than a traditional consulting firm’s. We both knew smaller businesses viewed time as a valuable and rare resource. We also had experience with the consulting industry, and we knew for a fact that many firms charged steep prices for work done by junior employees.
So, we looked for the disconnect. We realized if we could develop technology to connect businesses to talent, this company would have legs. HourlyNerd — thankfully, not NoseBags — was born.
We pitched our idea to other students who acted as “investors.” It didn’t go well. But their skepticism made us work harder on our venture. After convincing a few businesses to give us a chance, we made our first transaction for just $50, and our team was overjoyed. We were helping business owners; that was our goal, and we had finally met it.
This process repeated itself. We pitched to VC firms in San Francisco; we got turned down. We kept at it. We even emailed Mark Cuban to gauge his interest. In what was a huge turning point for our business, he emailed backvery quickly, saying he would invest in HourlyNerd. We were more motivated and enthusiastic to move forward than ever before.
The evolution of HourlyNerd’s customer
In 2015, just two years after we started the business, there were more than 10,000 consultants available for project work on our online platform. Companies like GE, Staples and Omaha Steaks were using HourlyNerd. We went on to raise nearly $8 million in Series B funding that year.
As our customer base grew, so did the freelance economy. It was really experiencing a boom, with businesses like Uber and Postmates, to name a few, taking off. We knew the HourlyNerd platform would need to grow from providing MBA students to SMBs to offering highly skilled individuals and teams to large enterprises. Our vision of the company was expanding to help more business owners in various industries. The type of business leader using HourlyNerd’s platform was evolving.
Starting fresh as Catalant
In 2016, HourlyNerd rebranded to Catalant, with a new value proposition to larger enterprises looking to access highly skilled talent. Not only did we see an influx of independent professionals offering their services, but we also saw larger enterprises turning to Catalant as a business solution, rather than using traditional consulting firms.
The fast-growing freelance economy was forcing global enterprises and top talent to consider the best ways to work with each other. Was the current way — traditional, more expensive consulting firms — really the most efficient, affordable and effective way? We didn’t think so, and more business leaders were coming to that conclusion.
Additionally, more experts were moving away from corporate jobs and opting for contracted or freelance work. More people wanted to work on their terms. Not coincidentally, our talent network grew to include nearly 30,000 experts.
It was then we knew the company had reached a point where we could accommodate the demands of larger enterprises. When we decided to rebrand in July 2016, we did so with a renewed focus on serving larger enterprises looking for talent and a seamless tech solution to make the hiring process easier.
Our technology has become more sophisticated since HourlyNerd’shumble beginnings. Catalant’s platform uses algorithms and machine learning technology to match businesses with the right skill set in a matter of minutes. This technology also allows business leaders to track every detail, milestone reached and progress point made for each project. This helps business leaders analyze quality, budget and time spent on each project, in addition to helping them decide if they want to hire that expert in the future. Catalant’s technology stores information on each project to help knowledge-sharing across businesses and thus increase operational efficiency.
In addition to helping enterprises save on resources and become more efficient, it’s important to us that Catalant leads the way for changing how companies work. In the coming years, we plan to focus on improving user experience and educating the market on the benefits of hiring talent their way. Catalant’s blog showcases various articles and whitepapers written by industry experts about the changing course of the talent economy and best practices for the enterprises hiring the talent.
Catalant is defining a new market category, and as we grow our team, our talent network and our customer base, we intend to be the go-to hiring platform for more large enterprises in more industries. If they’re looking for better ways to hire talent and do quality work on their own terms, we’re the best solution.
Catalant is the best because we connect those enterprises to the best people for the job, on demand. We believe that as Catalant’s co-CEOs. Actually, we believe it so deeply, we made it our company tagline, so you know it’s true. The customers using our service since HourlyNerd days agree. “The best people, on demand” isn’t just a promise for business leaders using the service. It’s a promise on our part, too, to continue disrupting, improving and moving forward the talent industry and how both businesses and experts function within it.
Don’t miss the Catalant team at the 2017 NEVYs. Cheer on their nomination for Entrepreneur of the Year and find out if they win…