MBAandCo.com matches highly skilled professionals from the world's best business schools with short term, project-based work, interim roles and full-time positions within companies around the globe. The company works with SMEs and start-ups as well as FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 businesses. Founder Daniel Callaghan, 30, talks to inspiresme.co.uk about how attending business school was the making of his business and how it helped him to secure vital funding – as well as what it’s like to work with his best friend.
When Daniel Callaghan arrived at IESE business school at the University of Navarra in 2007, he never dreamed that two years later his business plan would be given a crucial cash injection from the school itself.
He recalls: “I graduated from business school with cash from the school’s VC fund as well as one of my professors. The managing director of IESE’s centre for entrepreneurship also formed a syndicate with several friends and invested in my business. Not only did I then have the capital to make the concept a reality, I also had confidence in the knowledge that some incredibly experienced entrepreneurs and businesspeople had faith in my idea.”
MBAandCo.com is a global marketplace of highly skilled people with an impressive array of qualifications. Businesses that require specialist help for all manner of projects can hire these individuals on a freelance basis, for 10 hours and upwards of their time. Every consultant is carefully matched to the project to ensure they understand the industry, market and functional requirements as well.
There is also a jobs board for full-time opportunities. So where did the idea come from?
Daniel explains: “Before I attended business school myself, I worked at the French business school ESCP Europe, where my job was to build their student consultancy division. I had to develop and maintain business relationships with leading UK and international organisations. That was my first insight into the type of work businesses would be willing to outsource. And I also quickly realised that for many, particularly SMEs, hiring highly-skilled workers full time wasn’t a financially viable option.
“I later stumbled across some freelancing websites and thought, why not combine two concepts and help MBA students and graduates make money and improve their CVs, and provide a solution to businesses who need to enlist the help and expertise of the very best people.”
After bouncing ideas off his classmates at business school, Daniel graduated with a business model
Adam and I have been best friends since we were 11 years old and Adam had actually taken over my job at ESCP, where he later became the Head of Applied Research, and so I thought he would be an asset to the business.
that was almost fully fleshed out. Buoyed by £1,000 of his own savings, another £1,000 from winning the Shell Livewire Award and, later, VC investment, Daniel realised he needed help, so he persuaded his best friend, Adam Riccoboni, to get involved.
“Adam and I have been best friends since we were 11 years old and Adam had actually taken over my job at ESCP, where he later became the Head of Applied Research, and so I thought he would be an asset to the business. I didn’t have to give it much thought actually. When you have what you think is a unique and scalable business idea, you have to be a bit precious about it. I trust Adam implicitly and so I knew he was the ideal person to share my business with.”
Previously, Adam had established an independent publishing house and launched a listings guide to London nightlife, after studying politics at university.
Daniel adds: “We were the top two students at a very small school and we were extremely competitive as kids. It’s much the same now! But this sense of rivalry has always been underpinned by our hope that the other would do well. We’re very supportive and encouraging of one another. When we first started working together we argued regularly, and it took some practice to separate the social from the professional. Our clashes are always quick and loud but its back to business straight afterwards and there are never any hard feelings.”
Daniel and Adam grew MBAandCo.com mid-recession, but they feel this environment has probably benefited their venture.
Daniel comments: “I felt that the time for the business was right given the number of companies functioning in the recession with reduced headcounts and limited budgets but that still needed to produce high quality work. I would say the austere economic climate has played a big part of our development. A key part of our value proposition is based on providing an unparalleled cost to quality ratio.”
‘Quality’ translates as access to the top 1 percent of professionals, all with a minimum of five years professional experience as well as an MBA or PhD.
But businesses took some work to convince. Daniel recalls: “Initially, the biggest hurdle was helping companies to understand that the traditional ways they used to work with consultants or recruiters was changing, that they were paying too much and receiving too little. Many people thought our solution was too good to be true so we encountered quite a lot of scepticism. Fortunately for us, this was forgotten once we had completed a few client projects that we could use as anecdotal evidence for potential new clients.
“We were able to start generating revenue almost immediately and in 2011 MBAandCo.com grew circa 1000 percent year on year. The number of consultants registered on our database more than tripled and we now have consultants in more than 100 countries, so the future is bright.”
So what’s next? Daniel and Adam hope to get their repeat business rate – currently at 70 percent – to over 90 percent before expanding into the United States.
Daniel adds: “As an online business we can easily expand our service to any country in the world, but we want to make our presence felt in a big way overseas, in terms of marketing, PR and resources, and not just function internationally online from our office in Westminster. We were recently one of 20 businesses worldwide to be selected as a New York City Venture Fellow by Mayor Bloomberg so we hope this will help us build our profile and presence in America.”