By WILLIAM ALDEN I dealbook.nytimes.com – September 12, 2013
It started with a cold call: an e-mail in July to the billionaire investor Mark Cuban, asking him for money.
The company seeking the financing, HourlyNerd, had a payment due to its development firm, so it ruled out applying to appear on “Shark Tank,” the venture capital reality show starring Mr. Cuban, because that would take too long.
To the surprise of Robert D. Biederman, a co-founder of HourlyNerd, Mr. Cuban responded about 15 minutes later. He was in.
After some back and forth with Mr. Cuban’s lawyers, Mr. Biederman received word that the billionaire would commit $450,000, far more than the company’s founders had expected.
“My heart kind of stopped,” said Mr. Biederman, 27, who was at the gym when he received the news. “It was definitely the most exciting moment of my business career.”
Granted, Mr. Biederman’s business career is still getting going. He and his co-founders started the company in a class at Harvard Business School, where he is in his second year.
The seed financing, which the company plans to announce on Thursday, totals $750,000 and includes investments from Accanto Partners and Connect Ventures. That compares with the $5,000 that the company received initially through a class at Harvard.
In connection with the investment, Robert Doris, the founding partner of Accanto, is joining HourlyNerd’s board.
Through its online marketplace, HourlyNerd puts companies in touch with M.B.A. students and graduates looking to offer consulting services part time. The company says it can offer businesses high-quality consultants at a low price, typically $25 to $75 an hour.
“I invested because I saw the value the service offered to many of my portfolio companies,” Mr. Cuban said in an e-mail. “For any number of reasons, it’s hard for start-ups and early-stage companies to hire great brain power. HourlyNerd allows these companies to bring in affordable expertise and pay for it only as long as you need it.”
After starting in February, HourlyNerd says it has grown to include more than 300 companies on its platform, with more than 900 M.B.A.’s from a number of business schools.
The company – whose founders include Peter Maglathlin, Joe Miller and Patrick Petitti – grew out of Harvard’s Field 3 course, which requires students to start a company. It placed second out of 150 companies in a competition at Harvard in May, behind a company that assists in elderly care.
Harvard Business School recently faced controversy when Jodi Kantor of The New York Times wrote about an experiment in gender equity at the school. The article referred to Section X, a secret society of ultrawealthy students known for decadent parties.
DealBook couldn’t help asking whether Mr. Biederman is a member.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “I’m not cool enough.”