Interview with Daniel Callaghan (MBA & Company)


A few days ago we had the chance to interview Daniel Callaghan, the founder of MBA & Company.

The global marketplace for MBA jobs, PhD & professorial talent has been launched back in 2009. Daniel Callaghan and his London based team understood that during the economic downturn companies did not have the funds available to use recruitment agencies or expensive consultancies. MBA & Company aims to democratize the consultancy process and bring top tier business insight to the masses. When have you or your partners had the idea to create a marketplace for MBA jobs, PhD & professorial talent and what made you sure it was the right one?

Daniel Callaghan: The idea for first came about when I was studying in the states and became aware of other freelance marketplaces. I was familiar with the idea of student consultants at university level having previously built a similar division as an employee at a European Business School and thought that the model would transfer well online and was scaleable. The only concern was how the differentiate the proposition from the existing models out there and provided added value to the users.

This is when it was decided to limit acceptance to the marketplace for to MBAs, PhDs and postgraduates from the world’s leading schools only as this would provide an assurance of quality that the users deserved. Additionally, given the wise set of skills and industry inherent to a typical business school, it would provide a wide enough scope to ensure that we could handle the client requests.

I was sure it was the right idea due to a number of factors. Companies were working with reduced headcounts and limited cash available so needed to find a new means of getting a high quality piece of research done in cost effective manner. I also knew that MBAs from my school wanted to do additional consultancy work and earn extra cash and assumed that this would be the same worldwide. Finally, the business plan had received excellent feedback from investors, stakeholders and competition placements which helped to eliminate a lot of the insecurity that goes with launching an idea. How did you finance the startup-phase of MBA & Company and who invested?

Daniel Callaghan: was financed on air for its first year. We used a webiste template that was £7 per month to host and people would just sign up to a newsletter that would get set up. With bschool loans to pay back as well as rent and London living expenses there was not a lot of money to spend on the business. The flat became an office and the only marketing expenditure was the telephone calls as a direct sales method was used to drive business. For the first 12 months we spent less than a £1000 on the business. However, the business won a competition with a cash prize which was then used to rent deskspace in a shared office which helped morale after working from home for a number of months.

We were always in talks with investors and attracted several small offers however knew who we wanted to partner with and just had to wait for the appropriate moment to pitch to them as they only accepted presentations every 6 months.

On the business’ first anniversary – we secured our first round of funding and after a drawn out due diligence process had a board consisting of representatives from Cabiedes & Partners, a fund based out of Madrid that we had been in colse conversation with from the start, FINAVES – which is a vc fund run by IESE Business School and a syndicate lead by another professor at IESE Business School. What were the main stumbling blocks during the first two years of MBA & Company and would you have done something differently from today’s perspective?

Daniel Callaghan: The main stumbling blocks changed in the company’s early years are similar to those in any young companies. We needed to build traffice and awareness of this new community and type of service. We needed to find a suitable technology partner and we needed to build a team.

Finding the right people to join the team has been the toughest especially when you make a mistake and realise you have to call it a day with that person quickly. There is no room for deadwood in a small business.

The thing that would have been done most differently is starting to build the tech platform out sooner. Even when there was limited funds available – it would have been wiser to find a student who could have built a prototype for the platform and helped customers and investors understand the concept more clearly. What makes MBA & Company unique or better as other marketplaces in this space?

Daniel Callaghan: The reason is unique is because of the talent we offer. All project consultants have been prescreened and have a strong blend of commercial and academic excellence. Our global network are so dedicated to their profession that they have gone and invested a further two years in improving their knowledge and performance.

Additionally, MBA & Company’s service ensures that the person doing your project has direct experience in your industry, function and market to eliminate any learning curve required therefore saving the client money and further improving the quality of the work.

Finally, we can also an account managed service to help define your project more clearly so that the results are aligned with what you wanted. How big is the global talent pool of MBA & Company right now and how many companies have yet registered to hire these talents?

Daniel Callaghan: We have over 6,500 members know ranging from 2nd year students to CEOs with 25 years of experience. The membership is growing quickly and we have built a number of close relationships with the business schools themselves who enjoy referring their alumni to our service.

From the company side, we have been really pleased with the traction and have worked with hundreds of companies over the last two years. The most exciting thing has been the range of companies both in terms of size and geography.

We have worked with Start Ups, SMEs, Multinationals, Fortune 500 companies and Governments.

Start ups have found us particularly useful in finishing off business plans, investor models, marketing strategies and brand books which can range from £300 upwards. The larger companies have been using us as a means to deliver more complex projects analysing multiple markets or building case studies on what best in class means to an organisation. Do you have plans to add additional languages to the platform or are there any new services / features in the pipeline?

Daniel Callaghan: Yes – we have a worldwide network and already carry out projects in India, Brazil, Chile, France, Spain, Germany, USA, UK, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Australia, Turkey, China, Sweden and many others. As such looking to provide access to these services in the client’s native language is an obvious next step as is expanding our sales efforts internationally.

We also have a number of new services and features in mind although are not able to talk about these just yet. However improving the user experience and providing greater value to all of our members is a key priority for us. How many people are working for MBA & Company at the moment and are you hiring right now?

Daniel Callaghan: We are a commercial team of 4 however we like to use the network for any projects or analysis on work that can be outsourced. We also have a development team of two working on the site.

We are hiring.

As said finding the right people has been the toughest thing so far as it takes an a different professional mindset to want to work in a start up. We are looking for bright, young and hungry people who can see the long term potential of a project and enjoy the benefits of its growth over that time as well. If that sounds like any of your readers then please ask them to get in touch at [email protected] What is your experience with London as a location to start a company?

Daniel Callaghan: London is a fantastic environment to build a company. Its fast, dynamic and young. It has a strong entrepreneurial vein running through it and there are some good support or social networks for young businesses. The only downside is the cost.

Living here is expensive – so the cost of talent is expensive as you want to make sure your team can eat and enjoy life. Also travel can rack up as London’s transportation system is unbelievably overpriced.

All that aside, its a great place to be and wouldn’t have wanted to launch anywhere else.