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Why Hire an MBA When You Can Rent One?

New marketplaces allow startups to hire professionals by the hour
Why Hire an MBA When You Can Rent One?
Photograph by Jeff Minton/Gallery Stock

Linio, an e-commerce startup based in Mexico City, couldn’t afford Bain or McKinsey when it needed help pricing new products ranging from vintage wines to billiard tables. So this summer it farmed the work out to Anya Rasulova, a 2013 Wharton School MBA who was looking to make some money before starting a full-time job at EBay. “We had so many things to develop in a short period of time,” says Bernardo Cordero, Linio’s managing director. “It was too complicated to do it all internally.” Cordero paid Rasulova, who worked in management consulting for three years prior to business school, $1,500 for an assignment that took about 35 hours. He estimates a small consulting firm would have charged $20,000.

A growing number of companies are using freelance MBAs to access the same brain power they might find at a top-tier consulting firm. The demand has given rise to online marketplaces that are a cross between executive search agencies and freelance job sites—where the featured contractors are skilled at financial modeling, competitive analysis, and marketing.