Let’s say you’re a first-time entrepreneur. You’ve got a great idea for a product or business, but you don’t know where to start. You don’t know any VCs or angels, maybe your company isn’t right for an incubator, but you want firsthand advice from experts on how to proceed. While there are tons of amazing online resources for entrepreneurs and there’s some terrific expert advice on Quora on an array of entrepreneurial subjects, little of this information is personalized.
This is one example of the value proposition of Evisors, a startup that is building a marketplace of expert advice. Founded in May 2010 by Harvard Business School grads Fredrik Marø, Marc Weiner, Dan Levy, and Wharton grad Christine Apold, Evisors offers on-demand advice, allowing consumers to go beyond their own personal and professional networks to search its database of experienced experts to directly schedule consultations.
The startup soft launched its marketplace in September 2010 behind the idea that cold calls and emails are often ineffective ways to build one’s expert network, and getting answers to your tough questions is far more difficult than it should be. In its early stages, as one can imagine, career and graduate school advice was Evisor’s first big seller, and the startup worked to bring former professors and admissions officers into its fold to give young people their industry expertise as well as advice on job hunting strategies, interview practice, resume and cover letter help, business consulting and career management, etc.
The Evisors network has since expanded to include three main categories: Admissions, business, and career experts, which now counts CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors, experienced professionals and business consultants as members of its marketplace.
Earlier this month, Evisors further expanded its offerings to officially include an entrepreneurship network in an effort to give startups seeking expert guidance access to hundreds of entrepreneurs and business advisors. To find an expert, customers use the marketplace’s simple search interface to identify relevant experts, view their profiles and evaluate them based on their qualifications, user reviews, ratings, availability, and, of course, their hourly rates.
Once a user has selected an expert, they can schedule a phone consultation or submit an email inquiry. Experts set their own rates, which range from $30 to more than $500 per consultation depending on things like length of the session, the expert’s education level, career background and experience, and so on.
The startup’s entrepreneurship network features startup experts like investor and author Dave Berkus (best known for his “Berkus Method” of evaluating early-stage investments) who has participated in more than 80 tech investments over the last decade — as well as David Ronick, co-founder of the online startup incubator, Upstart Bootcamp.
Most of these experts, Evisors CEO Fredrik Maro told us, have full-time jobs, so the marketplace is not a primary money-making tool for first time business consultants. Really, it gives industry veterans an opportunity to give back to the community, interact with likeminded people, and share their hard-earned knowledge. That being said, the marketplace provides a nice complement to their salaries, with a few experts having earned over $10,000 over the course of the year.
For those looking for expert advice, there is also the opportunity to take advantage of free consultations, which are primarily a result of new experts joining the community who have been vetted by the Evisors staff but have not yet received a significant feedback rating.
Maro said that he sees Evisors as the next link in the chain after Quora, providing those in need of advice with a middle ground between the opinionators and, say, the mentorship (and equity-taking) of startup incubators. Maro also pointed out that Evisors eats its own dogfood, too — the startup has been using the advice of its experts to help grow its own business. And so far, this method of attack seems to be working, as the startup has seen the number of consultations sold in its marketplace grow nearly tenfold over the same period last year.
Up until recently, Evisors has been bootstrapped, but today the company is officially announcing that it has raised $600,000 from Nebula Ventures (the VC arm of Universum Global, which owns sites like wetfeet.com and doostang.com), as well as angel investors like New York Angels.
Besides taking a small percentage of consultation sales, the startup is also monetizing through affiliate partnerships in which third parties host Evisors widgets to showcase experts relevant to their audiences. These sites earn a referral fee for each consultation sold that emanates from their platforms.
Through its strategic partnership with Nebula Ventures qua Universum, Evisors has partnered with job sites Wetfeet.com and Doostang, as well as company review site Glassdoor.com, among others.
With partnerships and new funding in its pocket, Evisors is setting its sights on becoming the online destination to get subject matter expertise. It still has a long way to go, but it’s off to a good start.
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