bhive focuses on taking the bureaucracy out of the hands of companies and consultants letting them focus on their real problems, the projects.
Product / Service Offering: Freelancers for short-term projects in Latin America
Co-founder Interviewed: Leonardo Marchant, CEO
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
For almost ten years I was a lawyer at an American investment bank. Motivation at work is exactly what made me quit my promising career and pursue an MBA at Instituto de Empresa (IE) in Madrid. I believe a successful career is going after what you believe makes a difference to society, while creating something meaningful. Instead of going back to corporate life, I decided to jump head first in the entrepreneurship world and launched bhive, a project that started at IE’s incubator, Venture Lab, and was recognized at Venture Days in Madrid and Singapore.
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When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
During the MBA, Adriana and I started bhive as a project for entrepreneurship classes. All the research led us to a very promising product in an even more promising market, offering Latin America companies freelance talent for short-term projects.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
We want to assist Latin America’s issues with education. There is not a single business school in the region listed as a top 100 in the most important rankings. Its complex labor landscape creates a gap in the talent management front. Professionals, top MBAs and former executives in our case, are seeking more flexible options of work. Companies are willing to rely on those services as a fallback option to short budgets, strict headcount policies and the lack of top tier local professionals.
< see related: Key to Startup Success: Customer Discovery >
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
bhive focuses on taking the bureaucracy out of the hands of companies and consultants letting them focus on their real problems, the projects. With a solid legal strategy and presence in four countries, bhive can fulfill a company’s need for a flexible and high level talent repository.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge is definitely evangelizing companies that there is a new way of handling talent and onboarding flexible help. We started with the goal of democratizing business consulting for SMEs in Latin America, companies that did not have access to those services. They were not ready yet to be the innovators/early adopters we needed, so we pivoted to large companies, with the level of sophistication needed to understand and value the service. We believe once the concept is spread out, smaller companies will start to rely on freelance services as well.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
In our case, connections are key. More than sitting back behind our desks working on our platform, we had to leverage all contacts in our books to create a network of experts and clients. From business events to cold calls, when selling B2B action is gold. Work from the streets, not your desk.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
We are still 100% bootstrapped, but we are looking for funding. The concept is getting traction and big players have entered the game in developed markets. We need to get more power to take over the main markets in Latin America and set our footprint across the region, consolidating our elite business talent and creating a one-stop shop for companies when it comes to short-term experts.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
When it comes to Latin America, all relations with the governments are difficult and burdensome. Countries are closed and the lack of integration (commercial, legal, taxes, everything) takes a big toll on ventures that aim to connect and expand throughout the region. That is a big problem for great startups that come out of smaller markets.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
Governments are definitely one of the challenges. The other would be the funding scene in the region. There are people interested in becoming angels, and Brazil and Mexico have a decent VC ecosystems. Public policies and legislation seem to be directed at the opposite side, making things more complicated and taking money from people who could foster the innovation scene. Changes come at a very slow pace and volatile markets, unreliable legal systems and other inherent risks are all priced in any investment made. Entrepreneurs end up picking up the bill.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given? For all entrepreneurs I would say the best piece of advice I have stumbled upon so far is take care of your personal life. Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of time, focus and a fresh mind. So plan ahead and take care of your finances, your body and your brain. That is the only way you’ll be 100% in the business. For Latin American entrepreneurs, look out there. We are several years behind when it comes to innovation, and there are a lot of great ideas out there that, with the right twist, could work on different realities such as ours. Innovation is not only about creating new paradigms, that kind of innovation comes once every blue moon. You can innovate with small hacks only you could come up with and adapt solutions to your customers.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
As mentioned before, purpose is very important to the millennial generation, which will take over the labor market globally very soon. bhive is a community of experts in different industries and skills, so we are proud to connect NGOs and experts in what we call pro bono projects. So far, we have helped large initiatives such as Un Techo para mi pais in Colombia and Argentina, and the Yunus entry in Colombia. Most of our experts check the “yes” box when asked whether they would help NGOs for free, so if you have a non-profit organization that helps making a better world, I am sure we can help connecting you with leading experts that will make your work a lot easier and much more efficient.
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