A Minneapolis startup on Monday launched a new online service designed to help businesses connect with independent contractors — specifically, contractors based within the United States.
vBench, LLC, bills itself as an online “talent exchange” that connects independent contractors with businesses nationwide in the information technology, business administration, sales and marketing, design, accounting, and legal sectors. Contractors are able to market themselves to businesses, while businesses (including companies, start-ups, staffing and recruiting firms, and value-added resellers) are able to use the database as a hiring tool.
Those who are interested are required to create a vBench account in order to fully access the database’s user profiles, job postings, and other services. vBench members are able to post, search, and apply for job opportunities, communicate with other vBench members, and either receive payment or pay contractors for completed work.
vBench cofounder J.T. Eberly told Twin Cities Business that, after noticing an abundance of global contracting resource websites, he and cofounder Matt Pundmann developed the concept for an online database designed specifically to connect U.S.-based contractors and businesses.
“The existing online talent exchanges were all catering to a global audience . . . there was an overwhelming percentage of offshore resources compared to onshore (U.S.-based) resources on these sites,” he said, adding that such an imbalance imbalance may diminish opportunities and income potential for U.S.-based contracting professionals.
Eberly said uncertainties surrounding the state of the economy, corporate benefits, health care, taxes, and labor laws have caused companies to reconsider from where they are sourcing their employees.
“We recognize the challenges with offshore labor and, more importantly, we understand the impact we can have by helping bring those jobs back home to the [United States],” he said in a statement.
vBench cited a recent MBO Partners report, which states that the independent workforce (consisting of contractors, freelancers, consultants, temps, “solopreneurs,” and micro-business owners) in the United States increased by approximately 1 million workers between 2011 and 2012 to total 17.7 million, and it is expected to increase by another 6.3 million during the next five years.
“With so many talented professionals right here in the [United States], we’re helping businesses minimize the need to offshore,” Pundmann said in a statement.
vBench launched on Monday, and 75 percent of its members are independent contractors or consulting companies, while 25 percent are hiring entities, Eberly said. The end goal is to connect “tens of thousands” of independent contractors with “thousands” of businesses, he added. Additionally, vBench’s LinkedIn Group currently consists of more than 1,300 members and features approximately 1,000 full-time and contract job listings.
While vBench was founded in June last year, its online platform was under development for more than a year until its public launch this week. In addition to operating its Minneapolis office, the company is also co-headquartered in Chicago. It currently consists of two full-time employees (co-founders Eberly and Pundmann), and a contracted team of developers, marketing specialists, advisors, and accountants.
This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities Business.