A tech entrepreneur says he’s being inundated with requests for help after offering to create free ‘virtual boardrooms’ for businesses struggling with the coronavirus.

Ian Wright launched Virtualnonexecs.com last year to help businesses find non-executive directors (NEDs) without paying high recruitment fees.

The 40-year-old has more than 4,000 NEDs on the platform and combined the resources he had at his disposal to help companies struggling with the impact of the coronavirus.

He assembled a panel of NEDs from the platform for a ‘virtual brainstorm’ to offer advice to the boss of a struggling events business that had been severely affected by the impact of the virus to the economy.

North-West based Wright said: “On Friday morning alone I had no fewer than 10 requests for help and the NEDs on the Virtualnonexecs.com platform jumped at the chance to lend their services for free. It’s about pulling together in their hour of need.

“We’ve all heard that phrase ‘two heads are better than one’ well with Virtualnonexecs.com we have literally 4,000 heads to call on and there’s not much they haven’t come across in their lengthy business careers. Because of the warning of social distancing everything is done quickly via technology.”

Wright built the UK’s first non-exec network that he went on to sell in 2016; he was also chairman and an investor in  careermap.co.uk, which sold in 2018.

He is currently a non-executive director with SaaS video tech companies Viddyoze, thewebinarvet.com and Bolton-based eCommerce business streetsolutionsuk.com.

He’s been working with Michael Mateer, CMO at Virtualnonexecs.com, in co-ordinating the virtual boardrooms.

Mateer said: “It started when I was talking to a friend Sam Tasker-Grindley at RSM UK and he mentioned a successful events business that had seen its bookings literally dry up overnight because of coronavirus.

“I asked the NED community on Virtualnonexecs.com if they could help and within 60 minutes we had a virtual boardroom consisting of lawyer William Blumenthal, cash management expert Anna-Lisa Natchev, business coach Nick Hodson, corporate governance expert Stewart Harper, business buyer, acquisition consultant Stephen Wallis and executive coach Kevin Cunningham on a call offering advice.

“It’s pretty gratifying when the boss of the events business messages you to say what we’ve done is ‘pretty amazing’.

“We’ve got another four more booked in for Monday and I’m getting requests all the time. Coronavirus presents an unprecedented challenge but it seems to bring out the best in people too.

“The virtual boardroom can’t wave a magic wand and revive businesses that were struggling before the coronavirus struck but our experts can offer guidance to those great companies that have been impacted by the outbreak.”

Mateer said he's currently putting together a virtual summit for SMEs on April 24 entitled 'Survive and Thrive'.

Wright believes that the coronavirus will change the way board meetings are held in future.

“I sit on the board of a Liverpool-based online CPD platform called The Webinar Vet,” he said. “We made a decision a while ago that a third of our board meetings would be done using Zoom. The chairman lives in London, I’m based in Lancashire so not only do you save time but you also help the environment by not travelling.

“The value of the board member is being able to share their expertise and harness the power of their black book of contacts. They don’t need to be sitting in the same room to do that.

“I said when I launched Virtualnonexecs.comthat I believed it would change the model in which NED positions are recruited and its peer-to-peer community approach is proving this. It’s a disrupter. What coronavirus has taught us is that the technology is there to do business differently.”