Online Consultant Marketplace Expert360 Raises $4.1 Million – Should Services Procurement Take Note?

contingent workforce

Expert360, a Sydney, Australia-based online marketplace platform for high-level consultants, announced Monday it raised a second round of funding totaling $4.1 million. The startup, founded in 2012 by two former Bain & Company management consultants, Bridget Loudon and Emily Yue, raised $1 million of angel funding in 2014. Original funders include angels like Gary Swart, the former CEO of oDesk – now Upwork – and a current member of an Expert360 advisory board. It is now topped by the recent venture round, supplied by a group of APAC institutional and private investors, led by the Russian venture fund Frontier Ventures.

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Expert360 is a part of a statistical cluster of other notable online work platform businesses, most with global reach, that have started in Australia, including publicly-traded freelancer.com, 99Designs, Envato, Airtasker and NVOI. Expert360’s funding news not only demonstrates ongoing investor interest in this emerging and rapidly developing contingent workforce solutions space, which Spend Matters refers to as work intermediation platforms (WIPs), but also spotlights an important vertical segment in that space that focuses specifically on high-level management consulting talent engagements. This service is typically provided by high-profile consulting firms such as Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company and the Boston Consulting Group.

Expert360 describes itself succinctly as “an online platform that connects businesses with a global network of top independent consultants for project based work.” Its specific focus on consultants distinguishes it from online marketplace platforms like Upwork or Guru.com, which support online work engagements with other categories of workers, such as software developers, writers, translators and accountants. But vertical segment plays have been a notable trend in the WIP space, with platform plays in a range of segments including software (Topcoder), testing (Apprise), legal (UpCounsel), writing and content development (Contently), copy editing (Wordy.com), video (Vizzy) and numerous others. There are also other platform players in the consulting vertical, including MBA & Company and 10EQS.

At this time, Expert360 offers businesses access to a pool of some 4,500 vetted management consultants, many formerly with well-known consulting and professional services firms. Businesses can specify projects, find and interview consultants, engage them to complete a project and then transact payment. Expert360 has offerings for start-ups, small businesses, medium-sized businesses, large enterprises, investors and even consulting firms. It appears that hourly rates can start as low as $100, with most consultants typically charging from $500 to $5,000 per pay period, and project sizes can range from $1,000 to $80,000. Expert360 makes its money by taking a 15% transaction fee.

The $4.1 million in new funding will be partly directed toward platform and global expansion beyond the Australia region and, according to co-founder Yue, to an enhanced large enterprise offering with project management. Today the company already serves some large enterprises, including Australia Post, Virgin and Woolworths.

The growth and maturation of WIPs like Expert360 represents a fast arriving reality of new workforce, services sourcing and source-to-pay (S2P) channels that procurement managers must start to bring into focus, lest they be caught flat-footed, a subject further covered at Spend Matters in a recent Plus article, “Revolutionary and Disruptive Changes Coming to the Contingent Workforce Space.”

It’s probably too early to say to what extent platforms like Expert360 may represent a competitive or disruptive threat to traditional consulting firms, with their high fees and fixed cost structures. But I can say, from many discussions with them, that this platform trend is on their radar, and they are taking it seriously.

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