Maven, launched in 2008 in San Francisco, is a work intermediation platform business that provides enterprises with a set of knowledge-based services, utilizing various populations or communities of expert talent (Mavens). In a high-velocity, specialized information economy, rapidly obtaining very specific, reliable information from domain experts can be critical to the success of programs/initiatives (for example, developing a new drug).
The Maven platform model and service offerings are in some ways similar to what we’ve referred to as “ideation crowdsourcing” platforms, but Maven appears to be different in a number of respects: its use of semantic and machine learning technologies for building expert communities and identifying experts for clients (“The Knowledge Logistics Engine”), its “knowledge extraction” methodologies and its service offerings, to name a few.
In a recent talk, Maven CEO Wyatt Nordstrom said that "in 2008 he and his co-founders set out to build a platform that was flexible enough to handle the smallest possible engagements — literally minutes of someone’s time — and then expandable to much larger engagements,” which are some of the service offerings available today. As Spend Matters has noted elsewhere, a platform strategy includes the potential for introducing different products and services over time.
What Does Maven Do?
To understand Maven, we can look at it as a two-sided platform, with enterprise clients and service offerings on the one hand and digitally connected expert talent communities on the other.
Over 90% of Maven’s client base (Maven targets Fortune 500s) fall within four main industry verticals: health/pharma, industrial, consumer products and hi-tech. Clients engage with Maven on an annual subscription basis; subscriptions are sized based on a number of variables, like the services clients consume. Engagement and transaction fees can also apply.
The first set of service offerings, branded under the label of Global Knowledge Marketplace, consists of two kinds of expert consulting, Microconsulting and Extended Consulting.
- Microconsulting breaks down into three categories: (1) relatively brief Telephone Consultations (2) Electronic Surveys and (3) Virtual Ideation Panels. Microconsulting services accounts for the bulk of Maven business volume. (More on Microconsulting below.)
- Extended Consulting, a smaller part of Maven business volume, means relatively conventional consulting engagements (in-person/on premise consulting/advisory, workshops and seminars, research and analysis).
Returning to Microconsulting, Telephone Consultation is a relatively straightforward offering, so we will focus further on Electronic Surveys and Virtual Ideation Platforms:
- Electronic Surveys are engagements in which clients can extract knowledge from a selected group of relevant experts (ranging in number from 10-100) in a structured and efficient way. Surveys are almost always “qualitative” and are conducted, with Maven support, using Maven’s proprietary survey technology and the vetted, searchable communities of experts.
- Virtual Ideation Panel (VIP) — the recently launched service offering — establishes panels of targeted online experts that are moderated by professional facilitators (often with domain knowledge). These panel events are “time-bound” to achieve outcomes within one to three days. There are three types of panels:
- Brainstorming and ideation (generating ideas, approaches, solutions)
- Discussion and debate (unpacking complex issues to achieve clearer, more reliable understanding)
- Evaluation and analysis (focused, more methodical problem research or problem-solving activity often involving quantitative elements).
Maven has built its own talent pool of hundreds of thousands experts in more than 200 countries. Enterprise clients can also segment their own private talent pools of relevant experts.
Maven provides enterprises with a number of different community options, which allow a client to expand its expert base to include its own employees and even alumni or partners and suppliers from its ecosystem. Some enterprise clients have leveraged the Maven platform to include employees, which allows the enterprise to tap its own internal experts as well as enable a network of collaboration and idea and information sharing that would otherwise not occur. Adding external experts to the mix can also enhance this process.
Maven: Business Snapshot
As noted above, Maven was founded in 2008, when it began building the underlying technology platform. After a design phase, the actual software development started in 2009, and the company received a $1 million Seed Round in 2010 and then a $2 million Series A Round (GSV Capital) in 2012, after which time the company has been self-funding.
To date, the company has established an online network of hundreds of thousands of experts worldwide, has tuned and expanded its portfolio of services and has squarely targeted and engaged the market of Fortune 500 enterprises. It has acquired a solid client base, which includes a good number of clients that are top companies in the industry categories.
Nordstrom also reported to us that the company is doubling in size each year, both through growth at existing clients and through the addition of new clients.
Maven is another example from the diverse population of work intermediation platforms that are gradually becoming service providers to larger enterprises. It also could be looked at as one of a number of platforms and intermediation models that have begun to offer platform-based alternatives to traditional consulting services. We might call them “Expertise-as-a-Service” platforms.
As we have discussed elsewhere, the supplier landscape for contingent workforce and services is changing, with new, attractive sourcing alternatives coming to table. And there are signs that this landscape may be changing faster than some may think.
To learn more about Maven, visit its website at https://www.maven.co/.