By digitising the conventional consulting model and stripping it of its inefficiencies, the brains behind Expert360 have made waves in the $600 billon global consulting industry. According to co-founder and CEO, Bridget Loudon, sheer resilience, a commitment to quality and a mandate to become an irreplaceable aspect of their customer’s working lives have also been central to the success of her online consulting marketplace.
Since launching in 2013, Expert360 has amassed a talent pool of more than 15,000 vetted consultants, representing hundreds of disciplines, across 90 countries. In doing so, Loudon said her startup has wooed the Commonwealth Bank, BHP, Woolworths, Qantas, amongst thousands of other companies globally – all eager to “build high-performing teams on demand and deliver superior project outcomes at a reduced cost”.
In July, the rapid-growth startup completed a $13 million capital raise, bringing its total funding to $21 million across three investment rounds. In the process, it welcomed AirTree Ventures to its stable of investors, joining the likes of Frontier Ventures and former Macquarie Chief Allan Moss.
In conversation with Dynamic Business, Loudon spoke about the genesis and evolution of Expert360, the mechanics of the platform, and the disciplines she and co-founder, Emily Yue (COO), acquired through bootstrapping.
DB: What is the elevator pitch for Expert 360?
Loudon: We offer our clients access to the elite talent that is available to start work immediately – at a lower cost. Typically, we can deploy freelancers within 48 hours of a project being posted, in stark contrast with the average time to hire (which is about 68 days).
Finding individual high-quality consultants or bespoke teams can be extremely difficult for businesses, even when engaging a traditional consulting company. Our marketplace is strictly vetted, ensuring that the freelancers on Expert360’s platform have experience at world-leading businesses. This assurance of quality – combined with the increased speed to hire and up to 70% cost savings compared to the traditional model – makes Expert360 extremely valuable to businesses.
DB: How are you able to fast-track deployment?
Loudon: The algorithm behind our matching engine allows consultants to get notified of opportunities within seconds. Clients have a number of highly qualified candidates to work on their project typically within hours. The communication, contracting and invoicing is then all managed through the platform, leading to these hiring time speed increases.
DB: What spawned the idea for Expert360?
Loudon: When I was a junior at global management consulting firm Bain & Co, I became aware of a flaw in the way traditional professional services operated and started looking at how I could fix it. Not only did the conventional consulting model not suit highly-skilled consultants who preferred contract work over full-time, it didn’t work for many companies – due to an inability to pick and choose the people they really wanted, they often received juniors for high-stakes projects… PLUS, engaging consultants was (and still is) expensive.
DB: How did you and Emily come to partner up?
Loudon: I met Emily at Bain & Co, where we worked together for three years, all up. Due to our shared vision for the future of the consulting industry, we launched Exert360 together in July 2013. Essentially, we engaged the best consultants, stripped away the overheads and inefficiencies and put them on a digital platform to allow for better collaboration with large companies.
DB: What factors have fuelled Expert360’s success?
Loudon: Being first to the market was incredibly important as it meant that straight from the get-go we were able differentiate ourselves from the traditional consulting firms by providing high quality consultants without the cost of the overheads. However, the backbone of Expert360 is the quality of our consultants. Each and every consultant on the platform is vetted, which means clients can be confident that they are engaging the best in the market.
DB: What criteria underpins your vetting process?
Loudon: Our vetting process is based on number of core criteria. We ensure that our consultants have a minimum of two years’ full-time experience at top firms or global blue-chip businesses in our core areas: strategy; investment; HR; deal advisory; finance; technology or marketing.
DB: Compare Expert360 today to Expert360 circa 2013…
Loudon: Our core offering has evolved to better meet the needs of Australia’s biggest corporates. Originally, we focussed on management consultants; however, we expanded our consultant services to encompass strategy, investment and deal advisory, sales and operations, marketing, finance, HR and tech. Consequently, Expert360 has become the provider of choice for businesses wanting to execute high impact projects.
DB: What has been a key challenge you’ve faced?
Loudon: Transitioning from being a corporate management consultant to being a bootstrapped entrepreneur was challenging. Part of the difficulty in adjusting, was not having the unlimited resources of a big company like Bain. We rapidly learnt the importance of being lean, focused and failing fast. We were able to use our consulting skills and council from advisors to solve a lot of our challenges and everything else was overcome through sheer resilience. Relevantly, it’s important for startup founders to identify a strong network of people around them. This is more than just to bounce ideas off. It’s for support and friendship during the difficult times as well as, of course, strategic input and advice.
DB: How would you sum up the company’s culture?
Loudon: We have six company values that are applied across the whole business, from leadership to junior employees. These are, in summary, that we have integrity and gratitude; we are passionate; we are accountable; we move fast; we are confident and forward thinking; and we communicate.
DB: What are your ambitions with Expert360 moving forward?
Loudon: Our focus is on making our product an irreplaceable aspect of our customers’ working lives – this means creating something that massively improves their experience of work. To achieve this, we’re introducing new features and functionality for both clients and consultants. These features will allow businesses to seamlessly collaborate with their professional network to solve problems as well as manage their contingent and consulting workforce and streamline the team building process.
DB: What been the most personally rewarding aspect of Expert360?
Loudon: The most rewarding aspect of running Expert360 has been the people that you meet along the journey. Whether it’s investors and co-workers or even clients and consultants that are using our platform, the number of smart, talented and ambitious people that I have met throughout the journey has been incredibly rewarding.
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