Comatch, a German digital platform for finding and staffing management consultants, has expanded its wings into the Netherland. By the end of 2016, the platform aims at having a database of at least 300 consultants.
Founded last year by Christoph Hardt and Jan Schächtele, both former consultants of McKinsey & Company, Comatch taps into the growing trend towards digital consulting and online matching, a field which according to a recent study has the potential to disrupt the labour-market. The company, which operates from its base in Berlin, provides freelance management consultants the opportunity to presents themselves to clients of all sizes, ranging from corporates to SME’s. Consultants can register for free on the platform, while clients are guided in finding the right match for their management dilemma, and offered according to Comatch top quality advisors for significantly lower fees compared to the tier-1 consultancies.
Comatch has taken off in its first year of operations – the s-commerce startup developed its database to nearly 500 consultants, and facilitated a requested project portfolio of over €17 million in fees. Building on the growth the founders have set their sights on international expansion, with neighbour the Netherlands the first on the bucket list. Early November Comatch formally unveiled it opened an office in Amsterdam, and from the capital city it aims at growing its Dutch consultancy footprint to 300 consultants by the end of 2016.
To lead the operations Hardt and Schächtele have hired a dedicated Operations Manager, tasked with growing the databases at both ends of the spectrum, as well as matching supply with demand. On the back of a proven business model, and with an on the ground presence in place, Hardt is positive on the chances of a successful market entry. “The outlook is bright. In the Netherlands the number of freelancers among consultants is higher than in Germany. With our experiences in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and with a successful round of financing behind us we believe we are optimally prepared to embark on this adventure.”
With over 80,000 freelancers in the field of management consulting, self-employed consultants account for a staggering 90% of all enterprises in the Dutch management consulting industry. The high share of freelancers in the country follows from a range of wider cultural, market and tax developments, such as a historically high rate of freelancing across professional services, favourable tax conditions to freelance, and a relatively high entrepreneurial spirit driving freelancing activities. Researchers (the data is sourced from a study by Consultancy.nl) however highlight that a large share of freelancers is erroneously registered as a management consultant in official statistics as they in practice undertake other types of services (estimated to be between 30% and 40% of the population) and that another share of the population has been ‘forced’ into freelancing, commonly the results of layoffs.
Across the landscape, management consulting houses approximately 159,000 consultants, combined generating €15.2 billion in revenues. The top of the market – consulting firms with over 50 consultants – is estimated to generate €1 billion, according to analyst firm Source Information Services. Looking ahead, the freelancing push is expected to continue, maintaining promising conditions for online matching platforms such as Comatch. Between 2009 and 2014 the number of freelancers in management consulting nearly doubled – the fastest growth rate seen across the Dutch professional services industry – and looking ahead the trend is not expected to slow down.
Competition from other freelancing initiatives is however heating up, with local platforms such as VirtualCC tightening their grip on the management consultancy segment, while a range of other platforms operate at the intersection between management advisory and other areas of consulting. Hardt though points at the differentiated positioning of Comatch, which he says focuses purely on the top of the market. “At Comatch the registration process is selective, we in fact perform a thorough profile check and deny a big number of applicants.” Latest figures on the community reveal that 40% of its members have a background with The Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company or Roland Berger, while for financial expertise, most have Big Four backgrounds. From a positioning perspective, Comatch is set to compete with the traditional renown players in the market, and Eden McCallum, a UK-origin consultancy based in Amsterdam (founded in 2000; Dutch office established in 2008) that builds on a freelancing network of top-tier consultants.