Independent matchmaking platform Comatch enters UK consulting industry

20 March 2018 7 min. read
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Comatch is a disruptive start-up, aimed at providing independent consultants with a platform through which to reach clients. The group, which has swiftly assembled a network spanning Europe, has entered the UK consulting industry, as it looks to boost its growth with access to Britain’s burgeoning freelance scene.

The UK’s freelance consulting sector is experiencing a period of rapid expansion, as former employees turn their backs on life at firms, amid the allure of a better work-life balance, and the suggestion of better pay. A recent survey found a majority of 58% earn more money as an independent consultant than as an employee. In part, this is likely due to the fact that there is no longer a middleman to tap into the fees incurred by consulting work.

The expanding independent space also presents challenges, however, particularly with respect to how freelancers can get noticed by potential clients in an increasingly crowded market. Meanwhile, clients face a complex and cluttered environment, through which they are expected to find the best value for their resources. To this end, the market is so crowded, that SMEs in the UK looking for external expertise to complement their operations currently feel that as much as £12 billion a year is wasted on professional services bills. With this state of play placing businesses under pressure to find consultants which will deliver value, and freelancers under strain to distinguish themselves from the crowd, Comatch has announced its entry to the UK market.

Comatch is a platform aimed at helping clients find reliable experts to supplement their operations, and to providing independent management consultants with a digital route to potential work. Launched in 2015, the firm has worked to match consultants with companies of all sizes; including international corporates, consultancies, start-ups and SMEs. In order to ensure quality and value from consultants for clients, freelancers who wish to join the network have to pass a two-step selection process to guarantee high quality of consulting. Applicants need at least two years in consulting with a large firm, or 10 years in the industry more broadly to convince Comatch in an interview. Should they pass both rigorous checks, they can be registered. Meanwhile, Comatch further ensure that clients can feel they obtain value, only charging them once they find a match they are happy with.

Independent matchmaking platform Comatch enters UK consulting industry

Due to the nature of the freelance consulting industry in the EU, in its first year of operations, Comatch developed its database to nearly 500 consultants, and facilitated a requested project portfolio of over €17 million in fees. Building on this growth, Berlin-based founders Christoph Hardt and Jan Schächtele – both former consultants of McKinsey & Company – set their sights on international expansion.

The German-origin digital platform has since been working continuously to expand its global presence. This began in late 2015, with the group’s arrival in the neighbouring Netherlands. Comatch quickly expanded its headcount in order to chase the firm’s growth target for the number of independent consultants in its database.

Since then, Comatch has entered into France, the Nordics, and the Middle East. On the way, the start-up received a €4 million injection from Acton Capital Partners, Atlantic Labs and b-to-v Partners – investment which the firm vowed to use to push deeper into the management consulting markets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland – and managed to break through the barrier of 300 projects and 2,000 professionals in its database – a figure it has since grown further. 

UK arrival

Now, the firm has finally set its sights on the UK, which is presently home to the world’s second largest management consulting industry, and is estimated to be worth more than £7 billion. According to the firm, entering the UK is a key part of Comatch’s long-term goal of becoming Europe’s leading online marketplace, as it is also the market where hiring independent consultants is most common, with an additional £2 billion in annual revenue attributed by some experts to the independent workforce.

Brexit is also likely to affect the industry, with industry analysts anticipating demand for consultants peaking as the UK concludes its withdrawal from the EU. The local consulting sector could be facing a massive talent shortage, as free movement of talent could end, restricting consulting firms’ access to skilled workers on the mainland – while exiting firms in the professional services sector stand to take large numbers of top workers with them. Comatch believes it is well positioned to help UK firms counter this trend with its continuously growing database of consultants. The company now counts over 4,200 handpicked management and strategy consultants and industry experts among its database, covering every functional expertise, all market sectors, representing 60 nationalities and speaking 90 languages.

Toby Toudal Nielsen

Next to UK Director Toby Toudal Nielsen, who helped orchestrate Comatch’s successful entry into the Nordics two years ago, Adrian Elkmann will be responsible for Business Development. In order to meet the firm’s demand, Comatch already plans to grow its operations in the UK quickly. According to Nielsen, the firm is due to recruit a Managing Director, alongside several open positions relating to the development of the business. This is in line with global plans for the group, which has grown to 80 employees, and is planning to announce another funding round soon.

Christoph Hardt, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Comatch, said the expansion is a major opportunity, as well as a logical consequence of the firm’s evolution, stating, “It’s a next natural step as we have experienced a growing demand from UK-based companies in the last months, especially consultancies, but also international companies that are staffing their UK based projects with us. With the experience from many European markets, we are now ready to provide our full set of services also in the United Kingdom.”

Keen to stress Comatch’s unique selling point amid a crowded market place, UK Director Nielsen added, “It is true, hiring independent consultants with the help of a matchmaker is more familiar to British clients than for clients in other markets, for example Italy. That is because other services, agencies, platforms are active in the market for years, [however] Comatch is focused on quality and speed. The quality assurance is essential for us. We might not have the biggest consultant pool but we make sure our pool is quality checked.”

Related: Consulting matchmaker named Germany's 10th fastest growing digital start-up.