Online consultants platform Expert360 gets 4 million

26 August 2015 Consultancy.uk

Expert360 is an s-commerce site that aims to connect professional service contractors from consulting and finance to project-based work on a flexible basis. The Australian start-up was recently awarded AU$4.1 million in venture capital through which it aims to accelerate its local expansion, as well as growing its footprint internationally.

Online platforms that provide s-commerce services are on the rise as a channel of matching professionals with clients. According to a recent study from McKinsey & Company, digital talent platforms are set to revolutionise business, holding the potential to add $2.7 trillion to GDP by 2025. The professional services industry, including accounting, engineering and management consulting, is one of the largest beneficiaries of the forecasted value added. Not surprisingly, across the globe platforms are being established to tap into the market potential, including the likes of blur in the UK, and Newcoventure and Comatch in Germany.

Online matching of consultants

Another promising matchmaking platform for management consultants, the Australian Expert360, has recently made the headlines for a new round of venture it has lure. The platform, founded in 2013, provides businesses of all sizes access to top consulting and finance expertise for project-work. The platform aims to leverage technology to reduce the overheads and inefficiencies of seeking professional services for projects – acting as a digital s-commerce provider through its online website. The rationale behind Expert360 is according to its founders to provide a marketplace that connects expert management consultants and financial advisors seeking flexibility in choosing their projects, with firms of all sizes seeking project-based advice.

Similar to Newcoventure (founded by Frank Braun, a former employee of EY and goetzpartners) and Comatch (founded by former McKinsey consultants Christoph Hardt and Jan Schächtele), the idea behind Expert360 originates from within the consulting industry. Founders Bridget Loudon and Emily Yue both spent three and four years respectively with Bain & Company in amongst others Sydney before they decided to embark on their entrepreneurial challenge. With Expert360.com, they seek to boost the efficiency of the matching process and bypasses the bias large consultancies have, where top consultants normally reside, in their preference for large clients requiring sizeable teams of experts chosen through a stiff hierarchy.

Frank Braun, Christoph Hardt, Jan Schachtele, Bridget Loudon, Emily Yue

The 2013 start-up was recently given access to AU$4.1 million in capital (roughly $3.1 million), sourced from Russian investment fund Frontier Ventures, Australian technology fund Rampersand and local high-wealth individuals*. The sites major draw card, its use by a wide range of experts that charge a minimum of $100 an hour with a typical hourly charge between $500 and $5,000, positions them far apart from other s-commerce markets that focus on ‘low-end’ services, such as Freelancer.com where the average hourly rate can get as low as $8. As it stands, Expert360 has facilitated more than $10 million in projects, includes 4,500 consultants in its database for missions and over 1,000 business users posting assignments. The company itself pockets 15% of the hourly rate, for which it provides among other things, contracts and payments.

The digital marketplace is already providing expertise to a range of high-profile clients in Australia, including Australia Post, Virgin and Woolworths. Loudon and Yue are however seeking to bring clients and consultants from further afield together, with part of the seed money aimed at international expansion.

Expert360 - Top Consulting Talent On Demand

“I think the guys who have been part of the old world in investment banking and management consulting for so long get it – they know that professional services is ripe for disruption,” co-founder and chief executive Loudon says. “We have seen Freelancer.com do it with coding and design, Uber do it with transport and logistics, but professional services and consulting in particular has not been disrupted in the same way.”

“As well as clients wanting flexibility, consultants want flexibility,” co-founder and chief operating officer, Yue says. “We are seeing some of the best consultants join the site because, throughout their career, there are a number of times where they want more flexibility. With a traditional firm, you’re either not working at all or doing 70 hours a week, and for a lot of people they are at a point in their life where that doesn’t really work for them.”

* Newcoventure and Comatch have recently also completed a round fo funding, with Newcoventure receiving capital from former Brainnet founder and KPMG partner Thorsten Schiefer, while Comatch lured venture from among others BrainsToVentures and atlantic labs.

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Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.