Better, Faster, Stronger: Maven vs. The Expert Networks

Maven’s Global Knowledge Marketplace is often compared to the so-called “expert networks.” Frankly, we do not welcome the comparison. In fact, we consider ourselves to be the anti-expert network, so let’s set the record straight!

What is an expert network?

Expert networks are boutique primary research services for professional investors. Despite the name, they are neither “expert” (technology enabled) nor “networks” (community oriented). Rather, these services generate lists of industry insiders and pay those insiders to share information with investment firms, especially hedge funds. This is typically done via private, unregulated telephone calls.

How is Maven different from expert networks?

Expert networksWhile Maven similarly brokers Telephone Consultations between knowledge seekers and smart professionals, the similarities end there. Rather, our core focus lies in developing and managing communities of expertise, and providing a variety of tools to extract professional knowledge from those communities in a secure, controlled, and ethical environment. This includes both private Knowledge Communities custom-built for the needs of specific companies and the much larger community we have built, the Global Knowledge Marketplace.

At heart, Maven is a technology company, not a consulting firm. Over half of our global team are software developers who focus on creating new technologies to aggregate, characterize, and deliver expertise on demand. We’ve invested heavily to build the world’s most advanced platform for knowledge discovery, allowing enterprises to uncover the untapped or overlooked talent within their walls and to rapidly acquire outside knowledge.

Who are Maven’s customers and how do they compare with the kinds of firms expert networks support?

Maven focuses exclusively on supporting enterprise, SMB, consulting, private equity, and venture capital customers. We do not work with public equities investors, asset managers, or sell-side equity research professionals. Unlike traditional expert networks, we believe that intermingling those involved in the equity markets with industry insiders creates excessive potential for conflicts of interest and unethical behavior – and, in fact, a quick Google search for “expert network insider trading” demonstrates the extreme reality of this potential. By focusing our business on enterprise customers, we have developed a consistent model to manage our customer relationships, which ensures a secure and conflict-free environment for our customers and prevents “cross-talk” between hedge funds and industry.

How is the Global Knowledge Marketplace different from expert networks?

Given our different market focus, both the composition of our Knowledge Marketplace and the types of inquiries Maven supports are very different from expert networks’. Since professional investors are primarily interested in companies’ financial performance, the expert networks’ participant lists are heavily concentrated in business functions like finance, accounting, and corporate strategy. Conversely, Maven believes that every professional has valuable experience and knowledge that could benefit others, and our enterprise customers seek a broader array of types of expertise, ranging from highly technical insights to industry- and geography-specific knowledge. The result is a much larger and diverse resource, with CEOs, scientists, technologists, auto repair specialists, and even grocery store clerks from all over the world participating in Maven.

Furthermore, unlike the static lists of insiders used by expert networks, our Knowledge Marketplace constantly grows, changes, and evolves in response to the ever-changing knowledge needs of our customers. Virtually all of this growth and evolution is powered by our unique referral system, which encourages participants to present consulting opportunities to their friends and colleagues. This allows the Knowledge Marketplace to grow intelligently in response to specific areas of inquiry, delivering the right expertise at the right time in the right package. We believe that smart people know other smart people, and that our participants are much better judges of relevant knowledge and expertise than we could ever be, so rather than attempting to manually identify and recruit participants, we crowdsource expertise. This is far more efficient than manual recruiting and much more reliable.

How do Maven’s products differ from those offered by expert networks?

As noted above, our Telephone Consultation product is similar to the core product offered by expert networks. However, while expert networks almost exclusively broker phone calls, we believe that Consultations are but one tool in the knowledge discovery arsenal – and a relatively small one at that! Instead, we have developed a comprehensive consulting suite that provides a wide (and growing) variety of interaction methodologies. From microconsulting interactions including Telephone Consultations, Professional Surveys, and Virtual ThinkTanks to extended consulting projects like Workshops and Seminars, Research and Analysis, and In-person Engagements, our goal is to deliver the right expertise in the right package based upon our customers’ specific needs.

This is where our customer success organization comes into play. If our technology platform is the airplane, our support professionals are the pilots, using our technology to guide customers to solutions. As experts on locating and extracting expertise, we help our customers to select the right methodologies to acquire the knowledge they need to make better and more informed professional decisions. In traditional expert networks the “research managers” act as order-takers, setting up phone calls for their customers from pre-defined lists of insiders relative to specific stocks; by contrast, we are professionally-trained technologists, survey scientists, and discussion facilitators who work with customers to solve the business and technical challenges they face.