Expert Networks Rollup – Business Connect China merges with Evalueserve Circle of Experts and Tribeca Insights

Congratulations to Business Connect China, which is merging with my old company, Evalueserve Circle of Experts, and Tribeca Insights to form a new consolidated expert network, Advantus Global. Integrity Research reports, “At the high water mark, there were over 45 expert networks. By our count, the number has shrunk to 37, of which 7 cater exclusively to non-financial clients.”

A number of research and data companies have acquired expert networks: Evalueserve acquired Circle of Experts; S&P acquired Vista Research, which it later sold to Guidepoint Global. In addition, quite a few large companies have started expert networks: Goldman Sachs Vantage Marketplace (shut down); Reuters Anian (shut down); Bear Stearns’ Primary Insight (spun off).

The pattern is fairly clear: I’m not aware of any significant expert network focused on financial clients which is owned by a company not in the expert network space. Expert networks, by the nature of their business model, can easily create conflicts of interest with other entities. For example, what could Vista Research do when one of their experts was critical of one of S&P’s major corporate clients? What happens when a major S&P client complains that one of their employees is participating as an expert?

So I suggest that the traditional expert network model works best in a stand-alone format. Guidepoint Global’s acquisition of Vista for a (rumored) bargain price has apparently worked out well, and I’m very optimistic about Advantus’s prospects, given their strong base in China. I expect that some of the larger expert networks will continue to roll up some of the smaller players over the coming 2 years. In particular, I expect that someone will acquire the assets of Primary Global, which was a reasonably successful firm until they ran into legal difficulties. Their database of experts, and to a much lesser extent their client database, have significant value to another expert network player.

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