Third Bridge Expert Network Review

Third Bridge… the great strategic disrupter in the Expert Network industry.

While Gerson Lehman Group is officially the OG of expert networks, having founded the space almost two decades ago, Third Bridge was one of the first companies to take a serious bite out of GLG’s market leading position. Originally founded in 2007 as Cognolink, they’ve been known as Third Bridge since 2015.

With a strong focus on supporting investment management clients, they are worth courting if you want to work as an expert network adviser. Common clients include hedge funds, private equity firm teams, and strategy consultants working on deals within that space. The recruitment form is here.

Engagements generally take one of two forms:

  • Traditional one-on-one consultations
  • Forum calls (round robin discussion with other subject matter experts)

Their site hints at broader opportunities, such as face-to-face meetings, longer term consulting projects or potentially even joining a portfolio company’s board. I wouldn’t count on this, but certainly a nice upside if this occurs. Many of these firms are located in New York or the Northeastern US, which is worth considering.

For executives in transition, their research page is worth a read – good interview fodder. They publish studies about a variety of strategic topics and industry trends. While many of these are designed to help generate informed investment decisions, the same topics you mention to an investor will be of interest to industry executives and management consulting firms.

The investor focus is an interesting angle which you should incorporate into your preparations. With the compliance requirements in effect for industry expert consulting, the primary goal for many of these calls is getting an honest view of reality. One of the challenges with running a private equity firm is you are literally inundated with information, most of which has massive bias. Your management consulting firms want to keep the fees coming. The seller wants to sell. Bankers keep pitching investment opportunities, in hopes of a commission. Sometimes what you really need is a dose of unfiltered market intelligence so you can make better investment decisions. “Telling it like it is” often hits the spot with this audience.

Were You Invited to A Third Bridge Paid Consultation?

If you’ve been invited to a paid consultation with Third Bridge, congratulations. They’ve tagged your profile as a relevant authority within an area of interest. You’re an industry expert now, and Third Bridge believes you can be a part of the expert network service they provide to their clients.

Based on their typical use cases, clients will generally be:

  • Private Equity Investors – Building Information for an Industry Investment
  • Management Consultants – Seeking to rapidly get up to speed on an industry
  • Institutional Investors – Mutual Funds and Hedge Fund Managers

From what we’ve been told, the process is generally what you would expect from an expert network call. Like any good expert network, they put a strong emphasis on regulatory compliance to avoid insider trading exposure and sharing of confidential information. Unlike with independent consultants, the advisors in these expert interviews are likely doing it as a second job, and want to have compliance and no conflict of interest.

In terms of catching their notice, our best advice is to keep your LinkedIn profile updated and compelling. They are generally looking for subject matter experts and will keep internal databases of qualified consultants (from past interactions and LinkedIn).

Expert Calls – Typical Questions

So what is the typical agenda for an expert consultation?

It depends on the client. Given the cost, most expert consulting engagements are centered around a couple of specific business questions that require a very high level of knowledge about the space.

A large number of calls are basically what I refer to as “rapid industry training” for management consultants and investment professionals. For example, a private equity professional may need to learn the particulars of a specific industry so they have the information and expertise to work on a deal. These calls allow them to accomplish this in a few hours instead of days of primary research.

You should be prepared to discuss the common business models within an industry and revenue models that support them. Most clients will also be interested in an assessment of the key competitors within an industry and top customer segments. Consultants should be ready to identify the largest consumer of a particular service. Along the same lines, if there are significant human resource or operational issues involved in managing within a particular industry this will also be of keen interest to the consulting firm or client you are advising.

Growth and competitive factors are another area of interest. Be ready to break down your assessment of an industry’s growth potential to explore the key drivers of growth. Remember that a client will probably have similar expert consultations with multiple consultants: they are generally less interested in the outcome of your analysis (“sales will grow 5%”) that the facts which led you to that conclusion (“because Fortune 500 companies are finally adopting the technology”). If you give them the facts, they can mix and match between consultants later to develop their final assessement.

The same applies to business risk and opportunities for operational improvement. Be ready to discuss various aspects of the business and common ways to improve the company’s results. Many private equity clients are particularly interested in this topic. But always keep in mind withholding confidential information to maintain compliance with insider trading regulations.

Third Bridge Consulting Rates

In the absence of other guidance from your recruiter, my recommendation would be to quote your Third Bridge consulting rate in line with what you charge expert networks. Looking at the expert network market as a whole, I’ve seen $150 per hour as a low end number which can usually be pushed to $300 without much effort. An experienced adviser with a lot of high-end industry expertise can get $500 per hour once they demonstrate their expertise and marquee talent (former CEO’s, TedX speakers, etc.) can command rates of over $1000 per hour. We describe the logic of how you justify the rate in this article.

Raise Your Profile – Other Expert Networks (Signup Links)

If you’re interested in raising your profile as an expert, run through the list below and sign up for the networks which are relevant to your skills and geography.

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