ProSapient started in 2018 as a machine-driven expert network. ProSapient has client-service offices in London, Barcelona, Raleigh and a technical development team in the Ukraine. One co-founder previously worked at Coleman Research. The company has grown with a low-cost offering, selling both expert calls and surveys. It has done four funding rounds:
Consequently, the funding rounds led to the company having more than 55 shareholders. Many of these investors are currently employed at potential client firms, e.g. a senior private equity partner at consulting firm McKinsey, the banks Jefferies and Citi, and the asset managers MAN GLG and Exodus Point.
ProSapient competitors in the European consulting segment include Dialectica, Guidepoint and Atheneum. The firm has opened an office in Raleigh, North Carolina to serve the Americas, but has struggled with high employee churn.
The ProSapient expert network is one of the handful of firms outright stating they use AI and machine learning in their work. Other such “machine-driven expert networks” include Xperiti, NewtonX, ENG llc, CleverX, Techspert.io and Atheneum (after its acquisition of Chime Advisors). Prosapient does not have a CTO, but had a Senior Lead Software Engineer until April 2020.
Investing in tech can be costly. Whereas expert networks are often turnkey profitable, a range of younger firms in the expert network industry (Inex One included) invest in technology and growth, accepting initial losses.
By FY 2019, the Prosapient profit and loss account had exceeded £2.4m. Comparing with peers: In Q4 2019, Prosapient losses were approx. 2.5x those of Cambridge UK-based peer Techspert.io (based on published reports).
The company offers a few different services. It states that "If Bloomberg is a platform that allows you to find and consume data, proSapient is the platform that allows you to create it".
The main services are:
- Expert interactions (1-on-1 phone calls, meetings and placements), and an app to chat over
- A transcript library
- An expert network aggregator
The two latter ones are reminiscent of the Inex One platform. The main difference is that Prosapient seeks to be both an expert network and an "aggregator". This raises various strategic challenges, e.g.:
- Will other expert networks agree to have their data on their competitor's platform?
- Will prosapient resist the temptation to access such data, or give preference to its own expert network services?
- Where will the company management focus their attention? Which clients or service lines will be prioritized?
Coleman Research faced a similar strategic challenge in 2019, and ultimately pivoted their offering away from aggregating content from its competitors. Whichever the outcome at Prosapient, we like their ambition to improve the industry with tech.
Expert Management Systems create transparency and efficiency in the industry. Therefore, they are a logical next step in the history of expert networks. In addition, they’re valuable to the users – here’s how a bank saved >40% on expert network costs by using Inex One.
ProSapient was featured in our expert network benchmarking in June-July 2018. We identified ProSapient as a regional challenger in our review of the 2019 expert network market size. Regional challengers are separated from other smaller expert networks by merit of their growth and/or business model.
Inex One analyzed the machine-driven business model in our AI deepdive from 2019: AI and expert networks. The article discusses the evolution of expert networks and the pros&cons of using machine learning/ statistical models. See more about different expert network models here.