Third Bridge is one of the largest expert networks globally. Founded in 2007 as Cognolink, it rebranded in 2015 as Third Bridge (the name of one of its business units). It was one of the first firms to successfully reduce GLG’s market dominance, growing in tandem with Alphasights. Its founders had a background in consulting with Bain & Company, which was an important early client according to expert sources.
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The history of Third Bridge
When Third Bridge started out, GLG was dependent on its traditional static network. Experts were recruited proactively, on fairs and from telephone directories. Onboarding an expert was time-consuming and complex. Third Bridge, lacking a database of experts, began recruiting experts directly for live projects. To enable this, they sped up the onboarding of experts with modern tech tools and user-friendly interfaces. This business model’s success was supported by the even faster growth of LinkedIn.
Third Bridge business areas
The company combines a large database with custom recruiting, promoted in two business areas:
Connections, a standard expert network operation with phone calls, surveys, project recruiting etc. This is the core service offered by Third Bridge, with approximately half of the firm’s staff working in the Connections research team.
Forum, a service of hosted expert calls. Clients either listen in or get the transcripts.
Forum has seen rapid growth since it was created in 2015. As of June 2020, approximately 10% of Third Bridge’s employees were working on generating content for the Forum, conducting and transcribing 5000+ expert interviews per year. Clients pay per-seat subscriptions to access Third Bridge’s growing database of call transcripts. Our expert sources mention that it represents ~25% of Third Bridge’s revenues, and the lions’ share of its net profit. In October 2022, Third Bridge started hiring for roles to produce user-generated content. Just like Tegus, Third Bridge will transcribe expert calls done by their users, and post them to its library for others to read. To date, all transcripts had been produced by full-time Third Bridge employees interviewing experts.
Third Bridge historic milestones
2007 – founded in London as Cognolink.
2010 – acquired the Swedish expert network Epito.
2015 – rebranded from Cognolink to Third Bridge.
2012 – raised approx. $4.5m from growth capital firm Beringea, for a 13% stake (based on corporate filings). That implies a valuation of $35m post-money, representing approx. 2.6x the revenues in that year.
2017 – the Swedish private equity firm IK Investment Partners acquired Beringea’s stake and substantially more, according to our expert interview sources.
2019 – Inex One identified Third Bridge as a global leader in our review of the 2019 expert network market size.
2021 - French private equity firm Astorg bought IK Investment Partners' stake, and invested in Third Bridge alongside its founders. The investment was later said to be of more than $200m.
2022 - At the end of the year, Third Bridge lost three senior leaders: the President, the CFO, and the Chief People Officer.
In June 2020, Third Bridge had 1000+ employees working across eight offices in London, New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Mumbai. It is one of the largest expert network companies in terms of employee count, second only to GLG. Third Bridge featured in the Sunday Times 2019 BDO Profit Track 100 as one of Britain’s top 100 private companies with the fastest-growing profits.
Third Bridge cubs
Over the years, some Third Bridge colleagues have left to set up their own expert networks:
2017 - Six Degrees Intelligence was launched in Hangzhou, China, focused on experts in China.
2020 - Nexus Network, based in London, launched.
2021 - NetworksX started in Melbourne, Australia.