For years, sophisticated investors have relied on Expert Consults (outgoing calling campaigns to industry experts) as a core component of their research programs. Most of the time, the outcome of these Expert Consults is a regression line drawn across multiple expert opinions proving or disproving an investment thesis. Occasionally, an Expert Consult uncovers a “needle in a haystack” viewpoint that generates significant alpha. Overall, these investors found that direct dialog with experts provided some of their most valuable research returns.
However, historically, the use of outgoing calling campaigns was limited to only the most well heeled firms because of the time & effort required to manage the program. Experts needed to be a) found contextually, b) contacted, c) qualified, d) cleared from a compliance perspective, e) convinced to take a call, f) paid and g) have 1099s generated.
Specialized firms (the largest being Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG)) emerged to help facilitate the process. In addition to making introductions to experts, they also provided an excellent compliance framework to ensure safe & compliant consults. Because their product (Expert Consults) delivered so much value, they were able to command hefty (typically six figures and often time seven figures) annual fees. Reluctantly, their clients (the largest investment firms) paid the high price because they valued their offering.
But most of the investment market could not afford their price point. As a seasoned entrepreneur who had built a business in a tangential market, this struck me as an ideal business opportunity. We could take a proven business concept, the Expert Consult, and deliver it to a much larger & more diverse market. Zintro was born! Zintro levels the Expert Consult playing field by a) leveraging technology to automate much of the expert signup, client/expert matching, communication & qualification, and payment processing and b) by offering a transaction fee model in which clients only need to pay if they choose to have a call.
Using the Zintro service is different than GLG (and other similar firms). It uses more of a self-service approach which is appealing to some (more control, etc) and less appealing to others. However, it strives to deliver a comparable level of compliance capabilities and a deep expert pool for a much lower price point (and without an expensive membership being required). Zintro’s model offers other advantages besides price — material for a future blog post.
Most importantly, Zintro “democratizes” the Expert Consult market so that large investors can continue to gain the benefits of Expert Consults (with a much lower price point) AND so that firms with much smaller research budgets can add Expert Consults to their research repertoire.