Why Expert360 CEO Bridget Loudon’s mission to disrupt consulting has taken her to the US market

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Expert360’s Bridget Loudon.

This week, Business Insider Australia publishes its list of The Coolest 100 People in Australian Tech. We’re featuring interviews with some of the prominent honorees as we count down to the release of the full list tomorrow.

“We whinge a lot in Australia,” Bridget Loudon told Business Insider back in 2014, adding: “We need to just get on with it.”

And how she has.

Loudon’s company, Expert360, is on a mission to disrupt the global management consulting industry, competing with professional services firms like Deloitte and PwC. This year it has established operations in the US, because its client roster features companies like Mastercard and eBay and they want to use the product – which connects companies with specialised consultants for projects according to specific requirements – overseas. Investors include Allan Moss, the former Macquarie chief executive and now a member of the RBA board.

Loudon took time to chat with BI about her whirlwind year of growth.

BI: Tell us about your past year.

Bridget Loudon: It’s funny to pull up and think about the year. What month are we?

Firstly, we moved into a new office. We have tripled the size of our team. We’ve quadrupled the size of our business from a project volume perspective. We have gone from 5000 consultants to 10,000 consultants on our site.

We have repatriated two really high-profile executives back, originally Australian, but back from Silicon Valley, to come and lead our product. We opened up a US office in San Francisco, from which we’re continuing to test our business there. We are exploring some stuff in south-east Asia as well.

BI: Can you tell us the motivations behind the expansion to the USA? Was there any “eureka” moment when you thought that would be a good idea?

BL: With the US move, our vision is definitely a global one. We want to be a global business, so the US is an important, strategic market but equally important actually is south-east Asia. I can’t talk too much about what we’re doing there, but I think there was never really any eureka moment for us. We were like, we’ve got to be in the US.

For us it’s always been a global strategy from day one. We’ve built our business so that we can, I guess, be agile, to test new markets very, very quickly, which is what we’re doing right now.

We’re [still] primarily focused on our Australian business. We’ve got a booming business here and a huge amount of room to grow. Australia is usually the second market for any marketplace business close to the US, so we need to [be here].

Also a lot of talent-as-a-service businesses have originated from Australia. Australia is a great breeding ground for those kind of businesses. Once we are expanding our horizons, we want our global business to be headquartered in Australia.

BI: You mentioned tripling in volume. Is that growth coming from mainly outside of Australia or within Australia? What’s the profile there?

BL: Yeah, mainly in Australia and mainly driven by corporate and enterprise. I think we’re really just at the beginning of a tipping point in terms of how enterprises are tapping into the economy and increasing talent agility. On-demand workforce is [now] on top of the agenda for ASX businesses and their people strategies and talent strategies.

We have CEOs and directors come to us with us on top of their agenda, saying ‘Yeah, Expert360 is really the only platform that is way out ahead of any other real option’. So they come to us, which has been amazing. It’s been great to have that kind of interest in the business and be that hot, type-of-mind for executives.

I guess that’s what’s become different — our business originally was primarily driven by small to medium sized enterprises and we’ve just, in the last 12 months we’ve seen a big, big shift to enterprise.

BI: What specialties are you seeing the most demand for consultants out of your business?

BL: The really hot areas particularly are around marketing, digital marketing and digital transformation. A lot of market research as well, lots and lots of research papers, white papers, a lot of bite-size pieces of work like that, and they fly off the platform like hotcakes.

They get snatched up very quickly because they’re great pieces of work that can be done remotely too. Other pieces, a lot of transformations, change managers, projects, a lot of project management and executions associated with these transformations, so a lot of ASX businesses are going through large transformations and they just can’t get project managers and change managers fast enough, and so Expert360’s a great place for them to place that project and get power within 24 hours.

BI: Expert360’s services are even more valuable considering a lot of full-time consultants do have very heavy workloads and they do get burnt out, don’t they?

BL: There are a lot of different professions where both the client are looking for people who will engage someone directly, not through a [consulting] firm, and also people are looking not to work with a firm. Professional services are the perfect place because it’s project-driven. In Australia we are one of the most service-heavy economies in the world. Our human capital is our biggest asset here and so it’s no wonder. I guess we are helping lead the world in changing the face of professional services.

BI: I’m sure you get plenty of feedback from both clients and consultants. Are there any stories that are memorable to you from the past year?

BL: One of the stories I like are when you’ve got a mum who’s got a Harvard degree and she’s worked at a top consulting firm for 10 years, but now has had kids and is ready to return to work. But she doesn’t like the 70 hours a week, 12 months a year, year-after-year lifestyle — it doesn’t suit.

I love her story and also the person she gets to work for, that gets access to this amazing talent at 10% of the cost of going through a firm. I’m talking about marketing, finance, research, whatever it is.

And that’s the joy of a marketplace, right? You bring people together — people who would never come together in previous circumstances, like a small business getting access to a Harvard grad, when they never would have before, at 10% of the price and a mum who’s being able to go back to work, in deploying services and add value.

That makes me very proud to be doing what we’re doing.

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