The search is over

Knowledge broking

We’re dedicated to helping you disrupt your markets. Or cope with it when the inevitable happens. And to help with a little insight and inspiration of how it’s done, we’ve created the Virgin Media Business Disruptor 10 list, in conjunction with Fast Track 100 – as published in The Sunday Times.

Here, in the third part of our 10-part series, we learn how one firm is trying to free up the not insignificant proportion of professionals’ time spent searching for specialist knowledge. Make way for AlphaSights…

A new kind of consultancy

Experts, advisors, talking heads. They’re big business these days - and command considerable fees for their services.

Surely to dip a toe into such a crowded market would be foolhardy, especially in competition with traditional substitute offerings and the inertia of the status quo?


Despite the risks, the folk behind AlphaSights had the courage of their convictions, and in 2008 founded a firm to connect clients with highly qualified experts. The goal was to create a service that could acquire any kind of knowledge around the world at any time. Fast forward eight years and AlphaSights is still here – something its founders put down, in part, to tapping into the zeitgeist.

Knowledge aquisition

Co-founder and joint managing director, Andrew Heath, says: “We were sure there was a business trend that would take the acquisition of knowledge in that direction. Our plan was to leverage knowledge that people have acquired over time - not codified knowledge, but knowledge that is tacit, circumstantial and based on personal experience.”

So has AlphaSights succeeded in its mission? Its inclusion in the Virgin Media Business Disruptor 10 should answer that question. An increasing number of clients are turning to AlphaSights to gain perspective and to shape their own decision making.

Finding that someone, somewhere

But what is disruptive about AlphaSights? The company operates on the premise that identifying and accessing knowledge is key to unlocking opportunities in the knowledge economy. By linking its clients with those who have the knowledge they are looking for, AlphaSights allows them to harness the power of what Andrew calls “connected thinking”.

He says: “What we are allowing people to do has always been done. Traditionally, when faced with a big decision you talked to professional advisors, or performed a DIY process via personal networks. The problem is that this approach is not reliably tapping the right people with the right perspective. Similarly, while digital connectivity and professional networking mean professionals are now far more visible than before, finding the relevant professional still presents a formidable matching problem - and that’s where we come in.”

Challenging the mainstream

AlphaSights has an enviable workload of thousands of projects each month across all bar a handful of countries. Competitors include US-based GLG and Third Bridge. Despite the competition, AlphaSights is growing faster than any other provider in the market. Which begs the question, what is its secret?

Andrew says: “Our differentiator is quality, both in terms of the match and in terms of service. While we have great systems and processes, this quality is chiefly conveyed through our people. This is very hard to replicate and we consider it the source of sustainable competitive advantage.”

AlphaSights is challenging mainstream businesses to rethink how they access relevant knowledge and the firm now works with clients across the entire industry spectrum. By facilitating fast, high-quality matches, AlphaSights allows high stakes decision-making to be powered by knowledge, which resides in the heads of professionals and is therefore neither digitised nor indexed. If that’s not disruptive, we don’t know what is.

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