No. Expert networks are boutique research services for professional investors. They typically help hedge fund analysts gather information about publicly traded companies so they can trade those companies’ stocks and bonds. While expert networks can be used for legitimate equity research, they are also frequently associated with insider trading cases.
The term “expert network” itself is something of a misnomer, since these services are neither “expert” nor true “networks.” Some participants in expert networks are, in fact, experts (i.e. key skills, thought, and opinion leaders within their professions), but most are typical professionals who aren’t fully aware of the implications of their consulting with hedge funds. Moreover, the services themselves usually do not employ any technology, instead relying on human employees to match customers with consultants. Finally, there is little connectivity or community involved in the membership of a typical expert network – they aren’t really networks, just lists of company insiders with rudimentary profiles and contact information.
Expert networks also tend to focus almost exclusively on a single type of interaction, the short phone call, because the professional investors they serve are mostly interested in gaining quick data points on specific companies rather than developing a deeper understanding of specific technologies, products, and markets.
By contrast, Maven is a technology-enabled platform for the discovery and acquisition of professional expertise built for all types of professionals EXCEPT public equities investors. We don’t do business with hedge funds because we don’t believe that exposing our participants to equities analysts serves their interests or those of our other customers (many of which are publicly-traded companies that do not wish to reveal their areas of interest to individuals who might be moonlighting for hedge funds). We consider this to be an enormous potential conflict of interest that we would rather avoid altogether. While one of our products (Telephone Consultations) resembles the phone calls offered by expert networks, it only accounts for a relatively small percentage of our overall business, and we go to extraordinary lengths to screen for potential conflicts before brokering such interactions.
Furthermore, Maven is a true professional network. Both through our Knowledge Marketplace and our Knowledge Communities system, participants connect, interact with each other, and collaborate to address business challenges of all sizes. Our “expert” technology powers consulting interactions ranging from a few minutes to several months, and constantly learns and evolves in order to drive better matches in a clean and conflict-free environment.
In a way it is a shame that the term expert network has been adopted by the independent equity research firms, since the literal meaning of the term is actually a better fit for Maven!