October 23, 2023

4 min read

Doing things a little differently: The rise of third-generation expert networks

Timely access to quality information to drive sound investment or business decisions has always been of paramount importance.

The expert network industry emerged in the late 90s as a novel way to fill information voids. No longer did investors need to rely solely on third-party research reports, the opinions of market analysts or their personal networks. With the creation of expert network models, they could connect directly with people with real-world experience. Actual users of products and services. People who had 1st hand experience as executives within markets.

📈 Industry evolution 

Even though expert networks are a relatively new industry, that isn’t to say they haven’t already undergone a significant evolution from the first iterations.

The first-wave players significantly improved the status quo by enabling users to get access to a broad range of industry experts within a few business days. No longer restricted to opinions from people within their immediate networks, users could gain significantly broader perspectives through pre-built and maintained networks of professionals acting as fractional consultants.

The second wave built on this, providing custom sourcing. The emergence of LinkedIn was a key driver, giving expert networks access to a far wider range of professionals. 

🚀 The third generation

While the first two generations in this industry have broadly focused on access, the third has arrived and is focused on time to insight

When we launched Arbolus in 2018, we asked ourselves some key questions. Why should it take a few business days for people to get the insight they are looking for? Why is conducting multiple 1-hour phone calls still the only way to gain knowledge on a topic? What if through technology, you could gain the same specific and attributable insights, without spending many hours on 1-1 phone calls?

These concepts guided the creation of Canopy, our video insights tool. It is essentially an AI-powered tool designed to provide seamless, asynchronous insights via recorded video.

Now, users of expert networks can come to us with a question on Friday night and have multiple responses by Monday morning. The platform takes your questions, shares them with a targeted group of experts within our global network, who respond in their own time, usually within hours,  and then uses AI to transcribe and summarise the responses.

In the early 2000s people still used to go to their local Blockbuster to rent VHS tapes. Models then evolved to allow them to access what they wanted to watch, delivered straight to their homes in the mail. Ultimately, Netflix broke the rules of the game. Time to content was reduced to milliseconds through streaming. The same evolution is happening right now in this industry, and Arbolus is at the heart of it all. 

💡Key differences

Being innovative and creative with technology is probably the first thing that sets third-generation networks apart – and this is especially the case at Arbolus. As one example, we noticed that our clients often struggled to find the time to write the questions for experts, so we designed an AI feature that would help them do just that. Each set of Canopy video answers also comes with a concise AI-powered summary that references its sources.

We also wanted to find a way to give our clients distinctive insights that would really make a difference. Unlike other networks that share their experts’ call transcripts with their entire client base, each Canopy video is ringfenced only for the client who posed the question. Considering how competitive Private Equity space is, our clients find it very reassuring to know that they're getting a distinct and unique view. 

🔄 An inverse approach

The changing needs of investors have prompted this evolution. Whereas previously a project might require about 20 experts, investors are now looking for more perspectives and different angles in a shorter amount of time. 

But with rising volumes of expert opinions needed, it’s worth paying attention to what the experience is like on the other side too. With earlier networks, fatigue and despondency were common owing to inefficient processes. 

We wanted to make it a better experience for the experts as well. With Canopy, experts choose when they want to engage and are paid for each and every video consultation. Instead of scheduling calls, they can do it all in their own time – even through mobile. Because our experts value this flexibility, we have higher engagement levels that, for our clients, result in broader access than can be attained through traditional expert networks. 


Whilst Canopy has significantly reduced time to insight (hours rather than days) the path we are on is to milliseconds (a la Netflix). How do we achieve this? Through data. Due to our platform-based model, we can harness the depth of our data through machine learning, to make faster, and better recommendations for our clients. At Arbolus, our north star is - instant insights, and we couldn’t be more excited by delivering on this vision.

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Sam Glasswell,

Co-founder and CEO at Arbolus




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