Management consulting is often a great training ground for entrepreneurs. That was certainly the case for Jan Schaechtele and Christoph Hardt, two former McKinsey consultants who were somewhat frustrated with the traditional corporate model of consulting delivered by the big firms. In search of greater transparency and a more cost effective approach, they developed a curated marketplace for consulting skills and called it Comatch. It is a European gig economy player focused on the upper echelon of the independent talent marketplace.
Comatch, which was founded in Berlin in 2014 was unlike any other enterprise in Europe at that time. There were digital talent platforms for technical resources and IT, “but there was nothing comparable for strategic consulting”, Jan explained to me recently. Since this was the same observation that led me to found M Squared Consulting based on my Booz Allen experience 25 years ago, I totally endorsed the model.
On the supply side, the firm has over 2700 consultants in its network, which represents about 50% of those who apply. Comatch needs to be strict about who can participate in order to ensure the quality of the work. They interview every consultant personally as part of their vetting process. Half of their network are former consultants from large firms, just like the founders. Their website lists the pedigrees of its network, with the top three being alumni from McKinsey (165), Accenture (122) and PWC (116).
For clients, the firm provides more than just the self-service model of many digital talent platforms. The firm works with the client to develop the project specification. It then uses a sophisticated algorithm to identify the best consultants to submit a proposal. The Comatch team selects the best proposals for the client and then presents those consultants for the project. Comatch believes this curation of the best talent with the requisite skills to perform the work is part of the “special sauce” that differentiates Comatch.
Another key factor is the relationship they build with their consultants. The consulting side of the equation is tough, since getting enough great consultants to fill the needs of clients is a challenge. To overcome it, becoming the platform of choice for the talent is critical. It starts with the in-person interview, since that creates a human connection with each consultant. Comatch has had socials and cocktail parties in multiple cities to further build a sense of community. Many if not most of their network are accomplished experts on particular topics, so they start to enable training sessions done for consultants by consultants. Since Comatch has some collective purchasing power, they use that to secure discounts for their network members on travel, productivity tools and administrative services.
Another interesting distinguishing feature of Comatch is that they also wholesale talent to the consulting industry; they have many consulting firm clients who often need reinforcements to staff their bench. Comatch affords a very efficient resourcing strategy for these industry players, since 48% of the consultants on their platform have that big firm experience. As a testimonial on their website from CMX Consulting says, ‘“Thanks to Comatch, we can supplement our team at any time with top consultants of various levels quickly, fairly and reliably. The curated approach works: there is always a fitting candidate, always at top performance. We could not have pitched or conducted some projects without COMATCH.”
This type of talent strategy represents a relatively new way to think about leveraging the gig economy talent marketplace. Jan believes that tapping the freelance movement is only going to become more important in the future of work. As companies have made their operations more standardized they have created more project based initiatives, using independent expertise to get the work done makes the most sense.
Many other people appear to share that view, which can be seen by the amount of venture capital money that is being attracted to the sector. Expert360 in Australia recently raised $10mil for its consultant marketplace. Catalant in the US raised another $41million which brings its 5 round total to $75.5 million.
Last year, Comatch raised 4 Mill euro. Jan is not so concerned about his well-funded competitors in other parts of the globe, because he believes it is a continental business. Although there are more players entering the market, when the dust settles, he thinks each continent will have 1-3 competitors in this space. Jan fully intends to be leading in Europe. Indeed, they have expanded beyond Germany and operate in Benelux, Scandinavia and recently also in France. They were the first firm to open an office in Dubai last year, a jurisdiction that presents unique regulatory challenges. Stay tuned as Comatch continues to expand its marketplace footprint in Europe in its quest to become the premier consulting marketplace on the continent.