​Sydney's Expert360 wants to see more government-startup partnerships

With Data61 as a customer, Sydney's Expert360 wants to see the government consume more services from startups.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Data61 is an Australian government-funded organisation tasked with transforming the country's economy through innovation and research; it is also a consumer of startups, even spinning-out a small handful of its own.

One startup Data61 has turned to is Expert360, an online platform that connects businesses with a global network of independent consultants and freelancers for project-based work.

According to Expert360 founder and CEO Bridget Loudon, it's important for all different facets of government to be consuming startup products.

"I think it's important the government has a partner in helping them navigate what is very uncertain times and inflection point for our economy," she told ZDNet at the D61+ Live conference in Melbourne last week.

"I think we'll look back in 10-15 years at this as being a point of inflection, and I think it's important that we have organisations like Data61 pushing the envelope and partnering."

With multimillion-dollar schemes for startups funded under the National Innovation and Science Agenda, and the promise from the federal government it would be making room for the little guys inside its procurement practices, Loudon wants to see more government entities partnering with startups.

"At the end of the day, you can have fancy hashtags and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in schemes and grants and various initiatives, but if you are not procuring the services of those startups, it sort of doesn't really matter," she said.

"Success is prominent or up-and-coming startups coming out and saying, 'Yes, the government uses my products'. That's it -- that's the hallmark, the Litmus test.

"Data61 is working on cutting-edge stuff, and it's important for them to have hyper-specialists and people who they don't necessarily need in-house that they do need to be able to tap into."

In addition to Data61, Expert360's marketplace is used by Virgin, Coca-Cola, Woolworths, Qantas, Australia Post, and goCatch, with Loudon explaining Expert360 gives them the ability to "tap into" freelancers and firms in the one place, without having to make permanent hires. She also said moving into a freelance or contractor-type employment arrangement is occurring rapidly in the consulting world.

"It is absolutely imperative for organisations to be tapping into this workforce, with people working for themselves either individually or as a small consultancy, or they simply will just not get access to the talent they need," said Loudon, who previously spent many years in the consultancy space.

"Talent is not in the traditional pools -- it's not in places people used to look for them and recruiters can't find them. It's difficult to know from LinkedIn, and it's all happening at a far greater scale and at a far greater speed than anyone can manage through their own network -- which is how people used to do it."

Being headquartered in Sydney hasn't hindered the platform's growth, with Loudon insisting that while the company's vision is global, she wants the challenge of reaching global success from Australia.

"We are keen to be part of building the technology and product ecosystem in Australia," she explained.

"The opportunity is still really big in Australia and so it's important for us -- people get really excited about international expansion but you just need to make sure that you do each market right."

Loudon and Emily Yue founded Expert360 nearly four years ago, and although the entrepreneurial pair set out to link work with workers, they stumbled on a rich and quite rare dataset containing information on individuals about the projects they've worked on, as almost a side effect of what their platform was doing.

"Better than LinkedIn, better than Google -- taking the collective knowledge about what people know about, how people performed, and bringing that together in one place," Loudon explained.

"We started building the service and what we realised was that we had this incredibly rich and unique pool of data that really was a driving force behind us helping make matches for people.

"We never set out to create a data company, but that's what we are."

The platform now boasts 2,000 end-users with the ability to choose from a talent pool of over 15,000 firms and freelancers, with Expert360 only accepting about one in four applicants to offer services.

The company also boasts consistent year-on-year growth, with Loudon expecting this to be the company's fourth consecutive year.

The company has also grown in size, with a current total of 50 staff, including a head of product hire who spent 15 years with eBay in California.

Disclosure: Asha Barbaschow travelled to D61+ Live as a guest of Data61.

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