ExpertFile – Company Update
May 28, 2018
Recently I sat down with Peter Evans, founder and CEO of ExpertFile, to discuss the company’s progress since members of SWO Angels invested in 2011 as well as get a glimpse into his view of his venture’s future. As happens in most high-growth companies, there have been ebbs and flows. In 2014 Peter and his team made a pretty big pivot from his original vision. Now, he has the company poised to capitalize on some key trends that are in their favour. Here is more about what I found out.
What is ExpertFile? According to their web site: “Trusted by leading organizations, ExpertFile solves the problem of “invisible experts” with the world’s first marketing platform and search engine for expert content.” I asked Peter to expand on this, to which he offered: “Organizations are increasingly focused on the online content produced by their people – employees, subject-matter experts and executives – as they look to drive brand reputation and market visibility. Managing this content and distributing it is a big pain point since the content – including biographies, research papers, videos, and social media feeds – is fragmented across a wide array of online platforms. This impacts everything from media coverage to Google search rank and results in missed connections. ExpertFile is the first SaaS software platform that helps IT departments organize their people- based content into search optimized profiles and online directories [italics mine]. Then we help marketing departments boost the visibility of this content beyond their websites.”
When I asked Peter, “why now?”, his answer was simple. “We’re in an era of trust”. The erosion of trust from fake news can be countered by making real experts more visible. ExpertFile enables its customers to present their people in a more engaging and approachable way to build trust and deepen relationships with a variety of audiences, including the media.
The company’s original business model targeted individuals with a subscription. In 2014 Peter was frustrated with the lack of uptake and pivoted to a B2B model, targeting enterprises and institutions. Peter also saw an opportunity to change ExpertFile’s positioning, highlighting the way his software leveraged his clients investment in their existing content management systems (CMS).
The company was founded as Speakerfile. In the early days, Peter along with his co-founder Robert Carter bootstrapped the company. One of the investors from SWO Angels participated in the early angel rounds in 2012. In 2014 a larger raise was led by Verdexus, an investment company owned by Randall Howard, ExpertFile’s current Board Chair and member of Golden Triangle Angel Network (GTAN) in Kitchener Waterloo. Randall told me separately that he saw the growth that could come from this pivot.
A significant shift in customer traction and revenue followed. Recently the company brought in a record number of deals for Q1 and they have surpassed the magical $1 million ARR mark. Notable customers include corporate accounts such as Ryerson Ted Rogers School of Management, IDC Canada, CAA, Welch LLP, Emory University, USC and University Health Network
But the partnership that Peter believes will blow the top off is with Associated Press (AP). ExpertFile’s online directory of subject-matter experts is now integrated into the AP software used by journalists in 15,000 newsrooms across newspaper, broadcast and digital media. ExpertFile provides the experts, largely from universities and institutions who can speak to 30,000 topics.
Peter and Randall both recognize that their early beachhead of customers made a lot of sense given the concentration of experts in universities and other institutions. Now they have a plan to blow it out more widely to the corporate market and generate a massive expansion of the expert network. Peter smiled when I asked him about his biggest high so far, which he said was walking out of AP headquarters and walking through Manhattan with a signed AP partnership agreement in hand. He said that ExpertFile is working with the AP on solutions that will power the next-generation newsroom while helping his clients get in front of leading news organizations..
What’s next? Peter recently presented at our Investor Meeting as part of a new financing round leading up to a planned Series A later in 2019. They plan to use the proceeds of this latest raise to leverage a proven model by building the company’s marketing and sales capacity. Then – well in Peter’s words: “We’re going nuclear!”