Zintro’s Pay-by-the-Call Service Connects Investors, Others with Industry Experts
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decide within the first five minutes that your expert doesn’t know much about batteries after all, you can abort the call and get your money back, Lewtan says.
If, on the other hand, you hit it off with your expert and you want to keep working with him or her, you can still do it through Zintro, which will schedule calls, process payments, generate 1099 tax forms, and the like for a reduced fee of 18 percent. But “typically what Zintro does is to make the introduction and facilitate the first phone call,” Lewtan says.
Lewtan thinks there are two kinds of professionals who will be attracted to Zintro’s service. First, there are the people who already do a lot of research by phone, for whom the only existing “experts bureau” is New York-based Gerson Lehrman Group. GLG levies steep subscription fees on its banking and investment-fund client for access to its so-called “GLG Councils,” networks of experts in specific industries. Lewtan sees Zintro as a way to “democratize” this market using Web technology. “The VCs, the private equity funds, the hedge funds—these people are already calling to do due diligence, and for them, we are simply making it an easier, less expensive process,” says Lewtan.
Then there’s what Lewtan calls the “latent” market—individual investors, engineers, marketers, journalists or others who don’t typically consult with outside experts but would if they knew it were simple and cheap. “What I’ve observed is that if you make it easy enough—if you throw in your inquiry about lithium-ion batteries and all of a sudden you’ve got 15 proposals in front of you, and one of them looks interesting and says that for $100 he’ll talk to you and he’s available right now—then maybe 70 percent of the time you’ll still go through your own contacts, but maybe 30 percent of the time you’ll be willing to pay for it [through Zintro].”
Zintro has three full-time employees and is self-funded so far, and will launch formally in October. Lewtan believes that rapid technology advances and the flattening of the global economy—with more and more business being done overseas—are generating more demand than ever before for Zintro’s brand of expert consultation on business challenges and investment decisions.
And on the supply side, Lewtan says Zintro is already attracting experts in droves—which is perhaps another sign of the times. “The fact that there is a high unemployment rate, with a lot of white-collar people being dropped, creates a big pool of people out there with high expertise that could be tapped,” says Lewtan. “So you have a lot of conditions that could really make this concept fly. It’s very, very ripe.”
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