London-based expert network Cognolink rebranded itself as Third Bridge to reflect its growing diversification from expert consultations to broader market research.
Third Bridge was initially Cognolink’s channel checking subsidiary, which it set up in 2013 as a separately branded trading name of Cognolink Limited. The new unit was headed by co-founder Rodolphe de Hemptinne and grew quickly, increasing from 5 staff in 2013 to 19 in 2014. Third Bridge now becomes the Intelligence division, providing syndicated primary research and intelligence reports.
Cognolink grew its revenues by 57% in 2014 to £21.8 million ($32.7 million) as of December 2014. Cognolink had reported 220 employees in 2014, and is now at 360 employees as Third Bridge.
Cognolink was co-founded in 2007 by de Hemptinne and Emmanuel Tahar, both ex-Bain consultants. From the beginning, the firm has focused on a diverse client base, targeting management consultants and private equity along with hedge funds. It also prioritized geographic expansion, establishing a US subsidiary in 2010, a Shanghai-based subsidiary in 2011, and subsidiaries in Hong Kong and India in 2012.
Cognolink has been somewhat overshadowed by rival AlphaSights’ spectacular growth over the last few years. Nevertheless, the firm has been growing quickly and this past spring splurged on a fancy new office building north of the City of London.
The new branding underlines Cognolink’s diversification into broader market research from its expert network base. Reflecting the co-founder’s Bain’s roots, the firm has always taken a strategic approach to growing its business.
Branding is almost an obsession with expert networks. The leading expert network, Gerson Lehrman Group, pursues branding as an art form, hiring well-known architects and film-makers to burnish its image.
While some of the branding fetish is intended to distance expert networks from any insider trading tarnish, an even more important driver is the importance of branding to attracting talent, whether that is employees or experts. All the expert networks have been hiring aggressively, and branding is critical to the growth in staff, networks and ultimately revenues.