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Deal Radar 2008: ExpertCEO

Posted on Monday, Nov 10th 2008

ExpertCEO provides its members with an online platform to connect with peers, discuss ideas, give and receive advice and tap into professional resources. Members include CEOs, COOs, chairmen/women, general managers, presidents and other senior executives in small and mid-sized as well as Fortune 500, public or privately held companies. The company can be considered a combination of CEO membership organizations and social networks.

The idea for ExpertCEO was born when Ken Ross, founder and CEO, was leaving his job as CEO of Seriosity. With social networks just becoming popular, ExpertCEO evolved as a way to provide an instant, trusted management resource. A serial entrepreneur, Ross was keen to start another company, but one where he could draw on all of the personal knowledge he had accumulated. In his 35 years as CEO of various companies, Ross has also previously held the title at Extricity, Pillar, Documentum and Ross Systems. He has also been on the board and served as CEO coach for several companies including Adaptive Planning, Savvion and Electric Cloud. 

The company is bootstrapped and is in the process of raising a Series A round. They operate virtually, with the management team spread across the Bay Area. The site was launched in beta in April 2008.  

The market landscape largely consists of two distinct segments. One includes traditional “in-person” CEO organizations such as Vistage or YPO, where CEOs pay about $1,000 per month and attend monthly all-day meetings with a group of peers and a group facilitator. YPO, in particular, is a highly successful organization that focuses on CEOs who run companies with at least $10 million in revenue. The other option is for executives to be part of open social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook. Not in direct competition with either segment, ExpertCEO serves as a complementary option. 

ExpertCEO’s model offers distinct benefits. Members can draw from the wisdom of many, in that they can pose questions to hundreds (and hopefully thousands) of peers as compared with a small group of 10 or 15 CEOs in other organizations. Since ExpertCEO is online, it is efficient and adaptable to members’ schedules and provides a 24/7 forum. Members are screened before being given membership, helping ensure that they can interact with peers who are able to provide valuable advice based on experience. 

At present ExpertCEO is targeting CEOs, COOs, chairmen/women and GMs of companies with 50 to 500 people. The early focus is on technology, with 60% of member companies in this broad sector and the balance spread across a wide range of industries. According to the company, there are over 90,000 technology companies in the US, each with a CEO, COO and/or president, and chairman/woman, all who can potentially become members. The number of venture-backed US companies is approximately 24,000. There are 14 million companies worldwide with sales over $1 million, and an additional 1 million “larger” non-profit organizations. With such a large total addressable market, the site aims to attract a percentage of these high profile and influential executives.

The membership of all the traditional CEO organizations that have been formed in recent years exceeds 50,000, validating the belief that senior executives desire and seek peer support and guidance. Relative to the total number of companies worldwide, however, these numbers suggest that the market is relatively un-penetrated. The best known of these organizations include Executive Board (14,000 members, $460 million revenues, $4 billion market cap), Vistage (14,000 members each paying $12,000 per year), YPO and WPO (15,500 members total), YEO, CEO.net, and TheCEOconnection.

ExpertCEO’s business model is a “3-legged stool” – membership fees (after their community is built), revenue through sponsorship and advertising and listing fees for the service providers in the resource center. As of this month, the company had 578 members (CEOs), 721 discussions and comments and approximately eight sponsors, including Fenwick and West. Members are not charged a membership fee while the company builds their community, but this may change in the future. Sponsors are charged a monthly fee that varies according to their level of commitment with the company. Service providers will soon pay an annual fee of $500 to $1,500. According to Compete, the site had over 6,000 unique visitors in October. The company currently has revenue of under $250,000.

ExpertCEO’s aim is to provide CEOs with resources to interact with others at their level in a rapid, cost- effective manner, thereby exemplifying their value proposition “to expand the scope and depth of every senior executive’s inner circle of advisors and leverage the wisdom of the crowd” for, as senior executives know, it’s often lonely at the top.  

As the company is building its base of members it has no thoughts on exit yet. The focus remains growth and profitability through attracting members and sponsors domestically; ExpertCEO also intends to expand to international markets. Meanwhile, if you area CEO looking for a peer organization to join, go to ExpertCEO and sign up.

Recommended Readings:
* Deal Radar 2008: LinkedIn

This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2008


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