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Harvard-Backed Experfy Wants To Create A McKinsey In The Cloud For Big Data Talent

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There is a scramble to find the right big data talent, especially for short-term data projects currently being outsourced to big consulting companies such as Accenture, Deloitte apart from several niche suppliers. According to this McKinsey analysis, the U.S. alone faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to understand and make decisions based on the analysis of big data.

Experfy, a startup bootstrapped out of Harvard Innovation Lab, is launching its talent marketplace for data work today to turn this crisis into an opportunity, similar to how oDesk, Elance and Freelancer did for more generic skills. Founded by Sarabjot Kaur, a digital media entrepreneur and Harpreet Singh, former technology director at Citigroup, Experfy plans to manually screen each and every application from would be big data freelancers before putting them out in the marketplace.

Experfy asks potential freelancers to log in using their LinkedIn profiles, mention their strengths (analytics, machine learning or artificial intelligence, etc.), and wait for 24 hours before their profiles are approved. They are also asked to share their GitHub and Stack Overflow profiles.

For customers, the platform curates this database of experts to find the right talent, but doesn’t get involved in price negotiations. However, the startup helps users track milestones related to project and even ensures that bank accounts are linked properly for payments.

“The problem with oDesk, Elance, Freelancer and other generic marketplaces is that they do not have vetted freelancers. They can get away with low-quality resources since they are working with small businesses, who are frequently willing to sacrifice quality to achieve a lower cost,” Singh said.

Experfy is betting on its ability to curate high quality data talent, a big concern for many enterprise customers currently working with large IT outsourcers. For its part, the startup has put together a small but powerful team that includes Jothi Periasamy, a big data veteran and former managing director of KPMG, as the chief data scientist.

“From my own experience with such marketplaces is that one has to try out multiple providers until you find the right one.  In the context of India, it seems to me, those who are not fortunate enough to get a job at Wipro or Infosys end up working on freelance sites, whether individually or through second- and third-tier vendors,” added Singh.

The big challenge for Experfy will be to disrupt the existing business models of consulting and outsourcing companies such as Accenture and even EMC.

“We have huge advantage that a similar high-end big data marketplace does not exist yet.  Our real competition is not Freelancer; rather it is the likes of McKinsey, KPMG and Accenture,” Singh said.