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A Look Back at My Journey Through Knowledge for Good

March 15 |

When I first joined AlphaSights in 2013 as a Client Service Associate, our primary users were investors and consultants. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to witness the expansion of our knowledge search model to reach new and unique clients types.

The customization and flexibility of AlphaSights’ search process allow us to connect clients to key knowledge experts all over the world. Rather than relying on a stagnant database, I source subject-matter experts who have direct experience related to my client’s business challenges. It became clear to me that nearly any industry-key opinion leader located anywhere in the world is accessible and could speak to a client about their experiences. For example, I worked on a project for a consultant looking into the process of peanut shelling. I was able to connect my client with experts who were floor managers of a nut processing factory. Their industry expertise provided my client with knowledge that is traditionally difficult to access, but necessary to drive the business forward and dispel risk.

As we continued to receive several niche client requests, a group of passionate employees felt that our service could be applied to industries beyond financial services — specifically impact investing funds and non-profit consultancies. From there, we looked into partnering with impact investors and social enterprise organizations Acumen and TechnoServe. It quickly became obvious that our service could be equally as powerful, if not more, to the non-profit community.

Many impact firms that invest in less developed markets find that traditional reports and information that is publicly available are often unreliable, dated, lack specificity, and are difficult to find. AlphaSights was founded on the belief that the bulk of the world’s best knowledge is not in research reports; rather, it is sitting in people’s heads. This couldn’t be more true for some of my earliest social impact clients, who were implementing climate-smart agriculture in East Africa, and improving value chains for coffee producers in Cote d’Ivoire! We were able to connect them with farmers, heads of associations, and distributors within the direct community who could speak directly to the risk drivers and success factors related to the clients’ business needs.

We understood that non-profits or social impact firms would not be able to afford AlphaSights’ premium service. I began working with a team to develop a business model that gave our social impact firms access to our premium services at pro-bono or highly subsidized rates. In exchange, AlphaSights employees would volunteer, applying their advanced skillset to find experts for teams that wouldn’t be able to afford our services otherwise. Our proposal was approved by senior management and we launched a business unit called Knowledge for Good (KFG) to cater specifically to impact investors, social entrepreneurs, and nonprofit consultancies.

Since its formation in 2014, KFG has partnered with a suite of organizations including Acumen Fund, Ashoka, TechnoServe, and CDC Group. We have launched 200+ projects spanning 46 countries across the globe and facilitated over 500 conversations. Project requests run the gamut from non-emergency medical transportation to the Indian mango market. I remain actively involved in KFG, finding experts for each client request, managing client relationships, and pursuing new partnerships. In 2016, we hired our first full-time manager for KFG, Natanya Meyer who continued to grow the segment and bring our service to many more deserving partners.

NY +Acumen ‘Sustainable Investing’ event hosted by AlphaSights NY

Working on KFG projects is fulfilling both personally and professionally. I believe that skills-based volunteering is a great way to help the communities I am passionate about serving. I am confident that the connections I make for my social impact clients will have a tremendous long-term impact. I’ve met many young professionals in the area with similar passions through several industry events and presentations hosted by our partners. These relationships convinced me to become a member of the +Acumen NY Chapter’s Partnerships and Sponsorships Committee while I lived in New York City. I recently moved to our San Francisco office and continue to attend events hosted by our partners.

KFG projects allow me to learn about new markets or industries and collaborate with other AlphaSights employees that I wouldn’t work with otherwise. Over the last few years, I’ve seen an important trend surfacing in the intersection of my two client types: as corporations continue to develop more robust CSR and impact investing arms within their businesses, CSR teams looking to invest in new markets in limited geographies will be able to leverage AlphaSights’ services. A scientist from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in Delhi who is fully ingrained in their work would never have joined a stagnant expert network. Facilitating that conversation between the client required thorough research to understand the true request and savvy custom-recruiting skills to find the right individual. Corporate social innovation teams will find solace in knowing that we’re experienced in these niche requests. It’s exciting to think about the potential: nonprofits, corporations, investors, and beyond!

Mollie Epstein joined AlphaSights in July of 2013 and worked as a manager on our corporate accounts.