Expert Network Atheneum Raises $150 mln to build out Research Platform

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Berlin-based expert network, Atheneum Partners, recently closed a $150 mln funding round led by Guidepost Growth Equity, Crosslantic Capital Management and Vogel Communications Group, among others.  Funding is expected to be used to build out the firm’s virtual interview and survey capabilities.

Recent Capital Raise

Expert network Atheneum Partners, recently closed $150 mln in venture capital, led by Guidepost Growth Equity and including existing investors Crosslantic Capital Management, Michael Brehm, Vogel Communications Group, and members of Atheneum’s founding management team.  Management says it plans to use the funds to continue expanding geographically, hiring more people for its teams and building out its technology platform.

Founded in 2010, Atheneum provides a “research as a service” (RaaS) platform for customers to conduct one-on-one virtual interviews and online B2B surveys with a panel of over 680,000 domain experts.  Today Atheneum is used by over 500 large enterprises — with customers spanning industries including life sciences, strategic consulting, investment banking and asset management, and telecoms, media and technology firms.

CEO Mathias Wengeler commented on a few of the key drivers which have led to Atheneum’s recent growth, saying “Primary and raw data were out there already but their importance is increasing. What a doctor sees [firsthand] has a major impact on how a pharmaceutical company plans its strategy for commercialization and more, and that is different in every country. I felt that the world was getting more internationalized and we needed more raw data, we needed more market research. We see Atheneum as a platform for knowledge, based on being a one-stop shop for primary research.”

Roshen Menon, Managing Partner at Guidepost Growth Equity, explains part of the rationale for their investment in Atheneum, “I think the fundamental shift has been from a reliance on secondary to primary research.  Companies want to do their research directly. The second shift in the broader research tech space has the long and broad research approach. Things have gotten more specialized. ‘Let’s take a survey and understand this specific problem.’  In life sciences, we have seen a shift from blockbuster drugs to specialized research and medicine and treatments for so-called orphan diseases. And there is much more of that across all industries. Services like Atheneum’s really allow customers to get access and insights from a sea of data.”

Our Take

Since Atheneum was founded in 2010, the firm has grown rapidly.  In fact, Atheneum is currently generating more than $50 million in annual revenue, and it grew at a rate of more than 50% in 2020, and close to 80% so far in 2021.  According to LinkedIn, Atheneum now employs 759 staffers – up 38% in the past twelve months and 51% in the past two years.

Based on firm-level bottom-up analysis conducted by Integrity Research Associates and, expert network aggregator Inex One, the aggregate revenues for the global expert network industry slowed to low double digits in 2020 as Covid-19 dampened client activity in several key customer segments.  Nevertheless, by 2020 industry revenues exceeded $1.5 billion while the number of expert networks has surged to well over 100 firms.  According to estimates from Deloitte the global data and intelligence market is currently worth close to $22 billion.

The rapid revenue growth Atheneum has experienced since 2010 has enabled the firm to raise only $171.3 mln in capital in five funding rounds (including the most recent round).  The latest $150 investment gives new investors a minority stake with the founders remaining the largest shareholders in the company. 

Company management explains that Atheneum plans to use the funds from this capital raise to hire more staff, open new offices, and build out its technology platform.  However, we suspect the firm could also look to use some of proceeds from this funding round to acquire other research or expert network providers – particularly if they have unique geographic coverage, sector expertise, or technology capabilities.

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About Author

Mike Mayhew is one of the leading experts on the investment research industry. In addition to founding Integrity Research, Mike is on the board of directors of Investorside Research Association, the non-profit trade association for the independent research industry, and a frequent speaker on research industry trends and developments. Mike has over thirty years of research industry experience. Email: Michael.Mayhew@integrity-research.com

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