Capvision Review – China’s Leading Expert Network Faces and Uncertain Future
Have you been invited to participate in a paid consulting call with Capvision through LinkedIn or an email and are wondering whether it’s a legitimate opportunity or a potential scam? Our Capvision review will introduce you to this powerhouse Chinese expert network and explain how to land brief, high-paying consulting projects.
Update: Chinese Authorities Televise Police Raid of Capvision
In May, 2023, Chinese police raided Capvision’s Shanghai offices, as a crackdown on consulting firms that provide business intelligence to foreign firms intensified. Bain & Company and Mintz faced similar raids several weeks earlier.
The raid on Capvision culminates a national security investigation, which was covered in a 15 minute segment on state-sponsored television, and included interviews with two consultants who appear to be serving prison time for providing national and corporate secrets with Capvision clients in 2020.
Capvision offered minimal comment on the highly publicized raid, saying in a statement that it would “resolutely implement the development of national security.”
Capivision’s future in China certainly seems limited at best, with it’s one-time plan to IPO clearly dead. CICC Capital, part of one of the largest investment banks in China, quickly announced that it was terminating its relationship with Capvision, with a flood of client departures likely to follow. Capvision’s budding U.S. operations may be less impacted, but will certainly feel significant pain as well.
Capvision has been the most successful expert network in China, where the industry now faces an uncertain future.
What is Capvision?
Capvision is the largest expert network in China. It is part of a rapidly expanding $2 billion industry that facilitates primary research into products, companies and markets. Capvision connects connects its clients – primarily financial services firms and management consultants – with experts in the field, such as doctors, scientists or businesspeople to help them set strategy, evaluate potential investments, or perform due diligence on a possible transaction.
Expert network companies, like Capvision, recruit subject matter experts from a wide variety of industries to provide clients access to specific industry knowledge and insights. The client and the expert typically connect during a one hour ‘consulting call’, where the client will want to rapidly learn your perspective on how things really work in your field, get your opinion on key players, and your thoughts on how trends will play out. Capvision arranges more than 150,000 consulting calls a year and pays experts an average of $230 per hour to speak with their clients!
Capvision was founded in 2008, and is the largest expert network in China by revenue, according to a study by Frost & Sullivan. The company has grown its top line by more than 30% annually over the past several, years, reaching 676 million RMB (approximately $106 million) during the first 9 months of 2021; it earned an enviable 199 million RMB ($31 million) during that period. The company filed to go public in Hong Kong during early 2021, but then paused those plans. It is expected to refresh the offering in 2022, raising an estimated $300 million.
The firm is headquartered in Shanghai, with offices in Beijing, Suzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Capvision entered the U.S. market in 2019 via an office in New York City. Though the U.S. currently contributes only 5% of total revenue, Capvision is growing quickly here and the IPO proceeds will help fund further expansion.
Is Capvision a scam or a legitimate opportunity?
Capvision is not a scam. The 15 year old company is China’s largest expert network, and it is rapidly expanding its presence in the United States. The company maintains relationships with 395,000 experts in China and the U.S., across a wide variety of industries, functions and experience levels. During the first nine months of 2021, Capvision facilitated a whopping 134,000 one-hour consulting calls between 37,000 of these experts and its 1,400 clients at prominent financial institutions, consulting firms and global corporations.
Capvision employs a small army of associates who are dedicated to recruiting experts to apply for client projects. Your introduction to Capvision will often be a LinkedIn message or email from one of these associates, inviting you to share your expertise with their client during a highly paid one-hour consulting call. While this opportunity may sound too good to be true, it may just be your ticket an easy, engaging and lucrative source of secondary income. (Of course, it’s wise to be prudent when responding to strangers on the Internet.)
One thing you should be cautious about is the company’s unusual use of exclusivity clauses in its agreements with its consultants. This can prevent you from working with other expert networks, significantly limiting your expert network consulting earning potential. Capvision has discontinued the use of exclusivity provisions in the United States, but it is still part of their standard agreement in China and other markets.
What to expect on a Capvision consulting call
Capvision’s clients want to rapidly take a deep dive into a topic and get perspectives with strong firsthand knowledge of a product, company or market. Clients are typically investment funds considering an investment or management consultants helping to formulate a strategy for their own clients. They to learn more from the people who know the research subject the best, so they turn to Capvision to connect them with former employees, customers, vendors, and competitors.
Expert networks like Capvision often endlessly search through Linked and their internal database to find prospective experts who may be a good fit for an active project. If you seem to match the criteria, a Capvision associate will reach out to you via LinkedIn, email or a phone call to invite you to briefly chat with them. During an introductory call (or email chain), they will tell you more about Capvision and the project, as well as learn a bit more about your background and qualifications. Keep in mind that the associate generally has very limited knowledge of the topic that the client is researching – their main job is to find qualified experts.
If it looks like you may be a good fit for the client’s requirements, the associate will invite you to create an online profile with Capvision and provide a few short answers to questions about your experience with the research topic of the project. In addition, the associate will ask you to set your hourly rate for the call (more on that in a moment!) and provide a handful of time slots that are convenient for you. Creating your profile and applying for your first project may take 30 – 60 minutes of your time, but responding to future project invitations usually only requires 5 – 10 minutes of your time.
The associate will present your information, along with other profiles, to the client, who ultimately decides which experts they’d like to speak with. If you’re selected, the associate will send you a calendar invite during one of the time slots that you provided. The timeframe from initial invitation to client call is generally just one or two weeks.
Whether or not you were selected for the project, you’ll probably start hearing from Capvision on a somewhat regular basis about additional projects where you may be a good fit. In the meantime, you can increase your chances of being chosen for a project by following these tips.
Setting Your Capvision Hourly Rate
Sharing your expertise via Capvision can pay quite well. You’re providing valuable information that often is a meaningful factor in a multi-million dollar decision, so clients will gladly pay hundreds of dollars (or more) for an hour of your time without blinking an eye. The 100 most active experts with Capvision each earned over $30,000, on average, during 2021.
Experts who consult through Capvision charge hourly rates starting at $79 (500 RMB), with a few elite-level executives charging as much as $10,000! According to Capvision’s IPO prospectus, the average hourly rate in 2021 was $230 and 83% of experts received $236 or less. (At risk of stating the obvious, this means that 1 in 6 experts are charging more than $236/hour.)
There are a number of factors that go into setting your expert network consulting rate but the two that matter the most are how much of an authority are you on the topic and how many other people could they find with similar expertise. For example, if the client is determined to speak with former senior finance executives of a specific company who left their position between 6 and 18 months ago and you are the only person who fits that criteria, you’ll have significant leverage in setting your rate. On the other hand, if you have widely available experience, such as how to select and implement popular software packages, Capvision will likely only present experts with more modest hourly rates to the client.
So, with that, some rules of thumb in setting your rate:
For early career professionals, you’ll usually be able to land projects if you charge $100 – $200 per hour; director level or similar professionals can expect $200 – $300; more senior executives often command rates of $350 – $700. To establish a bit of a track record, you may want to start out with a more moderate rate for your first few client calls and then seek a rate increase.
How to ace your Capvision consulting call
Capvision consulting calls are often engaging, concise and convenient. You’ve been selected for the project because the client is eager to get your insights and opinions on a topic that you already know extremely well, so you don’t need to do anything to prepare. And once you hang up the phone, your work on the project is done – there is no follow up and no deliverables.
Client calls tend to be highly conversational, and about work that you’ve been doing for years and likely know like the back of your hand. What may seem like boring and mundane questions to you, such as how purchasing decisions are made or budgets get allocated, can be thrilling nuggets of information to the client.
You’ll be asked to provide a bunch of available time slots for the client call when you apply for the project, and the associate will send you a calendar invite for a time that matches up with the client’s availability. Find a private space with a good phone or Internet connection to dial-in to the conference line for call. Capvision does not attend the calls, so it will just be you and the client (who may have several people on the line).
Prior to the call, you will be asked to review Capvision’s compliance policy and complete a brief online compliance training to ensure that you understand that no propriety or confidential information should be shared during the call. At the start of the call, the client may read a disclosure statement to you and ask you to affirm that you agree to it, as well. This is for both your protection and the client’s. If you are unsure if a piece of information is ok to share, simply say so and they will gladly move on to the next question.
The client will set the agenda for the call, which typically start with brief introductions. They’ll come prepared with specific questions for you, which are sometimes quite broad (‘talk to me about the main players in your industry’) or very specific (‘what factors went in to you choosing Vendor X vs. Vendor Y’).
Some clients already have deep expertise on the subject they’re speaking with you about, while in other cases you may be the starting point of their eduction. Give crisp, specific answers. Most clients love when you can provide precise numbers and they tend to lap up examples and rules of thumb. Don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answer to something if that’s the case – they don’t expect you to know everything and will simply skip to the next question on their list.
Capvision pays experts via your choice of bank transfer, WeChat Pay or Alipay following completion of the client call. The company has a good online reputation prompt payments.
Once you’ve created a profile with Capvision, you’ll likely start receiving regular invitations to participate in additional projects. Be sure to keep your profile up to date as you change jobs or add skills and expertise so that your name is at the top of the pile for the most relevant projects.