Founders Fund invests in the Facebook for scientists: Founder Ijad Madisch on confidence, Luke Nosek, and what the world needs more of

Marguerite Imbert 2012-02-22 5

ResearchGate, the largest professional network for scientists and researchers, today announced the completion of its Series B financing. Led by Founders Fund partner Luke Nosek, co-founder of PayPal, with participation from Benchmark Capital, Accel Partners, Michael Birch (co-founder, Bebo) and David O. Sacks (founder/CEO, Yammer, Inc.) the round marks Fund IV’s First Investment in Europe.

ResearchGate has earned itself the title “Facebook for scientists.” It’s a professional networking and collaboration platform where scientists and researchers can share knowledge and test results and collaborate on a global scale. It already has more than 1.4 million members in 193 countries.

Meeting with the founder

In order to better understand what caught the prestigious San Francisco fund’s eye (whose investments include Facebook, Yammer,  Spotify, and analytic software company Palantir Technologies) we caught up with ResearchGate’s CEO and co-founder Ijad Madisch to ask him some questions: why he’s headquartered in Berlin, what Luke Nosek’s like, why there aren’t more scientist entrepreneurs, and and what the world needs more of.

What role and participation will Luke Nosek have in the company?

Luke is going to be a ResearchGate board member, along with Matt Cohler. He will help in continuing to build our great product. Luke has been involved in several investments in the life science area, so he has a pretty unique knowledge and experience base, which, combined with Matt’s expertise from Facebook and LinkedIn, will help us take the ResearchGate platform to the next level.

What innovations can we expect from your company this year?

We anticipate several key advances, the most important of which is that we plan to build an additional scientific reputation system for scientists, which allows them to gain recognition for their work, aligned with their publications. For example, sharing negative data from failed experiments with other scientists is an important thing. We want to change how scientists think about “their” data.

What has Berlin meant to ResearchGate at its core?

Berlin is a great city. After the Series A funding, I discussed with Matt Cohler where we should move our company, with consideration given to either San Francisco or Berlin. We decided on Berlin. I think the combination of the cultural diversity, the lower business expenses and overhead, plus the outstanding talent is unbeatable in Europe.

What is the significance of being Founders Fund’s first EU investment?

We are the first EU investment in the new fund (read here if interested). Luke Nosek and the Founders Fund team are great. I am really looking forward to working with them. They have funded some great companies, which have changed and grown a lot. They saw the same potential in ResearchGate, which is great for us. The only other company in the EU is Spotify.

You’re not only a founder but also a former research fellow at the prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Can you tell us why there aren’t more scientist-entrepreneurs?

That is a good question. I think there are some cultural differences. One anecdote I can tell is the following: I was an MD at a University hospital in Germany during the first three months of ResearchGate, after I had returned from Harvard. I noticed pretty early on what impact ResearchGate could have on the whole world. I went to the head of the department and asked him whether I could work 50 per cent in the hospital as a doctor/researcher and the other 50 per cent on ResearchGate. He told me I should stop working on the “firlefanz” and focus on my academic career. Two days later I quit and I asked the same question my professor at Harvard, who immediately agreed – AND he invested money into my idea. I think this personal experience represents how cultural differences can motivate you to do a startup.

Who’s the first person to make you feel confident?

My parents!

Of all the investors currently taking confidence in ResearchGate, who’s your favorite? (Can you give us an anecdote?)

Madisch: Hmm, it is hard to decide who my favorite investor is. For different periods of time in the history of ResearchGate, different people have had important influences. I cannot really say who helped me most. Early on, it was Karl Neumar, Christian Vollmann and Joachim Schoss. Later, it was Matt Cohler and now in addition, Luke Nosek. Is that answer too long? ;)

Oh, I have so many anecdotes. I always tell some of them in our team meetings. The most embarrassing one is maybe that in the first meeting with Matt Cohler, I did not know who he was and all that he has accomplished. I was also not familiar with the Benchmark Capital firm. When he invited me to a partners meeting, at first I said, “No,” until a friend of mine explained to me who Matt was, and the significance of Benchmark and a partners meeting.:)

What’s the most interesting scientific research happening right now?

Woa, there are so many different fields of compelling research happening right now: Nanomedicine, Neuroscience, Hepatitis C vaccine and I can go even deeper. There are so many interesting fields. We at ResearchGate want to accelerate research and increase the interdisciplinary aspect of science.

What does the world need more of?

Scientists who are sharing more of their results, including negative ones, along with raw data sets to enable other scientists to reach their results faster without doing the experiments again and again.

Will ResearchGate become a household name like Google or the Red Cross? If so, why?

Yes! ResearchGate is already changing how scientists are working. Just imagine how scientists are solving issues faster. And how they can address the small problems they have in their daily lives because of other scientists who they meet on ResearchGate utilising their knowledge and know-how and their negative results of failed experiments.

Science will be much more efficient: Less research redundancy, less spending for scientific research, more interdisciplinary. I am pretty confident that in the coming years, huge findings and new scientific breakthroughs will be accelerated through ResearchGate. This is something that can affect every one of us. It is indeed, life changing – on a worldwide scale.

Still want more? Here’s info on the funding round, ResearchGate, Founders Fund, and Series A investor Benchmark

 

 

About ResearchGate

With over 1.4 million members from 193 countries, ResearchGate is the leading professional network for scientists and researchers. The network facilitates scientific collaboration on a global scale by allowing members to connect with colleagues, discover new research and exchange ideas online. The Boston- and Berlin-based startup was co-founded by Dr. Ijad Madisch (Harvard Medical School, Medical School of Hannover), Sören Hofmayer, (Medical School of Hannover), and Horst Fickenscher, Dipl-Inf. (University of Passau) in 2008. For more information, visit
www.researchgate.net.

“With this round of financing, our main priority will be to pursue new innovations,” Madisch said. “We want to change the way scientific reputation is measured, calculated and built over time by providing our users with qualitative feedback, while enabling them to share their findings efficiently.”

About Benchmark (Series A investor)

In September 2010 ResearchGate closed its Series A funding led by Benchmark Capital, enabling the company to expand the core team in its Berlin headquarters. Matt Cohler, general partner of Benchmark Capital and ResearchGate board member, and an early executive at Facebook and LinkedIn, spoke proudly of the company. “We have continued to witness ResearchGate’s strength and leadership in serving a previously untapped market. ResearchGate’s strong management team has continued to drive growth for the network and make moves toward changing the way we gain access to research findings.”

About Founders Fund

Founders Fund provides capital to transformational businesses run by world-class entrepreneurs. The firm and its partners have been early supporters of some of the most prominent start-ups of the past decade, including Facebook, SpaceX, Palantir Technologies, Spotify, and Practice Fusion. In January this year, Harvard Business Review put Founder’s Fund on the Audacious Ideas for solving the world’s problems list.  The firm, headquartered in San Francisco, pursues a founder-friendly investment strategy that provides maximum support with minimum interference to world-class entrepreneurs. For more information, visit www.foundersfund.com.

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