Transforming an Idea into a Disruptive Technology - ResearchGate: A Professional Network for Researchers
During his career as a medical and computer scientist, Dr. Ijad Madisch, CEO and Co-Founder of ResearchGate, encountered something he called the “researcher’s life cycle” – doing research to create data to have something to publish to receive funding to do research once again. He also mentioned that data from failed experiments is not typically shared among scientists, leading various researchers in related fields to unnecessarily repeat mistakes and unsuccessful projects. Out of this frustration, however, arose an ambitious idea to create a web platform that would allow researchers to share all of their findings, including those from failed experiments. As Dr. Madisch put it, “every result is a result.” Hence, the online professional network called ResearchGate – think Facebook meets LinkedIn for science – was co-founded by Dr. Madisch with two fellow scientists in 2008.
Discouraged by a professor in Germany, who did not initially see the value in a student diverting attention away from his studies to focus on a “crazy idea,” the ResearchGate CEO decided at the time to journey to Boston. While in the U.S., Dr. Madisch received encouragement towards his project idea. Driven by a desire to revolutionize the scientific world and to one day win the Nobel Prize, he sought funding, eventually securing venture capital investment from Matt Cohler, Co-founder of LinkedIn. Despite facing initial rejection of the idea in Hanover, Dr. Madisch later returned to Europe to open the company’s headquarters in Berlin, proving that a start-up with a creative working environment and flexible business culture can also thrive in Germany.
Today, ResearchGate has more than 3.4 million users from 192 countries, with thousands of new contributions submitted each day. In addition to an extensive tagging system and free access to what ideally will one day be all the information and data that exists on a topic, one of the main advantages of ResearchGate, as compared to standard scientific journals, is the element of time. Be it a letter to the editor or a publication in need of the lengthy pre-peer review process, the current model of research publishing usually takes months to establish dialogue around a paper. On ResearchGate, however, scientists can publish their work in an instant, making it available for post-peer-review in real time.
This ability to first publish on ResearchGate and to then solicit post-peer-review is also one of the site’s quality control mechanisms. Other quality measures include a sign-up wall that only accepts email addresses from recognized research facilities and universities, as well as an elaborate score and rating system for individual users.
According to Dr. Madisch, ResearchGate soon intends to make profits by prominently featuring job ads, scientific conferences, and an “Amazon for biotech products,” as the young entrepreneur called it, on its website. For the platform’s future success, the founder relies completely on the marketability of the site’s inherent value, refusing to engage in any form of intentional marketing. He bases this decision on his belief: “If you have a great product, it will market itself.”
When asked by the event’s moderator, Dr. Joann Halpern, Director of the German Center for Research and Innovation, if he had any tips to share with prospective entrepreneurs, Dr. Madisch responded, “If you want to be an entrepreneur, you should not say ‘I want to be an entrepreneur’, but [rather] you should want to solve a specific problem.”