ResearchGate, a social network for scientists and academic researchers, has received a second round of venture funding from Founders Fund, adding to the growing cadre of health and science related social start-ups attracting the attention of Silicon Valley investors.
The Series B round builds on the company’s earlier financing from social networking VC gurus Benchmark and Accel in 2010. The company did not disclose the funding amounts for either round.
“[The way] companies do scientific research today – it is like the Stone Age,” said Luke Nosek, the partner at Founders Fund who led the round. “Science and innovation could go so much faster if it has the same collaboration that we have for our social lives.”
The “Facebook for scientists,” as ResearchGate’s chief executive, Ijad Madisch, refers to his company, certainly follows in the footsteps of the social networking giant, but investors see a completely separate financial opportunity.
The research and development industry is estimated to be worth almost a trillion dollars, Mr Nosek said, adding that that money is being inefficiently spent.
“If you have the ability to make information flow more accurately in the system and increase efficiency of that spending, we believe there’s a significant amount of revenue that you can drive,” he said.
For scientists, ResearchGate is a place to network, to post published work, and to share details of experiments that don’t make it into papers. Mr Madisch said this will help scientists learn from each other, prevent the repetition of mistakes, and overall, increase the pace of innovation in a sector that is traditionally very slow moving.
“I want to change how people are doing research,” he said.
It’s a bold idea in a very competitive industry where scientists tend to hold research secrets tightly.
That is why the company is staying focused on building its user base for now – it has 1.4m registered users in 193 countries – though Mr Madisch does have a few ideas for making money later, either by charging science companies or universities for posting job advertisements on the site, or by selling private internal social networks embedded in ResearchGate’s system.
The latter move would land ResearchGate squarely on the turf of several other companies gaining traction in the market for business social networks, including Salesforce, Jive, and Yammer.
While ResearchGate is aimed at scientists in a range of fields, from healthcare to energy to transportation, it faces competition from other scientific networking sites, like UniPHY and LabRoots, and overlaps with several companies creating social networks for doctors, such as Doximity, Sermo, Ozmosis, and DoctorNetworking.
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