Ramiz Nathani completed his PhD in Chemistry from University College London, working on bionconjugation of proteins. He then worked as a scientist for Oxford Nanopore, a next-gen sequencing (NGS) start up spun out of University of Oxford, and has secured appox $1B in private funding. Ramiz Nathani then co-founded ‘Researcher’ in early 2017 working with Blenheim Chalcot, a venture builder firm based in London.
‘Researcher’ is a mobile and web platform that aims to make sure academics never miss important research. Users can follow the latest papers from over 18,000 journals and Researcher combines them into one personalised social media style feed. As a co-founder, he looks after product and tech teams at Researcher. In this Interview, Ramiz Nathani narrates his journey from Researcher to Entrepreneur
From a Research Scientist to Entrepreneur, how would you like to unfold your journey?
Ramiz Nathani: I have always very been interested in entrepreneurship. By the time I completed by PhD, I was applying for funding for commercializing my lab research. However, I ended up joining a very exciting start up in UK – Oxford Nanopore – a company that is revolutionizing next gen sequencing. It was a great experience in understanding how a fast growing start up works. I then joined Blenheim Chalcot, a venture builder, that invests in a wide range of businesses to get more commercial experience before launching Researcher.
Can you brief us about your APP “Researcher” and how it works ?
Ramiz Nathani: Researcher is a platform for academics, scientists, researchers and anyone who interested in keeping up with the latest for academics. We currently have 2 million users on the platform from across the world.
The app works by keeping a track of the latest papers on basis of your interest/keywords/journals and creates a feed for easy browsing on your phone, a bit like facebook or Instagram.
We collect and index papers and articles from over 18,000 sources. Unlike search engines like Google Scholar or PubMed, where the user needs to search for what they are interested in, Researcher gives a constant feed of relevant and interesting papers for you to read on your mobile device or desktop.
How did you get the idea of starting a company like Researcher?
Ramiz Nathani: During my time in academia, we were always encouraged to read new papers all the time, but there was no efficient way of doing it. We had to visit different journal websites to read papers without being able to track, or save the papers that we found interesting – but most crucially, we never knew what we were missing.
It was this specific pain point we were trying to address – how to keep track of the latest papers.
Researcher is a Blenheim Chalcot Company. Blenheim Chalcot is the UK’s leading venture builder company. How is your experience working with venture builder company as venture builder is new kind of concept for India ?
Ramiz Nathani: It is a great experience! Venture Building is a really interesting concept – it provides a really strong ecosystem and start ups don’t need to spend a lot of time fundraising, instead leaving us to focus on building the business.
How is Researcher helpful to Academics? Does it simply work for authors & publishers ?
Ramiz Nathani: The main way Researcher helps academics is to help keep up with the latest research. However, that’s only one half of the story – we have built an ecosystem where by authors and publishers both benefit by using Researcher.
Researcher has a social media type model where users follow journals and publishers. We allow publishers to post directly on Researcher to communicate with their followers. They often post call for papers (and tell authors which journals are accepting papers in which subject) or other announcements to their followers on our platform.
We provide publishers a portal to their access analytics, so they can understand the demographics of the users who are reading and engaging with their content. We also let them promote specific posts and ads to targeted users.
World is currently undergoing covid-19 pandemic. Since your platform is related to research, are there any specific initiatives taken by your platform to help or accelerate research related to covid-19.
Ramiz Nathani: Yes – a lot of the research that is happening related to covid-19 is being published very rapidly on preprint servers. These are articles have not been peer reviewed yet, but contain crucial information. The problem is how do we sort out the ‘good’ from the not-so-good papers.
The traditional peer review process achieves this but takes a long time, which is fine in normal times but delaying publication of crucial information due to delay in verification is not ideal. So we are working on developing a rapid community based peer review system. That means the users of the app will evaluate how good the papers are rapidly, helping them access quality research rapidly.
Researcher is having millions of articles by various authors & publishers. Everyday there are more additions, so how do you maintain & simplify such a large database for users.
Ramiz Nathani: We have a lot of techincal expertise within the team. Majority of our team are programmers – we evolved from a tech team within Blenheim Chalcot. We use a range of latest technologies to manage our data. We mainly use ElasticSearch for a lot of text based data analysis and searching, and PostgreSQL for other transactional needs.
Researcher has collaborated with various organization like TopEdit, The Charlesworth Group, Harrisco, Pharmaceutical Media Inc, Enago. Does it give more reach & more market access to Researcher as an organization.
Ramiz Nathani: Yes definitely. Our philosophy has been to collaborate with a large range of companies to expand our reach. We don’t spend much on marketing so this type of collaborations help us in getting more market access, like you rightly point out.
At the same time, these companies offer useful services for authors and academics – they use our platform to reach the correct audience, and because of highly targeted nature of our platform, the users often derive great value from these companies’ services.
What will be your advice to entrepreneurs starting their venture in data science business ?
Ramiz Nathani: In my opinion, the single most important thing is having a clear pain point you wish to solve. It is important that you define that very clearly and continue to focus on solving that pain point.
I also prefer to target a niche set of users, even if it’s a small % of your total addressable market to begin with – who really struggle with that pain point and do an exceptional job at serving them.
The stronger the pain, the easier it will be to get that early strong adoption, even if it only affects a niche group of people. You can then expand your offering to other groups.
What is your vision for the company?
Ramiz Nathani: We want Researcher to be the single platform that every scientist, academic, or anyone interested in the latest research goes to find interesting research content.
We are expanding the content base that we have on Researcher to include conferences, research from companies, patents, webinars and a much wider variety of richer media content, all based around research, as there is no single platform that does that efficiently.
We currently have 2 million users, and there are around 15-20 million researchers in the world – our mission is to become the leading research discovery platform. We want to make it easy for scientists to stay up to date so that they can concentrate on moving their research forward.