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NPR Berlin Blog
5:34 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

In Berlin, Bill Gates Leads Investment In 'ResearchGate'

Ijad Madisch, the German-born CEO of Researchgate, tends to wear jeans and sneakers to his Berlin office.

When Chancellor Angela Merkel visited his Mitte-district headquarters earlier this year, Madish wore a purple Nike sweatshirt and a gray knit cap. When he recently visited an undisclosed location in France to deliver an investor pitch to Microsoft founder Bill Gates, he wore his favorite gray hoodie.

Madisch is apparently comfortable in his own skin and unabashed about his ambitions. With his third round of funding announced earlier this month, 35 million dollars personally led by Gates, along with Tenaya Capital, Madisch has set his sights on the future.

He hopes that ResearchGate, a 2.9-million strong professional network currently linking around half the international scientific community, will win a Nobel Prize.

His wish might not be far off the mark. One of the single greatest roadblocks to scientific innovation is secrecy. Scientists must outrace their peers to publish findings first, lest their research be rendered redundant.

But what if the very engine driving scientific inquiry could be transformed into a broad collaborative effort versus a competitive one? Locking away findings, even if it’s just the raw data from a failed experiment, impedes progress. Through ResearchGate, Madisch seeks to revolutionize the very cultural fabric that binds (and consequently divides) scientists.

“Our goal is to free knowledge from the ivory tower, to digitalize it, and make it accessible for everyone in order to accelerate scientific progress,” Madisch says.

“[We are] building the digital infrastructure to make this happen.”

When Madisch met with Gates, he only had 75 minutes to convince Gates that ResearchGate has the potential to change the world. (Bill Gates’ title as the world’s richest man was, incidentally, restored last month for the first time since 2007.) The Microsoft founder and philanthropist has devoted much of his life to stamping out the biggest killers of our era, including HIV and malaria.

Upon meeting with Madisch, he was instantly enthusiastic about ResearchGate, connecting it immediately with his own work.

ResearchGate is ushering open science from a concept to a manifest reality, through the intelligent virtual connection of scientists, data, and resources.

The company's Series C funding includes support from Dragoneer Investment Group and Thrive Capital, as well as the continued backing of Benchmark Capital and Founders Fund.