Science AMA Series: I’m Marko Russiver, founder of Guaana, a scientific collaboration platform that is giving 10% of the company to 100,000 scientists worldwide to define universal format for scientific projects with uniform digital footprint that is human and machine readable, AMA

Abstract

Hey everyone,

I'm Marko Russiver, founder & CEO of Guaana, a digital platform where scientists connect to each other and collaborate on open and private multidisciplinary projects.

I’m here to share our decision to give 10% of our company to scientists worldwide, for free.

We are developing a universal format for scientific projects. A record of the scientific process that includes everything from preliminary ideas and research to methods and analysis, from laboratory notebooks and data to null results and proposed contributions. By integrating an array of software and data formats used in science, we can provide a uniform digital footprint of the scientific process that is human and machine readable. I personally believe a change like this can accelerate discoveries in virtually all fields.

A published research paper is a summary of all experiments and research conducted on a specific topic. And an extremely valuable solution that has stood the test of time. However, a lot could be learned from the research processes leading to the paper. By allowing emerging as well as established scientists to look into processes, projects gain significantly more value and impact by inspiring new research and educating upcoming scientists in the field while retaining author(s) status as the source.

Imagine a future where scholars and students alike can look behind the scientific article and investigate the underlying process. That is precisely what we strive for. I’m here to invite you to be part of it and we need your voice and experience to do this in a way that serves science best.

We hope to capture the imagination of 100,000 scientists to ignite a movement that will collectively define the tools necessary for more transparent and efficient scientific process. Giving away 10% of our company is our way of saying both thank you and welcome to our early adopters. We want to give you ownership so you are inspired to join us and help build our shared success.

My team and I would love to get your questions, feedback, critique, and most importantly your understanding of how such format could evolve.

I will be back at 1 pm ET (10 am PT), Ask Us Anything!

Feel free to apply for your piece of Guaana meanwhile: www.guaana.com/10percent

Edit: Futurism recently covered our efforts: http://futurism.com/the-perks-of-science-research-startup-giving-away-10-of-its-company-to-scientists/

Edit2: Wow. This blew up! We are here and answering your questions. Really thankful for all the questions. We will do our best to answer everyone. Even the hard questions :)

Edit3: Thank you all, especially for the hard questions. Honestly - this was extremely intense for us. We learned a lot. We found support and we found hard critique, which is as appreciated just as much as the support.

Thank you everyone who joined or is planning to join Guaana. There’s a lot of you.

And also thank you if you are not joining us. We appreciate you taking the time to voice your concerns. This is how we learn.

We are taking off now for today, but we will be back to answer the questions following week. This discussion is extremely valuable to us.

Hi Marko,

I think this is an interesting idea. I'm a bit skeptical of the business model, though. Maybe you could help to allay some of my concerns:

  • What is your plan for monetization? What are your five-year revenue projections? What is your break even point? (I think these are fair questions is you are considering giving users equity in your firm).

  • Giving equity to users is widely regarded in VC as a bad idea. It is a legal and administrative nightmare. It makes subsequent rounds of funding very, very difficult. Why do you think this will be a positive ROI for Guaana? How do you plan to execute on distributing the equity?

  • How will dilution work in your model? Will all shares be diluted equally, or will some equity holders (i.e. token holders) be diluted more than others?

  • Why did you decide to incorporate in Estonia?

  • I looked at your founder page and it seems that there aren't any scientists on the team. Why not? It seems like a lack of PhDs will limit your credibility and ability to understand and interact with the scientific community.

SirT6

Hey /u/SirT6,

Thank you for these questions. All of these topics have been a huge discussion point for us during last 2 years. Here goes:

What is your plan for monetization? What are your five-year revenue projections? What is your break even point? (I think these are fair questions is you are considering giving users equity in your firm).

Our plan is similar to how Github monetizes itself. Meaning it’s free to work on projects openly and there is a small monthly subscription fee for private projects. We are also playing with the idea where community members can opt-in to see open-innovation projects and challenge based recruitment proposals by companies. The community will have a huge say in which way we move, because since day one our main interest has been to put the scientist first. Second part of your question - as a start-up its extremely hard to make five-year revenue projections. I mean its doable, but it will just be a random scenario out of millions of possibilities how things could go. Even investors don’t expect that in this phase. Same with break-even point. Our first goal is to build a product that is useful. Second is to build a community that will demonstrate the usefulness. Third is monetization.

Giving equity to users is widely regarded in VC as a bad idea. It is a legal and administrative nightmare. It makes subsequent rounds of funding very, very difficult. Why do you think this will be a positive ROI for Guaana? How do you plan to execute on distributing the equity?

We believe that giving a possibility for our users to own a piece of the company is beneficial for the company and the user as well in the long run.

About the legal and administrative nightmare - we are using Funderbeam (www.funderbeam.com) for this - an investment syndication platform. With Funderbeam we are creating a new limited liability company that owns 10% of Guaana. This new LLC has 100,000 scientists who are stakeholders in the company. This might also answer your questions regarding if it makes subsequent rounds of funding very difficult - for future investors this means only 1 new shareholder in Guaana cap table. The VC’s we’ve talked to prior to kicking off this initiative have supported the idea.

We think that this will be a positive ROI for Guaana and scientists since it will help us shape our product even better (with the feedback of 100,000 scientists) so we could provide more value for the end-user.

How will dilution work in your model? Will all shares be diluted equally, or will some equity holders (i.e. token holders) be diluted more than others?

Every shareholder will be diluted equally.

Why did you decide to incorporate in Estonia?

We are from Estonia and as /u/OrvilleSchnauble mentioned there are definite benefits of doing things here.

I looked at your founder page and it seems that there aren't any scientists on the team. Why not? It seems like a lack of PhDs will limit your credibility and ability to understand and interact with the scientific community.

You are completely correct and that was one of our big fears when we kicked Guaana off. What really surprised us - most scientists we’ve talked to have considered this a good thing. Communication focused perspective and healthy amount of naivety has helped us build a network of academic advisors who have supported us through the process. For example we have been blessed with the advice of awesome people from CERN since the early days.

This is also one of the reasons why we are giving out 10% of Guaana to our community - our whole development process, both software and business, will be out in the open where the community can advise us to do right decisions from their perspective. We do the legwork, but listen to the community guidance closely.

I hope this answers your questions. And thanks again.


Scientist here:

What is good:

  • Open Collaboration Hub is a fun idea.
  • Supposedly you will actually VERIFY people are Masters/PhD in science. If it turns out that means a photo of your diploma, it is not good.

What is not good:

  • You are giving away 10% of a company not worth anything to scientists, in hopes that you signing them all up makes your company worth something.
  • Complete lack of any details on the business model
  • Expectation of scientists to promote their work under your tent, however lack of clarity on who now owns the rights to the work if they do choose to use your hub. I even went around your site, and found it unclear. In other words, do they no need to license their idea from you just because they collaborated on your site? Where are the contracts? Does it now become your IP? If so, this will never take off, but then maybe that creates a Catch-22, because then you will never make money. Again, lack of business model details leaves this issue unresolved.
  • Confusing over the concept of "universal format." There already is a universal format for research methodology, usually quite rigid for thesis work and/or journal publication and so on. Clarity here please.

Scientists are naturally skeptical people. You seem to be unprepared for the scrutiny that would be faced by such a model here and most scientists are just not going to jump into something like this without perfect clarity and a resolution of our concerns, to which we do not seem to be getting, at least, at the moment. This only leads to further wariness of the project.

Maybe these can be resolved, and I wish you luck. I think the concept of the "hub" for scientists to jump on to and assist one another is quite an interesting take and I like it, so there clearly is something here. I am a bit skeptical though of the model and as of yet, unconvinced it will be successful, or even if this is worthy of our time and not just someone trying to get rich off the good ideas of a bunch of actual science professionals. I mean, people brought up some serious concerns here and I'd like to see them addressed. Help us resolve our concerns and you can get people interested in your project.

GeneticsGuy

Thank you for your thoughts, /u/GeneticsGuy

If it turns out that means a photo of your diploma, it is not good.

Question: How would you verify 100,000 scientists? Maybe we can come up with a better solution, because trust me, we do not want to go through 100,000 diplomas.

I’ll try to address some other points:

Expectation of scientists to promote their work under your tent, however lack of clarity on who now owns the rights to the work if they do choose to use your hub. I even went around your site, and found it unclear. In other words, do they no need to license their idea from you just because they collaborated on your site? Where are the contracts? Does it now become your IP? If so, this will never take off, but then maybe that creates a Catch-22, because then you will never make money. Again, lack of business model details leaves this issue unresolved.

We seek no ownership of your work. If you choose to make your project public at any point in time it will be done at your own discretion and under appropriate license.

Confusing over the concept of "universal format." There already is a universal format for research methodology, usually quite rigid for thesis work and/or journal publication and so on. Clarity here please.

We are not trying to reinvent the scientific method. Instead, we want to create a vehicle for this worthy method that allows you to aggregate different parts of your work from multiple sources. By universal we mean a technical solution that would adapt all aspects of your work into a single machine and human readable format, removing the squander of incompatibility.

We realize that this could be mission impossible. But we are willing to give it go and that is the reason why we need the concerted effort of the brightest minds.

Edit: copying in my answer regarding the business model from another answer:

Q by /u/SirT6

What is your plan for monetization? What are your five-year revenue projections? What is your break even point? (I think these are fair questions is you are considering giving users equity in your firm).

Our plan is similar to how Github monetizes itself. Meaning it’s free to work on projects openly and there is a small monthly subscription fee for private projects. We are also playing with the idea where community members can opt-in to see open-innovation projects and challenge based recruitment proposals by companies. The community will have a huge say in which way we move, because since day one our main interest has been to put the scientist first. Second part of your question - as a start-up its extremely hard to make five-year revenue projections. I mean its doable, but it will just be a random scenario out of millions of possibilities how things could go. Even investors don’t expect that in this phase. Same with break-even point. Our first goal is to build a product that is useful. Second is to build a community that will demonstrate the usefulness. Third is monetization.

Thank you!


Will you be releasing your code under an appropriate open-source license?

dspace

Yes. Additionally we are giving 100,000 scientists access to our business development decisions.


Trying not to be cynical, but it looks like you're giving away 10% of a company that isn't worth anything yet to people in exchange for those people generating all of the value for the company. How much is the company worth right now and what assets does it have?

internetpillows

Trying not to be cynical, but it looks like you're giving away 10% of a company that isn't worth anything yet to people in exchange for those people generating all of the value for the company.

Hey /u/internetpillows. Being cynical is completely acceptable and I’d even say a normal reaction. We know this is an unprecedented scenario and raises a lot of questions. Some that we don’t have answers to as we haven’t done this before either. We don’t expect the people joining up to do any legwork, but advise us on our decisions. And that is on their own terms.

How much is the company worth right now and what assets does it have?

We have raised 425,000 EUR from estonian and finnish investors. Proposed value of the company is currently 8,000,000 EUR.


Virtually all scientists have intellectual property agreements with their home institution, whether government, academic, national lab, or corporate. How do you overcome competing ownership rights for your model?

liesliesfromtinyeyes

Guaana will never retain any of your IP (just to make it clear) and every user is solely responsible for owning the necessary rights and permissions to the content provided. We are only providing an online venue for our community and we do not aim to solicit your contracts or in any way interfere with your personal agreements.


Forgive my cynicism, but why 10%?

This sound like you want to come up with a research paper standardization tool that you can make money off of.

indoninja

Hey Indoninja,

Forgive my cynicism, but why 10%? This sound like you want to come up with a research paper standardization tool that you can make money off of.

As I mentioned in previous answer - Being cynical is completely acceptable and I’d even say a normal reaction. We know this is an unprecedented scenario and raises a lot of questions.

The 10% is meant as a thank you for early adopters who come on board. It doesn’t oblige anyone to do any free work for Guaana. We decided that gathering a community and asking them for feedback during our development is an honest way of going about it.

Our first goal is to build a product that is useful to you, scientists. Second is to build a community that will demonstrate the usefulness. Third is monetization.

Thanks for the question.


Hey Marko,
I am confused on what you mean to create with this project.

Let me try to summarise what I got.
You want to create a whole standardised database that will store each step, each decision, each faulty experiment, each simulation gone wrong, each relaxation method that were explored to find that perfect one, and also the codes used during the research. And you want this to be faithfully filled by scientist and submitted to journals along with the paper submission. So that who ever wants to work on furthering the research will get a the complete project and not just the end product.
However, many scientists want to keep their techniques and decisions private as those are their cookbook they prepared. Also those steps will promise them an edge on the field that they have worked hard on.

->How do you plan to entice the scientists to come out of their comfort zone and help you by faithfully following the format?

-> do you want your database to be attached with papers when publushed in journals?

-> or do you want your sites to be future of academic journals, with complete scientific project along with final paper being published on your channel?

PM_ME_UR_SLUTY_PIC

> “You want to create a whole standardised database that will store each step, each decision, each faulty experiment, each simulation gone wrong, each relaxation method that were explored to find that perfect one, and also the codes used during the research. 

Yes.

> “And you want this to be faithfully filled by scientist and submitted to journals along with the paper submission. So that who ever wants to work on furthering the research will get a the complete project and not just the end product.

It is up to you how you use this toolset. For example, you could only make the successful “branch” of your research public and keep the faulty experiments hidden. You can keep your projects private and never publish them. Or you can make it public once your article has been published. We do not want to “box you in”, rather the opposite.

> “However, many scientists want to keep their techniques and decisions private as those are their cookbook they prepared. Also those steps will promise them an edge on the field that they have worked hard on.

Agreed. But this a double edged sword. There are good signs in the air that one possible alternative to the current funding system is based on rigour and quality instead of correlated results. And this is where such format could prove to be quite useful.

> ->How do you plan to entice the scientists to come out of their comfort zone and help you by faithfully following the format?
> -> do you want your database to be attached with papers when publushed in journals?
> -> or do you want your sites to be future of academic journals, with complete scientific project along with final paper being published on your channel?

We have no intention of becoming a publisher.

Thanks!


The scientific community has recently been criticized for it's lack of verification studies. Will encouraging duplicate studies also be a priority?

Jaredlong

Yes. The format itself will encourage not only duplicate studies but also different versions of the same study.


I don't really understand this part very well:

However, a lot could be learned from the research processes leading to the paper.

Papers describing methodology and processes in detail are very common (I have published a pair). Some journals are even dedicated to methodology / processes. Moreover, doctoral theses usually contain an even more detailed description of the process, usually with entire chapters dedicated to the methodology.

Could you clarify what do you feel that needs to be improved in regards on how research methodology is made available?

JorgeGT

Let me rephrase that - a lot could be learned from the digital footprint of the processes leading up to the paper. This footprint will include contributions from your team members and collaborators. Contributions are ideas, useful comments, code, results, and eventually pieces of a paper or different versions of a paper.

Being able to investigate these contributions can inspire novel ideas and new directions that might have been missed or not considered by your own collective. Similar to “forking” in programming this new concept will refer to the original source just like a citing.


How will you aggregate the recommendations of so many people, and how will you determine what does and does not get included in your final specification?

Just_ice_is_served

This is a tough one and I hope you will not throw stones at us when we admit that this is something that we have to figure out in the process. There are the obvious questionnaires, A/B testing and a governing body, but we will definitely look for other and hopefully more elegant solutions as well.


Hi Marko and team,

How did you come to identify a need for a universal format?

How do you hope to overcome potential language barriers?

What is your overarching goal if globalization is achieved?

Is this an opportunity for only the top educated minds, or will this be developed at all as an accessible learning tool?

SunTzuIsMyFavourite

Hi SunTzulsMyFavourite!

  1. From talking to scientist and listening to their pain points
  2. We hope to reduce language barriers with advancements in translation technology in the near future.
  3. Increasing collaboration between scientists worldwide and unlocking hidden talent from less resourceful communities.
  4. Yes, learning can be integrated just as well.

Why don't you just find 2-3 genius level scientists who "get it" in terms of your mission and make them technical co-founders? 10% of a company really isn't shit for the amount of work you are asking for. And fractional percentages are pointless. Lets say you build something worth 1 billion dollars. If the 100K scientists come on board, their work is worth 1,000$ each, assuming no dilution.

Great idea, it won't work. You can retool it, which you should. But you will never get anyone to do anything significant for 1K.

TheSharppie

Hey!

We have scientific advisors who we work with on daily basis. 10% is for early adopters who can influence the products development based on their experience as a scientist. Our goal is to build a tool that is beneficial in conducting research and a hub where it’s easy to reach out to each other.


[removed]

[deleted]

Answered elsewhere, but copying here:

Question: How would you verify 100,000 scientists? Maybe we can come up with a better solution, because trust me, we do not want to go through 100,000 diplomas.


Who will own the other 90%

riotinmyhead

Guaana team members, advisors and investors just like for any startup.


What is the business model for development of this standard?

hoogamaphone


Is the Guaana team looking into the use of virtual and augmented reality in the communication and consumption of information?

ktreektree

It’s been part of our long vision brainstorms, but first things first. Thanks for the question.


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