About 18 months ago I wrote that I’d be interested in speaking with anyone working in “academia2.0”. Since then I continue to suffer, through my wife, the painful working methods of academia. But today something changed. I am actually working to solve the problem rather than passively cursing the status quo from the sideline.
Today writeLaTeX, a London-based company working to make like easier for academics and journals by simplifying the collaboration and research submission process, announced a funding round anchored by Digital Science, and I’m proud to say I’m on board as an angel investor.
I first became aware of writeLaTeX at a Bethnal Green Ventures demo day last autumn, and immediately expressed interest in their project. I was struck by John and John’s (the founders) excitement for their work, but also by their execution. The service looks great, has a passionate community, a growing base of paying customers, and they are continually rolling out improvements. On the publisher side they are winning over more and more partners to their Overleaf service and I am confident this fundraising will take them to the next level.
Overleaf addresses a major problem in the scientific community: the way scientific research currrently operates is we take very smart people, we train them for years in their speciality, they then do complex research at the cutting edge of science, and then finally - when the time comes to share this research with the world via a scientific journal - we ask them to waste an immense amount of time on administrative trivia like formatting the fonts on their graphs. It is hard to fathom how much time is wasted by ultra-highly skilled people (people who could literally otherwise be working on saving the world) on beaurocratic bullshit during the paper submission process. Overleaf solves this by making the submission process literally the click of a button. It’s better for the researchers and better for the journals. Everyone wins. While I obviously haven’t had the chance to use it myself I continually see people rave about how much of an improvement it is on twitter.
So writeLaTeX has all the makings of a great business, and hopefully I can help play some small part on their path to global domination. But what I like even more is that they are working hard not just on their own business (which as every founder will confirm is an all-consuming task), but also on working to support the entire “academia2.0” community in London. I’ve written before about #FuturePub, the event they run as a forum to encourage innovation around scientific publishing. London, following the amazing success of Mendeley (recently bought by Elsevier), is producing all kinds of interesting ideas in this space, and it is fantastic to see the guys from writeLaTeX creating a forum for that innovation to be discussed. The next #FuturePub is 23rd of September, I will be there, you should sign up as well.
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