Tallinn-based scientific collaboration platform Guaana is giving out 10 percent of the company to users for free, hoping to involve them more tightly in its quest to define a new, universal format for scientific projects.
The effort has a similar to target to many equity crowdfunding campaigns on platforms like FundedByMe or Invesdor where startups sell equity not just to raise money, but also to find new ambassadors for their brand.
The only difference to classical equity crowdfunding comes from the fact that there is no money involved, Guaana is giving out the shares for free.
Guaana has gained some early traction, signing up around 2,000 scientists from across the world to use the service it to accelerate scientific research and collaboration with the help of modern-day technologies. Edgar Aronov, co-founder and CFO of Guaana, says:
“By gifting a piece of our company we are rewarding our early adopters, giving them free access to test our new features and an opportunity to influence Guaana’s roadmap. We want to give scientists ownership as an inspiration to participate in the process so we would succeed together in bringing forth a change that’s long overdue.”
Guaana’s mission is to advance today’s academic system, which many scientists admit is slowed down by bureaucracy and outdated, and doesn’t enable open collaboration between experts.
“Our mission is to develop a universal format for scientific projects — a record of the processes behind a research paper that includes everything from preliminary ideas and experiment design to methods and analysis, from laboratory notebooks and data to null results and proposed contributions,” said Guaana co-founder Marko Russiver.
“Imagine a future where scholars and students alike can look behind the scientific article and investigate the process. That is what we strive for. Methodology like this can accelerate discoveries in virtually all fields,” Russiver said.
Guaana is trying to build on the success of earlier Estonian startups like GrabCAD or Pipedrive, but also Transferwise and Skype have been built in the small Baltic country.
“I believe being based in Estonia, a country with the most digitized state services in the world, has been a great source of inspiration for the team. I cannot imagine a better place in the world to re-imagine stagnant structures of the scientific world. Guaana is solving a critical global communication challenge, just like the now synonymous Skype did,” said Taavi Kotka, Chief Information Officer of Estonia, who is currently writing his PhD thesis.
Guaana functions in a way as a collaboration platform – scientists post their ideas or problems and then users around the world try to help solving them.
“Guaana is like a Silicon Valley coffee place bursting with ideas and a scientific lab full of bright minds, combined in one, ” said Ali EL Idrissi, Vice President of Impact Investing at JPMorgan and author who launched a research project on Guaana earlier this year.
For many scientists it offers a way to reach much larger group of co-thinkers than what they could reach in their town or country.
“Since posting my research project on Guaana, I have been inundated with requests for collaborations from all around the world” said Dr Ben Ambridge, senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Liverpool. Author of Psy-Q,
The only requirement for signing up to become a co-owner is to fill out a short application and to confirm the user is a scientist.
The first 2,000 users include members from top universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University and University of Oxford in addition to institutions at the forefront of science exploration like the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), European Space Agency (ESA), The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Google X.
“The interest and support from the scientific community have been overwhelming. We kicked off a soft-launch for our current member base and it gained unexpected momentum through social media in just a few hours,” said Russiver.