Scitivate + the Chicago Lean Startup Challenge 2013

August 26, 2013



Scitivate is a web app that facilitates networking during professional events. We collect, analyze, and showcase the connections among participants from various aspects including expertise, experiences, and interests, and provide personalize recommendations. Through our platform, participants can find who they are looking for and learn how to approach others, and organizers can build a better community and gain reputations.



Here is a link to our video:



Lean Startup Challenge Experience:


"Scitivate is a professional social network for scientists. It showcases researchers' online profiles and recommends potential collaborations. We provide convenient tools for scientists to share their research interests and projects, interface with publisher websites, and partner with universities." That was our pitch 3 months ago. Fortunately, we didn't do any of those, and we are starting to have happy customers, excited evangelists, and revenue! All this happened in the past summer, and we are grateful to the LSC.


The LSC provides us a precious experience. Besides the very informative classes, we got invaluable feedbacks, advice, and mentorship, which really changed the way we think about doing business: it is not formidable, it is super fun, and it is quite rewarding (not financially (yet) but also mentally)! It is also more challenging than we thought, but this passionate change-maker community has made this journey a joint voyage instead of a lonesome adventure.


Through this experience we learned several things:


- We don’t know whom we are.

We found the idea of Scitivate useful since we as researchers ourselves had problems with finding collaborators. So we thought we know our customers and focused on solutions. We were wrong.  At first we thought junior researchers are the ones who need help. Yet our interviews show even senior researchers are excited about it. Also, we learned that skill sets are not the only factor in establishing collaboration; hobbies are also important because they reflect personalities. Everything needs to be validated --- and through the process you'll have new inspirations and even make new friends.


- Get out of the comfort zone.

This is probably cliche but not until we practiced it did we realize its power. Previously we are like typical engineers who are not socially active, and we are used to the engineer community around us. Through the course of LSC, we talked to professional associations, publishers, local activists, directors, professors, etc. We participated and volunteered in events that we have no concept of, and we learned so much from such experiences.


- Dare to fail, and deal with it.

We were hesitated to launch our product and was afraid that we'll make a bad impression. After consulting with the LSC community, we decided to give it a try. Not surprisingly, we had several failures --- people have issues with login, things do not show up, and worst of all, LinkedIn service went down for maintenance just the night before the event, and we couldn't do anything! Fortunately, we also learned to provide good customer service and be honest with our users. We found that users are more tolerant than we thought when they know we are trying to help. In fact, this failure process helped us build very close customer relationships with them. Moreover, we are now more confident with our product, and the way we deal with failures.


- Be good at help others.

We got tremendous help through LSC and through talking to potential users and customers and are very grateful. We also start to learn how to listen to people's need and offer our help. By doing so, we feel better connected and enjoy the pay-it-forward process.

Finally, a BIG THANK to lean startup challenge, this is a beautiful journey and the best part is, it is to be continued.


[email protected]


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