Ijad Madisch, co-founder and CEO of ResearchGate – the so-called Facebook for scientists – shot down an accusation about a questionable way it may have acquired users in the past. The question was raised by a panel moderator, TechCrunch’s Mike Butcher, at the Disrupt Berlin 2017 conference this morning.
According to Butcher’s multiple sources, ResearchGate had scraped rival Academia.edu in order to spam their users in an effort to get them to sign up to ResearchGate.
Madisch, who didn’t flinch at the accusation that he paid an agency to scrape and spam users, denied this was the case.
“No, for sure not,” he said, in response to the question.
When Butcher pressed on why his sources would have told him such a thing, Madisch pointed a finger not too subtly right back at his competitors.
“We have 100 million visitors a month now,” he said. “I would do maybe the same if I would be number two.”
Plus, he added, “you have to find stories that make me nervous on stage.”
Butcher says he trusts his sources on this matter, but they’ve declined to go on record. He still felt he needed to ask the CEO directly, however.
Berlin-based ResearchGate this year raised $52.6 million in Series D funding, bringing its total raise to date to over $100 million, but is not yet profitable despite saying back in 2014 that it would be profitable with job ads by the end of the year. But a financial statement from 2015 showed that the site went from losing €5.4m in 2014 to losing €6.2m in 2015, Butcher noted.
The CEO said the site was now on “break even” track, though when that would be the case, he couldn’t pinpoint.
He spoke of plans for its advertising business, which would allow vendors – like say, a microscope manufacturer – to advertise their products next to scholarly articles where scientists had mentioned they used the product in question.
In addition, to the profitability questions and other allegations, the network for scholarly articles is facing a number of challenges in a competitive market where it’s up against an open source, scholarly hub set up by academics – something that Madisch also seemed unfazed by, when asked.
“I think we’re on different horizons,” he said. “We have grown quite a lot over the last years. We have activity on our network that no one has produced in an academic environment.” Plus, he said, he didn’t necessarily think that open source on its own is a better solution.
More recently, ResearchGate has been accused of infringing copyright on a massive scale with publishers seeking removal of millions of papers on its site, via a lawsuit.
The founder claimed that it’s not the only site faces these sort of problems. Academia.edu had takedown notices, too, he said, shrugging off the issue.