When it emerged last month that the academic social network ResearchGate had raised $20 million, the most significant missing detail was the identity of the investors. However, according to a Wall Street Journal Germany report, that lineup included Bill Gates.
The Microsoft founder, who won back the title of world’s richest person last month, tends to invest in energy technologies these days, but ResearchGate arguably also falls into the category of “startups that can really change things.” Like Mendeley in the UK, the Berlin-based ResearchGate provides a way for researchers around the world to contact and collaborate with each other and, importantly, to read each other’s research without worrying about publishers’ restrictions.
The promise of this sort of collaboration is extensive: if researchers can coordinate their efforts better, the idea goes, they can cut down on duplication, inspire one another and accelerate the pace of their scientific and technological advances. ResearchGate boasts just under 3 million users.
Neither Gates nor ResearchGate has commented on the WSJ Germany report, but it’s worth noting that ResearchGate has a funding-related press conference scheduled for later this week. This is unusual, as the company has traditionally remained fairly tight-lipped about its investment rounds – the latest tranche was only revealed thanks to an SEC filing. Investors from earlier rounds include Benchmark Capital, Accel Partners and Founders Fund.