Young & Entrepreneurial: Harvard Student Drops Out To Pursue Social Network for Research

02/21/2016 11:00 am ET | Updated Feb 21, 2016

This article is part of the Young & Entrepreneurial series that features young startup founders and entrepreneurs. You can see past features here. To stay up to date with future posts, sign-up here.

Millions of dollars are spent on research each year but most of these research findings stay in labs that are hard to find and access. While there are so many great research being done all over the world, there really isn't a centralized database that allows you to easily search for the research you're interested in. This was the problem Harvard students Grace Xiao and Raul Jordan set out to solve through their startup, Kynplex.

Kynplex is a platform that brings the power of online networking and collaboration to the field of scientific innovation. Kynplex helps research labs feature their work, gain access to resources, and get connected to potential collaborators and partners in the industry. Currently, Kynplex has over 600 labs onboard and partnerships with university tech transfer offices at Harvard, MIT, UMass and more.

Grace and Raul first came up with the idea back in their freshman year at Harvard, but after Grace received the Thiel Fellowship, she recently decided to drop out and pursue Kynplex full-time. I got to speak with Grace and learn more about the story behind Kynplex, future plans, challenges they faced and lessons she has learned as a young entrepreneur.

2016-02-18-1455764823-3153707-KynplexCoFounders.jpg Grace with her cofounder Raul

The Idea Behind Kynplex

Grace and Raul had been looking for research opportunities in their freshman year at Harvard when they faced the challenge of not having a centralized database to help them search for research based on their interests. Grace said, "We had to open up dozens of tabs and browsers to help us find what interested us."

After both Grace and Raul became co-executives at the Harvard Biotechnology club, they encountered an even bigger problem after interacting with industry players: even these big companies faced the same challenge of not being able to connect with the right research labs.

Grace shared, "We realized that the real value was not just in creating a network to connect all of science and research, but in creating a platform that makes research accessible outside of academia."

Early Challenges - Understanding Academia & Industry

While Grace knew that they had come across a problem that was big enough and exciting enough to tackle, there were multiple challenges early on that the duo faced trying to understand the complex intersection between academia and industry.

The duo ended up spending a year just doing market research and really understanding how the different players in the space communicated and how they could unify all of this communication. This one-year really helped Grace and Raul understand the problem they were tackling so they could build a platform that offered these different stakeholders real value.

The Decision to Dropout

Unlike most students, the decision to drop out didn't seem to be that hard for Grace.

Grace shared, "I've been working on this for the past two years while at Harvard. We've been very active with the Harvard Innovation Lab and all the resources Harvard had to offer. But for me, it really got to the point where I realized that this startup really has huge potential and requires my full time effort in order to expand. So with the Thiel Fellowship, it was an incredible opportunity to pursue something I was really passionate about."

All the validation Kynplex received also helped make the decision a lot easier for Grace.

Grace added, "Even from the very beginning, there has been a lot of validation from all the parties involved like the researchers who want to have more access to the resources in order to develop their ideas and the industry representatives spending so much resources trying to keep track of what's going on in the research they're interested in."

With Kynplex now the number one priority of Grace, she hopes to expand the platform nationally and internationally in the upcoming year.

2016-02-18-1455765041-5129884-HomePage.png The Kynplex homepage

Engaging Industries and turning research into innovation

A big part of what Kynplex does is engaging industry players and making it easier for them to pinpoint innovations in research labs that they can apply to their industry.

Knyplex makes this connection and communication between research labs and industry players with the help of an advanced search filter and a LinkedIn type of profiling for researchers and research labs. All this work in trying to bridge the gap between these different players has also taught Grace the importance of networking even in the field of science.

She expounded, "Obviously, the science and accuracy of the science matter a lot but in order to really develop these ideas whether you want to spin them out as companies or license them out, there's so much interaction that actually happens and collaboration. I think people actually underestimate the amount of collaboration needed for science."

Lessons Learned - 'Just be super persistent'

At the end of our interview session, I asked Grace to share some lessons and advice for aspiring student entrepreneurs and her biggest advice? Just be super persistent.

She said, "Just be super persistent and don't regard anything as a failure because it is either an opportunity to learn something or get advice. So if you go into a meeting and it doesn't turn into something the way you wanted to, just don't walk away. Instead, really try to see what else you can learn from them. Having this attitude in everything we do in our startup helps us makes sure we're always moving forward and progressing."

Her final advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, "Pursue something that you really believe has a real impact because this is something you're going to work on for the next couple of years. This is what will drive you to continue working and reaching out. I think that true belief in what you're doing and resolve to carry it through is what's necessary for the first steps for success."

2016-02-18-1455765146-1212051-LabProfile.pngLab profiles of Kynplex

---About the Author---

David Ongchoco is a student entrepreneur and avid storyteller from the Philippines studying at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in what he likes to call, LIFE. He is currently working on expanding his for-purpose organization YouthHack. It's David's goal to make an impact in the lives of as many people possible while constantly learning new things every single day. If you have any interesting startup stories, David can be reached via Twitter @DOitChoco.