Trust and passion key for business – Mendeley CEO

20 Oct 2010

Working with your business partner on something that you feel passionate about is essential to achieving success in business, according to co-founder and CEO of Mendeley Ltd, Victor Henning.

Mendeley, a web and desktop program designed to manage and share research papers, has gone from zero users in 2008 to 550,000 users in 2010, and Henning believes this is thanks to passion and partnership.

“It is very important to work on something that you feel passionate about and know that, by working on it, you are solving a problem. You really have to believe in what you are doing. We set out to create something to address the problems we had with paper management. One of the more important things to have in place is the founding team.”

Solid founding team

Henning credits a large portion of Mendeley’s success to working with a solid founding team that you can trust and depend upon for support.

“One of the more important things to have in place is the founding team. I set up Mendeley (with co-founders and friends Jan Reichelt and Paul Foeckler) and although some people might recommend against that, I found it to be very beneficial. That kind of support is very important.”

Mendeley came about in early 2005 when Henning and Reichelt (who will be present at this year’s Dublin Web Summit), were both working on their PhDs and realised they had the same set of problems as every academic they spoke to.

“The first problem was simply managing the hundreds of research papers that we needed for our thesis. There were literally hundreds of PDFs flying around on the hard drive and not knowing how to best keep track. The other problem was efficient collaboration.

“So we thought, to solve the first problem, shouldn’t it be possible to develop software that can automatically extract the relevant information from PDFs to help organise them automatically? That was what we invested a lot of money into – developing a prototype in early 2007. That has now turned into our main product – Mendeley desktop.”

Mendeley works by dragging and dropping documents, such as research papers, into software, where it keeps track of authors, volumes, issues, year, IT preferences and key words – taking the mass of PDFs and making them into a database.

Linking desktop to internet accounts

Henning then envisioned linking all the desktop instances to accounts on the internet, enabling users to collaborate more easily.

“Now we can invite other people into your shared folder and share research papers with them and annotate them. That really helps in labs, inter-university collaborations, and across country where members of research teams are in different places.”

Henning was especially enthusiastic about Mendeley making research more collaborative and open via the Groups feature and making use of data to generate statistics and recommendations. 

“I’m extremely excited about our API and the first applications that are being built, eg, an Author Impact app, or a WordPress plugin. Other applications currently in planning/development include a mashup with Chemspider, a recommender tool for grant funding that matches your research interests, and semantic annotation in collaboration with Harvard’s SWAN Alzheimer Research Group.”

“Considering most of our users are PhD students and senior faculty, we have been able to reach so many people in such a short time. We are only scratching the tip of the iceberg.”

Victor Henning is attending Founders, an invite only gathering of 100 of the world’s top technology founders including Chad Hurley of YouTube, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Niklas Zennstrom of Skype in Dublin between Oct 28th to 30th .

Interested parties can follow this link.