WiseDoc, a software company formed by two Oregon State University PhD students toease the pains of formatting and submitting academic journal articles, took first place in the speed pitch competition at the 2018 Willamette Angels Conference (WAC), May 17th in Eugene, OR. Their reward turned out to be much greater than the $2,500 prize.
According to co-founder Akash Kannegulla, WiseDoc has grown from 4 to 13 people in less than two months since the conference, and they are on track to launch their product by December. He credits their growth and acceleration to their exposure from the WAC.
“Our primary purpose for competing in the WAC — regardless of the outcome — was to practice our pitch and network with potential investors and teammates. And when we won, we didn’t even have to introduce ourselves to people at the post-conference reception,” said Kannegulla.
According to Kannegulla, academic publishing is a billion market. Between 1995 and 2018, the number of academic publications grew from 800,000 to 2.5 million, and students submit 50 million theses annually. But formatting research for the exacting standards of academic journals can take tens of hours per submission.
WiseDoc automatically formats research content using unique templates for each journal. The software can also reformat any previously rejected submissions. Additionally, Kannegulla said the company plans to launch WiseShare, a social networking site that connects researchers and research labs in a way that facilitates problem-solving and technology development.
A naturally-inclined problem solver, Kannegulla recognized the need for a more efficient system while working 12-14 hours days in a lab for his graduate program. While he was an experienced and accomplished researcher, Kannegulla knew little about entrepreneurship. He overcame this obstacle by working with Advantage Accelerator directors Karl Mundorff and Mark Lieberman, and participating in their programs: Iterate, Accelerate, and now Launch.
“I saw a problem but I had no idea how to solve it,” said Kannegulla. “Working in research can limit your exposure and connections. However, being part of the Advantage Accelerator community allowed me to work alongside and learn from entrepreneurs who were starting many different kinds of companies.”
The WiseDoc team of 13 includes full- and part-time employees, as well as interns. They are developers and marketers working remotely from throughout the pacific northwest and India. And although Kannegulla is still a full-time Ph.D. student (preparing for his thesis defense in August) he knows that others are now depending on him to continue building the company.
Both co-founders are immigrants; Kannegulla is from India, and Bo Wu is from China. Kannegulla said that entrepreneurship is a rare path for international students, but he would encourage others like them to take the leap.
“Initially, I couldn’t find anyone who would partner with me on this venture. Many international students are content to study hard, graduate, and get a well-paying job. It can be difficult to think beyond those things and take risks. As long as you have a solid partner and co-founder, any venture can be successful,” said Kannegulla.