Publons angel exit

Daniel Johnston and Andrew Preston at Startup Weekend Wellington 2012

Publons, a company that came out of Wellington’s Lightning Lab accelerator in 2013, and of which I was the first investor and (until 31 May) Chairman of the Board, has been acquired by Clarivate Analytics. Publons provides a platform that gives academics credit for the peer review work they do, and whose mission is to “speed up science through the power of peer review”. Clarivate’s mission is to “accelerate innovation”, and are the main authoritative industry source of, inter alia, academic bibliometrics. Clarivate was formerly known as Thomson Reuters IP and Science, and changed its name when it was bought by private equity interests last year.

It is New Zealand’s first significant exit from an accelerator programme.

I’ll write more about this in the coming weeks, as it bodes well for the New Zealand startup ecosystem. Founders, employees, and investors all did well out of the exit, and much of the proceeds of the sale will be ploughed back into local startups.

The Publons story is a textbook case of how to build strategic value: “‘Publons now find themselves at the heart of the rebuilding programme to support Clarivate’s reinvention, and a vital part of the system of reference and authority needed to maintain scholarly communication in a digital, networked age,’ says David Worlock, a UK-based publishing consultant with knowledge of the deal.” [Nature]

“It’s a huge win for startups, their founders, and investors…” [NZ Herald]

More coverage:
Peer review is thankless. One firm wants to change that. [The Economist]

Funders and publishers will likely be glad to see a visible expansion of the pool of peer reviewers with validated track records. And more researchers may see the benefit of easily creating a record of their peer review work. Expansion and independence of publishers may well give Clarivate Analytics sufficient advantage to establish Publons as the de facto standard for crediting peer review. [The Guardian]

Formal recognition for peer review will propel research forward. [London School of Economics Impact Blog]

The companies describe themselves as the world’s preeminent citation database and the world’s largest researcher-facing peer-review data and recognition platform. [Research Information]

Peer review is at the heart of our ability to trust research but is often accused of being slow, inefficient, biased and open to abuse. By recognising reviewers and bringing transparency to the review process, Publons has built a platform to conform these issues head on. And now, with the worldwide reach, citation network and research tools offered by Clarivate Analytics, we can tackle these global issues on a global scale. [Victoria University News]

Peer review is the last, great, closed part of the research lifecycle. Data on peer review needs to become a core component of the research record. Bringing transparency, recognition, and training to peer review will result in better reviewers and a faster, more trusted research process. [Publons blog]

The Publons deal will give a much-needed confidence boost to the local [NZ startup] ecosystem which is very positive. [Ben Kepes’ Diversity blog]

It takes a village to raise a startup, and I’d like to thank the following people and organisations for their hard work and support:

  • The founders, Andrew Preston and Daniel Johnston – visionary, hard working, resilient, crazy smart, coachable, humble, trustworthy, team players, and rigorously scientific in their approach. That’s really the investable founder checklist.
  • The Publons team, who continue to pull out all stops to speed up science
  • Investor and board advisor Simon Swallow, a steady hand with laser focus who backs up his excellent advice with the hard yakka to bring it to fruition
  • Our local Wellington angel investment club, AngelHQ, and particularly the legendary Serge van Dam and Trevor Dickinson
  • Strategic investor SAGE Publishing Group, and their fearless leader David McCune
  • Institutional investors K One W One and NZVIF’s Seed Co-Investment Fund
  • CreativeHQ, Lightning Lab, and Dan Khan for running New Zealand’s first accelerator programme from which Publons was launched
  • My own family whose trust and support are the pillar of my strength
  • All of the reviewers on the Publons platform

Building the entrepreneurial community we want to live in

What are the foundations of a great national entrepreneurial community?

After the Startup Weekend NZ National Hui in 2015, I drafted a plan based on feedback from the hui’s unconference.  It included:

Vision:  Every New Zealander has the ability, tools, and networks to become an entrepreneur

Mission: To provide access to the community, experiences, and support that emerging entrepreneurs need to succeed, working directly with entrepreneurs as well as with other organisations.

Values:

  • Community leadership:  Our members – our key resource – are Community Leaders. We believe that a successful startup ecosystem depends on supporting and bringing out the best in those willing to contribute. As leaders in our field, we set an example by the way we work with others, and help others become leaders. We’re confident in who we are, and willing to help, support, and encourage those whose values are aligned with ours. We put the mission before our own glory.
  • Reciprocity: Once we’ve committed, we’re in – our partners can count on us, and vice versa. We are transparent and honest with each other, partners and constituents, and expect the same from them.
  • Responsive, mindful, and enabling: We are responsive to community needs, and enable others to move purposefully and quickly.  We use lightweight and flexible infrastructure to achieve this.
  • Lasting value: We’re in this for the long-term future of New Zealand and its entrepreneurs. We measure the impact of our outcomes, seeking constant improvement in the things that matter.

I suggested that we could achieve our mission and vision by:

  • Providing experiential education for entrepreneurs, including Startup Weekends, and shorter form workshops
  • Building and developing entrepreneurial communities, bringing people of all stripes together, and being a catalyst for serious shifts in the landscape, especially outside the main centres
  • Connecting entrepreneurial communities locally, nationally, and globally, forging better ties across geographic boundaries, sharing our resources, time, and experience for the betterment of all
  • Working on improving startup policies to nurture an environment in which startups can thrive
  • Celebrating entrepreneurship through programmes like Global Entrepreneurship Week

And to make it all happen, I suggested that we could engage in partnerships with:

  • Entrepreneurs and their startups
  • Local and central government
  • Universities and other tertiaries
  • Accelerators, incubators, and coworking spaces
  • Other allied organisations, such as Youth Enterprise Trust, the Innovation Council, NZTech, the Angel Association of New Zealand, and more.

I believe that the governance of an organisation executing this plan should be transparent, diverse, egalitarian, and democratic, and that financially it should be organised as a not for profit, ideally with charitable status.

The plan languished for a year, and was never adopted – it was a bridge or three too far for the other directors. Even though the plan has stalled, I’m still very keen to make it, or something similar based on the same values, happen.

Others have expressed very similar ideas, including Dan Khan, Pascale Hyboud-Peron, Lenz Gschwendtner, Peter Thomson, Jane Treadwell-Hoye, Sarah Day, Colart Miles, and Ants Cabraal. Although our expression is slightly different, there is a large degree of congruence and alignment.

I look forward to working with similarly minded people and building that entrepreneurial community we want to live in, so that we can move New Zealand to the next stage.

Are you in?

Join the discussion in the comments below, or on Twitter hashtag #startupcommunityvalues