SocialSci Releases Beta Version of Online Scientific Survey Platform, With Rewards for Participants

Spit was Leon Noel’s inspiration for the startup, SocialSci, that caused him and co-founder Harley Trung to leave Yale University just months before graduating.

Well, more broadly, it was the hassle of getting participants for research studies while he was a biological anthropology student at Yale, Noel says. But spitting was part of the ordeal. To gather the necessary data for the scientific studies required by his major, he would plant himself on campus, ask students to spit in a cup, and fill out a 30-minute survey. Not surprisingly, it was challenging to convince participants to share their information, and completing any given study often took more than a year, he says.

“There has to be a better way to go about doing this,” Noel says he thought at the time. So he and Trung, a computer science major, started working on in May 2009, as a “way to make the scientific process easier.” Initially, the website mapped the locations where labs and research houses paid for participants to physically come in and donate samples (like spit) or undergo medical tests like MRIs.

By the end of last summer, SocialSci started targeting another pain point in scientific research. “The online scientific survey was really where we could expand,” Noel, the company’s CEO, says. The idea was for a Web-based software platform where users could answer survey questions for social science studies from the convenience of their own computers, without researchers having to flag people down on the street or quad. And the goal was also to make the process fun and lucrative for those participating in the studies (more on that later).

Noel and Trung, SocialSci’s co-founder and chief technology officer, spent most of their senior year developing this side of the platform, but left school in February when they were accepted to this past spring’s installment of TechStars Boston, the startup incubator program.

And it looks like the bet is starting to pay off. They’re launching their private beta today, for 5,000 research participants. Researchers from more than 20 universities have lined up to submit studies to the online pool. (Xconomy readers: 250 of you can sign up here to avoid the wait list for the private beta release).

SocialSci also closed a $500,000 angel funding round earlier this summer, with investments from LaunchCapital, SOSventures, and angel investors like Will Herman and David Cohen. The startup now has six employees and operates out of Polaris Venture Partners’ Dogpatch Labs in Cambridge, MA.

As for related companies, sites like SurveyMonkey have long occupied the space of creating and distributing online surveys. But they … Next Page »

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