Ijad Madisch is the CEO and co-founder of ResearchGate, a professional network for scientists, helping them to collaborate, share results and make a name for themselves.
Being a good leader also means to let others lead. It’s not easy to hand over responsibility, but it’s crucial for the growth of a company. Apart from that you need to know the inner workings of your team. I recently had a small project where I did a bit of programming myself (I studied Computer Science at university, but never dared to touch our platform). I worked together with our engineers, our designers and product managers. At the end I knew far more about the intricate dynamics of our company than I ever could have learnt by just overseeing the team. This definitely was an experience that made me a better leader.
The one tweak that we made in our operations recently that has a great positive impact was to give every team member more responsibility.
The best marketing you can do is to focus on building a great product. There’s no need to spend any money on marketing as long as we do that.
Company culture is immensely important. It’s one thing that differentiates ResearchGate from many other German companies. We work on something that matters. People make an immediate impact. That alone is a great feeling. Plus, we care for our team. They get free lunches, we organize fun company event and we even have a games floor.
An awesome best practice is to have your team see the bigger picture. Why is the product you’re working on important? What will it change in science? How are you contributing to the greater good? It might sound cheesy. But there’s no greater motivator than knowing that your code might help scientists find a cure for a deadly disease faster, or that it might bring researchers together to find new solutions to the worlds’ energy crisis. This is why we regularly hold team meetings where we discuss what we are doing and which impact we are making.
Our job board has been one of the biggest sources for jobs in research and development for some time. This was a great advantage, because our customers knew that they were getting a high-quality product, even before we started to sell anything to them, which we just recently started. Posting is still free, but now they can choose to buy featuring options – and we’re seeing very good results already.
We were very lucky to have great advisers. Especially Matt Cohler, early Facebook employee, LinkedIn co-founder and partner at Benchmark, who invested in ResearchGate, kept me from making a lot of mistakes and shared very valuable advice that helped us to become as successful as we are today.
Iterating! This is a hack in itself. Always question yourself and the product you have built.
My craziest, most foolish moment probably was when Matt Cohler first emailed me and asked me for a meeting. I was in San Francisco and it was the day before Memorial Weekend. My plan was to fly to Boston to go to a party I didn’t want to miss. I had no clue who Matt was. Only after I spoke to a friend and he told me, I realized that I better change my plans.