Hello and Goodbye, Academia.edu
Richard reached out to my cofounder and I after reading about Plasmyd on TechCrunch. During our call, he invited us to the Open Science Summit, a conference at the Computer Science Museum the following weekend. Invited by the CEO of a major player in the open access movement? Of course we had to attend.
The morning of the conference, I accidentally left my phone on silent. No alarms rang and any phone calls were left unheard. Compounded with car problems, we missed Richard’s talk. Dejected, we drove back down to Irvine thinking we had missed our opportunity.
Fortunately, a few days later, Richard reached out again to chat about potential ways we could work together. “How many million users?” I said incredulously, unaware of the scale they were engineering at. These talks evolved into a potential acquisition. We drove up again the following week to meet the team.
We were buzzed into an unassuming looking building wedged between a jewelry store and a store that apparently sold food in boxes. Richard, the CEO, and Ben, the CTO, greet us at the door. Is this what a startup office looks like? We get pulled into different rooms as I get grilled with some technical questions. They ask me how I would scale a news feed system to millions of users. I attempt to strategize while reminiscing how I got to this moment. Until recently, my career goal had been training to be an academic bioinformatician, recently studying shotgun proteomics quantification algorithms.
We spent a few days seeing if there was synergy and then negotiated terms. Eventually we settled on a mutually agreeable deal. We dropped everything and moved up to San Francisco in a few weeks. We joined and the acquisition was announced on a few tech news outlets. During my first few days, I fixed a minor bug in analytics on the site and I wondered if my 15 minutes of fame had passed.
Nearly three years have since passed, and it’s time for me to move on.
In the time I’ve spent at Academia.edu, I’ve had the opportunity to work on and learn innumerable things. I’ve prototyped and built out completely new features on the site such as Sessions, Recommendations, Advanced Search, and have rewritten the Profile and Newsfeed pages. I’ve worked on internal tooling for our dashboard systems, design systems for our redesigns, rewrote our chat bot, and been on call for any infrastructure issues. I learned about user interviewing, product development, design, process, fund raising, and even office management. I helped grow the team from 4 engineers to a peak of 16 engineers. Most importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people and make some really great friends.
I’ve always aspired to climb the steepest learning curve. Over the last three years I’ve learned so much about full stack engineering and want to continue learning and applying this to the same reason why I founded Plasmyd and joined Academia.edu: making great tools for scientists. I’ll be joining 10x Genomics and will continue building products and improving experiences for people that will change our lives.
In roughly chronological order, I’d really love to thank the Academia.edu crew: Richard, Ben, David, Nate, Mandy, Adnan, George, Josh, Yuri, Mike, Paul, Conway, Kate, Colin, Patrick, Sambridi, Carla, Edd, Dave, Stuart, Max, Alexey, Jon, Tiffany, Andy, Vijay, Sapan, Brynn, Alvin, Hannah, Michael, Zach, Blaine, and everyone else I had the pleasure of working with. Thank you for all the experiences and great times that you’ve given me.