For many student entrepreneurs, striking a balance between focusing on academics and building a business can be a daunting task. When offered a Thiel Fellowship to fund and expand her company, Kynplex, Grace Xiao took the leap of faith and left Harvard to solve a major communication gap within the scientific community.
With a background in neurobiology and economics, Xiao was always interested in biotechnology because of its ability to use scientific discoveries in real-world applications. To put this passion into practice, Xiao and classmate Raul Jordan searched for research positions at Harvard during their freshmen year.
“We were surprised to find what a difficult, time-consuming process it was,” Xiao explained. “Each research lab has its own individual website, so we had to search through a vast amount of scattered information to find research opportunities.
“We had dozens of tabs open and spent hours sifting through long job descriptions to see if the position matched our interests. It wasn’t efficient at all,” she added.
Grace Xiao, founder of Kynplex and Thiel Fellow.
Realizing there was no centralized way to search through research opportunities and projects, Xiao and Jordan set out to create a national database of research labs. As the duo validated their business idea, they spoke with industry directors through the Harvard Biotechnology Association and found there was a dire need to streamline communication within the scientific community.
“We were surprised to find that science companies had a similar problem to what we had discovered,” Xiao said. “It’s difficult for science companies and labs to know what others are working on so collaborative opportunities are often missed."
A screenshot of a Kynplex lab profile.
Instead of just building a database, Xiao and Jordan decided to create Kynplex, a networking site for the scientific community to identify opportunities, initiate collaborations, and stay on top of research trends. Kynplex is the first online platform that brings together the necessary people and resources to develop research ideas into marketable products like drugs and treatments.
Similar to social networking sites, Kynplex enables research labs to showcase their work and access funding and resources. The keyword extraction and advanced search features on the platform make it easy for companies to gather market intelligence and identify research projects with translational potential.
The Harvard co-founders were initially funded by student-led venture capital firm Rough Draft Ventures and have worked with MIT and Harvard to expand the site’s presence in top research labs.
Recently, Xiao was offered the prestigious Thiel Fellowship, which gives $100K to young entrepreneurs who want to build businesses rather than sit in a classroom. Established by PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel, the Thiel Fellowship has below a 1 percent acceptance rate and has launched several successful businesses such as Upstart, WorkFlow, and SunSaluter. Not only does the Fellowship offer significant funding to young entrepreneurs, but also access to advisors and in-kind resources.
When presented with the opportunity to move to the Thiel Fellowship’s headquarters in San Francisco to work on Kynplex, Xiao said she couldn’t pass it up.
“I decided I wanted to give this fellowship my all, and take a break from school to fully immerse myself in this opportunity,” she said.
Xiao looks forward to becoming part of the Fellowship and expanding Kynplex so that more research ideas can become impactful products. To learn more about Kynplex, visit kynplex.com.
Images courtesy of Grace Xiao and Sarah Urbonas.