Governments around the world have been asking leading research publishers for information on COVID-19 that will help find a cure.
But despite the proliferation of mobile devices, virtual reality and securing patient records, the healthcare- and the pharmaceutical-research industry is still behind in being able to search for current studies and trials being conducted around the world.
Enter Quartolio, a software company that transforms research and development documents into data points. Founder and CEO Nicole Bishop told Moguldom that “around 2.5 million scientific articles are published each year, and researchers only read 0.01 percent of that research.”
Quartolio focuses on research in biotech, biopharma and R&D. “If we knew the research that is already out there, we could create cures and treatments more efficiently,” Bishop said. “Without Quartolio, it’s impossible to access all of this information.”
Bishop said that Quartolio is in a position to positively impact the world. “With the coronavirus, this is something we can rapidly help with in the form of analyzing the research,” she said. “We have gone ahead and taken that mantle. Not only can we help with the research, but we can help with drug discovery and a lot of other things.”
The company is working on a new product to help connect researchers and doctors with the work being done during the global coronavirus pandemic.
Quartolio takes care of analyzing all the millions of scientific documents that are published each year and every single day and finds insights that are unbiased.Nicole Bishop, founder and CEO of software company Quartolio, which transforms R&D documents into data points.
The importance of this work has attracted investments from venture capital firms SOSV and Camelback Ventures. Together they have invested around $290,000 in Quartolio and its all-women team.
Bishop shared with Moguldom why she started the company, the challenges she has faced and the one piece of advice she would give new founders.
Moguldom: Why did you start Quartolio?
Nicole Bishop: I have always been interested in science and technology, but I ended up going to school for sociology. Along the way, I ended up getting into tech by taking computers apart and then found my way into the software world. Over the years I learned the importance of utilizing technology in a way that we can make gains in AI. I realized it wasn’t being utilized in the same way, when it came to science and research. As someone who was misdiagnosed for years to later discover I had Lyme disease, I understand what it is like to encounter a knowledgeable medical professional.
After meeting a doctor who had done exclusive research on the cause of my medical issues, it changed my life. So, I decided to focus the company on the R&D, biotech and biopharma industries.Nicole Bishop, founder and CEO of software company Quartolio, which transforms R&D documents into data points.
In doing so, I found out around 2.5 million scientific articles are published each year, and researchers only read 0.01 percent of that research. If we knew the research that is already out there, we could create cures and treatments more efficiently. Without Quartolio, it’s impossible to access all of this information. Even if we gathered all the world’s researchers and asked them all to read every single paper and every single document that exists in scientific data, it would be impossible for them to accomplish that, let alone continue their research.
Essentially, we do the heavy lifting for them via AI. Quartolio takes care of analyzing all the millions of scientific documents that are published each year and every single day and finds insights that are unbiased to present to the researcher. I worked (before) in applying technologies within the university library system by digitizing content. I understand what is needed to have to manually tag information. There are a lot of limitations that come with manually tagging information, whether it’s my knowledge or different biases I may have, and how I decide I’m going to tag information. I wanted to remove that bias, remove the barriers of our inability to read everything, and essentially put that together with AI so we can essentially gather those insights and push innovation forward.
Moguldom: How does the platform work?
Nicole Bishop: I thought about the way that people look for information and sort of flipped it on its head. Quartolio takes in documents, analyzes them and picks out the important key topics. It’s constantly analyzing data and then populating insights and introduces new information to you based on your suggestions and searches. The more researchers engage with the platform, the more it becomes intelligent about you and customizes your experience.
We first began with over 100 million open-access articles publicly available along with clinical trials and patents. That information is there for any researcher to tap into. But we also have an IO aspect of the platform. It essentially allows you to tap into any specific body of knowledge by adding your research to the platform in a private capacity. So, if an R&D lab at MIT wanted to tap into all the connections across the world of research, they can upload their research in a private server. This will allow them to still tap into the insights plus Quartolio’s and essentially, even connecting the same organization with locations around the world.
There are research organizations that have 6,000 to 10,000 scientists working around the world and have no real connections to what their other co-workers are working on as well. Quartolio looks at the internal team but also shows the internal team what else is being researched in the world.
Moguldom: How do you build your team?
Nicole Bishop: We’re a small team of all women right now, but we will be growing this year. I participated in a few accelerators since launching. One of the first accelerators that we were in was at the NYU Steinhardt Education School. I met one of my team members through that event. We had a bit of a three-month dating period to see if she would be a good fit. The problem we’re solving is fairly complex and I wanted to make sure she understood what our goals were, and it’s been great to have My Nguyen on the team.
Ashley Bishop, our other team member, has spent years in both pharma and healthcare. Those are some of the core areas we focus on, so she makes a great liaison to that world. But overall and as we go forward, we welcome the Swiss Army knives of team members. We are all cross-disciplinary and have an alignment with that core philosophy of the company.
Moguldom: Have you raised any capital for Quartolio? If so, how much?
Nicole Bishop: Yes, we have an investment from SOSV. They only invest in startups that can impact a billion lives and essentially get to a billion dollars. They invested $250,000. We also have an investment from Camelback Ventures of $40,000. We are looking to start and close another round of funding in the future.
I applied to a six-day boot camp program with MIT in Seoul, South Korea. The entire week, I slept six hours. I learned that I could sleep while standing up and with my eyes open. I am not encouraging that, but I can do pretty much anything with one hour of sleep now.Nicole Bishop, founder and CEO of software company Quartolio, which transforms R&D documents into data points.
Moguldom: Have you found being a Black woman founder a challenge in this space?
Nicole Bishop: Being a Black woman in tech is challenging. When you get into AI and biotech you are very much a unicorn and there are challenges. I’ve been in tech for 20 years and will often be the only Black person, and certainly the only Black woman in the room. There’s a lot of second-guessing that can happen as to my ability and knowledge. I will get asked by an investor, “Who built the technology?” Even with them knowing that I have 20 years of technical experience and I am the only the founder, and likely the person behind all the tech. I’d say primarily the challenges are around the second-guessing and people questioning if it even works.
Moguldom: What have been other challenges for you since starting and scaling your business?
Nicole Bishop: I spent 20 years working with different Fortune 500 companies and startups helping them grow. When I decided I’d like to go out on my own, I applied to a six-day boot camp program with MIT in Seoul, South Korea. The entire week, I slept six hours. I learned that I could sleep while standing up and with my eyes open. It was an incredibly tough program, being one of 75 applicants out of thousands to get selected. I had spent some time in Asia prior but had not been to South Korea before the boot camp.
In the space of that week, you have to essentially put together a company. At the end of that week, someone has to be the CEO and present it. I took that on the CEO role, and it was extremely challenging. It pretty much broke me in such a way that now I am prepared for anything. We’ve been through a couple of accelerators, but it was honestly nothing compared to that one. Not to say that the other accelerators weren’t tough because they were very tough. We were in three accelerators at one time too which was pretty insane. But that one experience with MIT pretty much set me up to know how much work I can do with just one hour of sleep. I am not encouraging that, but I can do pretty much anything with one hour of sleep now.
Moguldom: What have been some of the notable wins for Quartolio, besides knowing that you can sleep standing up or work on an hour of sleep?
Nicole Bishop: Creating great relationships with folks in the scientific community has been a win. One of those organizations is NASA. It was a great win and experience to have them invite me to come and be part of a program there to mentor young entrepreneurs. It’s been a really great experience. The feedback we’ve had thus far on what we’re doing with Quartolio has been great, not something that we can get into much detail about right now, but certainly just sort of hearing the feedback from all the folks at NASA saying that this is very necessary what we’re doing. That was a very huge win. But I’m very invested in being a mentor to young entrepreneurs and have enjoyed that experience.
Moguldom: Is there one piece of advice that you would give to an entrepreneur just launching their company?
Nicole Bishop: I would say “embrace the pivot.” It’s a mantra that I came to via the accelerators. It takes some time to make sure you have the right idea. Start speaking to customers and learn your market. The idea you started with may have to change based on the customers and the market. At every stage of our company, I obtained knowledge and I embraced the pivot. Not just jumping all over the place, but embraced being informed by who I want to be our customer.
That’s why we got to a space to get to be invited to somewhere like NASA and get the comments that we needed. If I had gone to them with the first version of Quartolio, we may not have gotten connected with them or any of our current relationships. It’s a constant learning process. Embrace the pivot from a very informed space and not just jump all over.
Moguldom: Where do you see your company in the next five years?
Nicole Bishop: We are centered around passionately and positively impacting the world. When you look at what’s going on right now in the world with the coronavirus, this is something we can rapidly help with in the form of analyzing the research. We have gone ahead and taken that mantle. Not only can we help with the research, but we can help with drug discovery and a lot of other things.
We have a product coming out that is going to be open to everyone that’s working on COVID-19. We’ve done a lot of analytics and insights around what’s happening in each part of the world from research to clinical trials. This product is an example of what it is that we want and aim to do.Nicole Bishop, founder and CEO of software company Quartolio, which transforms R&D documents into data points.
We made a lot of great progress in and around cancer research and accelerating drug discovery. So, when we talk about the next five years, certainly we’re looking to have increased revenue, but we want to look at how much impact we’ve made — how much faster we were able to help folks solve a problem, and be able to help with what’s happening with COVID-19 right now.
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