18 May 2021|Female Founder Spotlight, Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
After working in academia for most of her career, Ashmita Das found a problem — businesses couldn’t easily access the scientific skills they needed. She founded Kolabtree, a gig platform that connects a global network of scientific experts with businesses all over the world.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I worked for healthcare communications company Cactus Communications for several years. My first step into the academia space was as a manuscript editor, getting research papers ready to be published in peer reviewed journals. Over the years, I built up my background in academia and worked with researchers on marketing, publishing, thought leadership, product development and more.
I then co-founded Kolabtree, an on-demand marketplace that connect scientists and academics with businesses and other organisations — anyone that needs access to specialised or highly advanced skills.
Our freelancers offer a wide of services across 2,000+ subject areas, from data science and statistical analysis to product development and scientific writing.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
While at Cactus I was working on a product that required access to the skills of a natural language processing (NLP) expert. I reached out to some universities but had a lot of trouble finding someone with the right skill set.
This was the genesis of Kolabtree. I knew how much research was being produced and how much knowledge was available, but that it wasn’t easily accessible to a typical organisation.
How did you achieve awareness?
We knew a lot of organisations were on the hunt for experts, so we just needed to be visible to them. We worked hard on digital marketing; PR, SEO and our website content and blog to achieve this.
We also reached out personally to academics, universities and associations to encourage experts to sign up to offer services and had a lot of interest!
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
My employer Cactus invested in the company — Kolabtree first launched as a concept in 2016 and started growing as a business from 2017 onwards.
We ran a lot of market tests, worked hard to understand the personas and the specific use cases we were targeting and thought carefully about which industries our experts would be most valuable to.
Over the last few years, we’ve doubled in size every year! We now have more than 20,000 freelancers and 10,000 clients.
What are the key successes?
I love hearing the feedback we have from freelancers showing they are happy, enjoy working flexibly and are supporting interesting projects. The number of industries we’ve been able to serve has been a huge success, from biotechnology, medical devices and healthcare to cosmetics, machine learning and chemical engineering!
We’ve also seen some really fascinating projects, with results that could really make a difference.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
At first, there wasn’t much awareness of the gig economy, particularly for complex services, so encouraging businesses to take the first step and use a gig platform has been a challenge. However, we’ve worked hard to understand the specific needs of the industry to make sure we can meet them.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Our mission is to democratise science, making it affordable and available to all, to pave the way for better research and innovation. In the future, we want to make it even easier for businesses to access specialist talent for complex services, while making sure our freelancers are compensated appropriately, considering their high level of knowledge and expertise.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
If you find a problem out there, and it’s something you’re passionate about, just do it! The underlying passion can be very motivating and help keep you going through the highs and lows.
Can you share you top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
Go with your gut until you have data — and then use the data!
When you are just starting out, consider a lean way of working.
Be open — keep testing, building and evolving based on what you have learnt.
Getting the right team in place is critical, as well as getting them passionate about the problem you are solving together.
Give your team the tools they need to help the business grow.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
I’m inspired by a lot of scientists like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and Chris Hadfield the astronaut for the work they do bringing science to a wide audience. I’ve been following the team behind the NASA Perseverance Rover too.
We work with inspirational freelancers and business leaders. I can’t name them all but one example is Dr Hugo Lisboa, a food and materials scientist who turned to freelancing and is now fulfilling his passions, having already made a lasting impact on over 30 businesses.
A few years ago, Kolabtree supplied a freelancer to the inspirational David Yoskowitz, who identified a problem during his chemotherapy and invented a device that brings more comfort to chemotherapy patients.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
The one I use the most is simply, make it happen! But I also like, it’s impossible until it’s not.
What are your social handles and website links so our readers can connect with you?