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Why I left my PhD at Cambridge to start Rinocloud

I left my PhD and set up Rinocloud

I worked hard to get into Cambridge to do my PhD. I became a EU Marie Curie Fellow of Physics, was assigned two of the top scientists in the world in Semiconductors as supervisors. I got to work in the Cavendish lab. My peers were some of the best researchers in the world in their field.

So why did I leave?

I love science: The investigation; the analysis. I enjoy the carrying out of experiments; watching the data being generated; the anticipation of what I might find. But data management is a pain:

  • The corralling of the data after it is generated;
  • The busy unproductive work of preparing it and getting it organised for analysis;
  • The code hacking needed to configure lab information systems and integrate instruments;
  • The cutting and pasting of long laborious files into generic storage systems;
  • The inefficient sharing of data via files, memory sticks and email;
  • And the dreaded search for data.

The straw that broke the camel’s back

A colleague working on another project left and my team were asked to take over his research. It took us 6 weeks to figure out where his data was and what it contained. The data management was so bad that we could not verify his results and the project could not continue.

I checked to see if there was system out there that would organise my data for me, and plug into all the different programs I use. I couldn’t find anything. If I had these problems I figured researchers the world over were experiencing the same. After a lot of research on the market, I dropped out and am now doing a start up building a SaaS solution for every day scientific data management.

Our team – all scientists and programmers - have built and rolled out an MVP/prototype that deals with many of the issues we live with as researchers.

It looks like we’ve hit a chord.

Friends and colleagues in some of the top research universities in the world have encouraged us to build and keep building the product. Many are using and testing in closed beta. More have signed up to be rolled out as testers. We have a rigorous feedback loop. The discipline needed now from us is to make sure we keep to a well defined roadmap because we’re getting so many suggestions for improvements and new features to solve the myriad of everyday data management problems researchers are experiencing.

So, the problems we’re solving are resonating. Hence the big opportunity to build a business.

I’m happy to talk to anyone about data, science, starting a business and share war stories and insights. We’re accelerating releases of beta versions now and have plugins for Python, Matlab and Labview. Data being poured into the Rinocloud hub has full metadata and we have a clever search facility. Rolling out are auto plotting of data, an electronic notebook and a whole raft of collaboration features. Take a look. Sign up. We’re looking for feedback!

Eoin is a founder of Rinocloud. He’s worked in Tyndall and Cambridge labs. He’s a physicist and programmer. He’s generated a lot of data so far in his life.