Our team is constantly on the lookout for new and emerging social networks in the country. While chancing upon a network for science buffs at YourStory, we had come across Function Space, a complete social learning network for science, with some fantastic features and an active community. Fascinated and curious, we reviewed the network and found it to be well catered to the scientifically inclined, and also open to user feedback.
The social science learning network that provides articles, video lectures, problem solving, discussions, and networking for academic as well as corporate research, was built with the intention to bridge the gap between academic curriculum and skill based requirements of the workplace.
Feeding our curiosity further, we connected with the network’s founders to know about its origins and the idea behind setting up a social learning network for science. Apparently, the founding team is made up of 3 individuals who have always been passionate about learning and discussing science.
The idea and the right team
Founder Adit Gupta (left in image above), listed among India’s top 30 web designers with an authorship claim to three international research papers, could not find a suitable platform where like-minded people could come together and discuss science. Founder Sakshi Majmudar, a computer Science graduate working in IT, also found the lack of a science discussion platform. Together they decided to build one of their own, leading to the foundation of Function Space (FS) back in December 2012.
While Adit looks after the programming, product development and designing aspects at FS, Sakshi is responsible for the technical aspects. The duo have been joined by Sumit Maniyar, a B.Tech from IIT Bombay who also holds a charter from the CFA Institute, USA and was previously into investment banking. Sumit is responsible for product strategy, business development and marketing at FS.
Early evolution and finding users
Beginning with basic origins as an education portal focused on math, physics and computer science, Function Space has evolved into a complete social learning network for science, over the time. Adit says the network hasn’t changed in the process of evolution. Function Space has only evolved to accommodate all levels of scientific knowledge and sharing.
“We always wanted to create a ‘one-stop’ solution for learning science for everyone. Such a massive scale learning is possible only through a social learning network where different levels of knowledge can co-exist and cooperate each other, “ says Adit on the gradual transition from a portal to a complete social network.
The network attracts many science enthusiasts from students to professors and even professionals from the corporate world. Today FS members constitute students, professors and scientists from MIT, Stanford, Princeton, Caltech, Cornell, Berkeley, UCLA, IITs, IISc, and various other prestigious universities from over 190 countries across the world. Function Space is also popular with professionals at GE, Google, Yahoo, Twilio, Raytheon, Microsoft and many more.
“Nearly 50% of the users are based out of US, followed by India, UK, Canada and Germany,” Adit informs.
Interestingly, Function Space has reached out to the right users mainly through organic means. So far, the network has grown by word of mouth and some basic evangelism, apart from “a lot of traffic from search engines like Google and Bing, “ he shares.
Besides, FS has conducted some offline activities like challenges competition at IIT Bombay which was a huge success. Over 600 students from IIT Bombay took part in the competition.
Content management and challenges
As in any social network, managing the content within it, is also a crucial aspect when it is to do with science and accuracy. For this, FS has students who are pursuing their higher studies from IITs, IISc, Cornell and MIT as subject matter experts who verify and edit the content. These guys work voluntarily. Besides, in the Learn section where one can find a resource of articles, lectures, book reviews and solved articles, you can only publish if you have strong credentials in the related subject.
Function Space looks at user feedback critically for its growth and vision, but getting user feedback is one of the network’s biggest challenges. As Function Space asks for bare minimum details from its users, the network’s ability to predict likes and dislikes of its users is limited.
“To overcome this problem we’re using customized data analytics tools, feedback tools and offline meetings with our power users, “ he shares on the network’s challenges in getting user feedback.
Funding and the future
Within a year, FS raised seed investment to fuel further growth. Funding came about smoothly for the network; a couple of investors were interested in Function Space. The network was also selected for the next round by 10,000 start ups and web-summit (amongst top 10 startups in India at WS). Eventually, FS raised seed investment from a well-known VC in last December, the proceeds of which will be invested into scaling and improved user experience.
“Proceeds from the fund raising will be used to scale the network and develop new features to improve user experience, “ Adit shares on the plans to use the funds.
So, where is Function Space headed, given the success of the network on all fronts? “We would like to attract and engage power users on our site. Enhance user experience by adding features especially designed for Science.”
“We’ll have features suitable for everyone – from passionate learner to an enthusiast. Our vision is to become a ‘one-stop’ solution for learning science, “ Adit concludes.