Here is the full transcript of an interview I did with Fahd Butt of the startup company Thinkpanda.com:
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m the co-founder of a web startup called Thinkpanda which is in the academia/research space. As the Chief Thinker Officer my role is to think about where the product needs to go and then work on implementing that vision. I do both front and back-end development. I’m a recent alumni of the University of Waterloo (Systems Design Engineering 2008).
We met at a recent University of Waterloo event and from what I remember, Thinkpanda is a search tool for research. Is this correct? Maybe you can explain more.
When we say Thinkpanda is a “tool for research”, there is a common misperception that research = search. But you can think of it as Research with a capital R – the entire workflow that someone actively doing research goes through: idea generation and brainstorming, acquiring funding, collaborating with a team, managing knowledge and people, searching for information, publishing etc. These are all facets of doing research. Our vision is to provide this platform where research tools across the workflow and across various domains (arts, sciences, maths, engineering etc) will be built by us and other developers. In a way, we aim to be the swiss-army knife for academics and researchers. But we’re finding its a great tool for general collaboration and idea incubation for any team – like our own startup!
So, Thinkpanda is really a collaborative Research tool? Is it meant to be used by people working on the same project? Or is it research that is shareable like the Creative Commons concept?
Correct. We have this concept of a “Project” which you create on Thinkpanda and can be made accessible to the world or just to a private group of people (or just yourself). So if you have any World Domination Plans you might want to keep that private. But you can keep it public if you want input from anyone on the Thinkpanda community on your project about existing alternative energy technology.
Are there any examples you can give on people or companies using Thinkpanda successfully?
We currently have several undergrad and grad students using Thinkpanda from universities within Southern Ontario. There are a couple of startups that have started to use Thinkpanda for researching their competitors, market and resources for their development. There’s also this team that is organizing a new conference trying out our platform.
Some unexpected use-cases have been: a book club that is reading the novel “War and Peace”, an active discussion around TED Talks, and keeping notes and sharing thoughts about a conference (where more than 140 characters are needed!)
What are your future plans with Thinkpanda? Where do you see things going?
We want the cure for cancer to be found using Thinkpanda. That’s an audacious goal but one worth having and helping guide us forward. At the moment Thinkpanda is great for the earlier part of the research workflow: discussions, web search, sharing links and documents and connecting with people. Moving forward we’re going to build tools to help manage your citations, project tasks, and a way to access quality research journals seamlessly. And eventually: to build an API that lets anyone build their own applications within Thinkpanda – tools that could do amazing things in a collaborative way in the cloud.
We really hope that universities, research institutions and even people working on projects in the industry start using Thinkpanda as part of their everyday workflow. The more diverse areas of experts on Thinkpanda, the more beneficial it will be, bringing together ideas and thoughts from different domains that might help solve problems in ways never imagined before.
Its really the innovative thoughts and ideas that people have that make the world move forward, and our aim is to make it easier, faster and seamless for these thoughts to be shared and collaborated upon. Hence our mission at Thinkpanda: to make the world a better place, one thought at a time.
The site is live right now and there are limited free Pro accounts available: sign up now to become a Thinker at www.thinkpanda.com!