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selling ads and other marketing products to the life sciences companies. If a search finds an article that, say, covers research involving a high-powered microscope, microscope manufacturers are willing to pay a premium to display their ads to that researcher, and pay for lists of potential customers from Pubget’s search data. But the company doesn’t reveal data on individual users and their searches, Jones says.
Arnaout, who serves as CEO of Pubget and remains a practicing physician, filled me in on the journey he took to found the startup. Actually, he tells me, the journey didn’t begin with a business venture in mind. It was prompted by the fact that he couldn’t load the search app he developed for his Mac onto his colleagues’ PCs. He eventually sought some advice from his friend, Sami Shalabi, a former MIT classmate. Shalabi—who has worked for Google since the Internet giant acquired his mobile technology startup Zingku in 2007—advised Arnaout to consult Ian Connor, who was then a software developer for IBM. Connor, who is now chief technology officer of Pubget, assessed the problem and told Arnaout that he solution was to make the search technology Web-based rather than developing client software.
Connor also couldn’t understand how scientists could tolerate such cumbersome searches for science documents. “[Connor] said that if this were computer science this problem it would have been solved 20 years ago,” Arnaout says.
Connor and Arnaout spent lots of late nights and weekends for the better part of a year to develop a prototype of the search engine. Connor eventually left his job at IBM to dedicate himself to Pubget. Jones later joined Pubget via Microsoft’s enterprise search group. The startup is angel-funded by doctors and wealthy individuals.
Pubget’s stated mission is to save scientists time so they can find cures for diseases. Arnaout, who has a PhD in mathematical biology from Oxford University, says he did a calculation and determined that a faster search tool for scientific journal articles could save researchers worldwide about a half a billion minutes per year. “You can check my math,” Arnaout says, “but that’s like a small research team working full time since [the birth of] Christ.”