Prolific, a UK-based startup seeking to simplify online searches, has raised $ 1.2 million in seed capital.
The round is jointly managed by the Pioneer Fund from Silicon Valley and Altair Capital. With the support of various angel investors from the Bay Area. Prolific is a graduate of Y Combinator and was introduced to the YC Demo Day last summer.
Prolific was founded in 2014 by Ekaterina Damer and Phelim Bradley, Ph.D. students from the Universities of Sheffield and Oxford, recruiting and paying for research associates and conducting so-called "ethical and trustworthy" research. The idea arose out of Damer's own disappointment over the existing options, including Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), as she researched for her own promotion.
"I was struggling to attract participants for my research," she tells TechCrunch. "None of the available tools was convenient because they were either opaque, expensive, or very slow! By "obscure" I mean: It was not clear who the participants were, how they were treated and whether the data quality would be good! I saw Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk) as the most widely used tool for academic research, but there were only US and Indian participants and a marked lack of Europeans. "
This prompted her and Bradley to create Prolific as a better alternative to MTurk, and it was not long before other colleagues in Sheffield and Oxford took advantage of the product. Only a year later, Prolific was used by researchers worldwide, including researchers from Stanford, Oxford, Yale and UPenn.
Companies around the world! & # 39; says Damer.
Prolific also counts the World Bank and several Fortune 500 companies among its clients, claiming to reach a network of over 70,000 active researchers with diverse backgrounds.
The problem is that behavioral science on the internet is not working, "explains Damer. "It's difficult and slow to find participants, and the data you get from other platforms is often of low quality because the incentives are not matched or you're dealing with legacy platforms that do not use technology.
"Customers want subscribers and data they can trust, but they usually have to resort to platforms that offer people without commitment who sign up for pennies. Or they even collect data from scammers and people-backed bots. Researchers from science and industry are desperate for higher quality sampling solutions. "
To alleviate these problems, Prolific, Damer says, builds on research technologies that make personal research" more effective and efficient "than existing solutions. to pre-select the right target group, to automate the subscriber payments. The startup also uses a so-called proprietary user validation technology that uses statistical algorithms and machine learning to catch bots and bad actors, which, according to Damer, plagues many of the company's competitors.
or & # 39; worker & # 39;) because they view it as a commodity, "she adds. "This means that the participants are either disabled or trying to play the system. In contrast, we have incorporated many positive incentives into our platform. Participants can pre-qualify for studies so they are never randomly thrown out. We encourage and collect feedback in both directions. Researchers love the fact that they can talk directly to participants through our user interface when they have questions, feedback or concerns, and we ask for a minimum fee of $ 6.50 ($ 5) per hour. All this creates trust and positive cycles that drive our growth. "
Damer sums up Prolific's broader mission to" make more accessible data about people more accessible ". "We firmly believe that access to high-quality psychological data and behavioral data is the foundation of outstanding research and ultimately of advances in business, technology and society," she says. "The bigger vision is to build the most powerful and flexible infrastructure for research on the Internet." ,
Companies like CloudResearch and Positiv use the MTurk API, but Damer states that this has limitations because "great data and great research start with a great community," which MTurk may not do.
There are also well-established operations such as Nielsen, Dynata (formerly Research Now SSI), YouGov, Cint, IpsosMori, Qualtrics Panels and SurveyMonkey Audience, as well as newer players such as Attest and Respondent.io.