What’s Overleaf? Five years on from flunking our YC interview

Update: Thanks for all the comments about this post on HackerNews, and especially for all the kind words about Overleaf. One commenter suggested I could make more prominent the link to our recent announcement about ShareLaTeX joining Overleaf, so here it is 🙂


About five years ago John Lees-Miller and I had a trip to forget to San Francisco. We had made it through to the interview stage at YC with our collaborative writing platform, called WriteLaTeX.

TL;DR – Things didn’t go well in the interview, but we pressed on regardless and today have a successful, investor-backed business that now serves over two million users worldwide.

I promised to write Matthew Partridge of Errant Science a blog post, and it ended up being about the inception of WriteLaTeX (now Overleaf), with some hopefully useful advice for new founders just starting out. Here it is if you feel like reading more: https://clutter.errantscience.com/2017/07/31/reflecting-on-the-founding-growth-and-maturing-of-overleaf/ 

If you have similar / different stories of how you got started, feel free to post them in the comments here or on the blog post linked above. If you’re in London on the 25th September and are working in the science / research / publishing space, you should definitely come to our next #FuturePub event that evening.

We still have some speaking slots available if you fancy giving a lightning talk — just let me know 🙂

 

What it’s (really) like to raise investment

Almost exactly a year since we first walked through the doors into the Bethnal Green Ventures (BGV) accelerator programme we’ve now closed our first major investment round. It’s an amazing feeling to finally have everything signed and sealed, and it’s a great time for the team as we can now really push on with the next phase of our growth and development.

BGV asked if I’d sum up my thoughts on the investment process for their blog – and the article is now out: http://bethnalgreenventures.com/2014/08/01/what-its-like-to-raise-investment/

If you’re in a hurry, the TL;DR is “If you’ve not raised investment before, it will take longer than you think – be prepared for this by knowing people who have raised before.”

We won! Our startup was crowned Innovative Internet Business of 2014 at the Nominet Awards

Well that was a nice surprise! Last week Overleaf (the new collaborative scientific writing platform we’ve built following on from the success of writeLaTeX) was crowned the Innovative Internet Business of 2014 at the Nominet Internet awards!

overleaf5

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Does !TeX => bad maths?

Whilst browsing the writeLaTeX twitter feed the other day, I came across an interesting observation that the absence of TeX is a good indicator that a math paper has issues, highlighted by John Cook (@TeXtip) in this tweet:

In the original blog post on this (entitled ‘Ten Signs a Claimed Mathematical Breakthrough is Wrong’), this is only one of a number of points made, although it is the first, and is accompanied by the interesting statistic that:

“This simple test (suggested by Dave Bacon) already catches at least 60% of wrong mathematical breakthroughs.”

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My first set of WriteLaTeX how-to videos

London is certainly keeping me busy, so it’s a very short post today simply to help disseminate the three ‘how-to’ videos I’ve recently produced for writeLaTeX:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?list=PL0KP0KSTjc2Pr0wU46IW7z0-oUOtNDctO&showinfo=1]

If you’re using writeLaTeX and have any feedback, please let me know (@DrHammersley).

Google Docs for Science – a short introduction to WriteLaTeX

 

Most of the world’s technological and medical innovations began with a scientific paper — there are now over two million scientific papers published every year, and many more technical reports and presentations. As scientists, we spend a lot of time writing, reviewing and publishing these papers, and whilst the Internet has drastically improved how they’re published and distributed, writing (and collaborating) is still difficult. With WriteLaTeX we’re helping to change that.

WriteLaTeX is a real-time collaborative writing platform which lets you create, edit & share your scientific ideas easily online using LaTeX, a powerful tool for scientific publishing. My co-founder John Lees-Miller created writeLaTeX to address the problems we experienced ourselves when writing papers collaboratively, in particular in the fields of mathematics, physics and computer science. We both have backgrounds in mathematics so naturally used LaTeX but when working with co-authors in different countries and different disciplines, there was no easy solution – so John created one!

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A familiar sight on my first day in the BGV office

Ultra PRT Pod model at Nesta

First day in the office, and a familiar looking Pod is on display!

This is a scale model of a Heathrow Pod, the driverless taxi system I worked on for five years before founding writeLaTeX. There are twenty one of these running at Heathrow Airport, as part of the world’s first commercial PRT system — check them out if you’re ever at T5!

[youtube http://youtu.be/geshS2aguqs]

 

Joining Bethnal Green Ventures

July has always been a favourite month of mine — sunshine (occasionally), summer holidays (usually), and celebrations (it’s my birthday in a few weeks :-)).

This year July is bringing something new — a move to London and a place on the Bethnal Green Ventures accelerator programme.

logo-bgv

John Lees-Miller and I are the two founders of writeLaTeX, a free service that lets you collaborate in real-time on scientific papers and presentations, as part of a cloud-based approach to academic publishing. We’ve been developing writeLaTeX for a while now, and with its growing popularity we were looking for support and investment to take the idea further. A good friend of ours recommended the BGV programme, and we were delighted to be accepted as part of the 2013 summer cohort.

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