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Participating in Paid Research Made Easier with Xperii

Participating in Paid Research Made Easier with Xperii

When a Brown University student noticed Evan Ehrenberg, the youngest-ever doctoral student in the MIT cognitive neuroscience program, posting paper flyers in a hallway to recruit participants for a study he was conducting, there was evidently a major problem.

Starring at the tabs waiting to be torn off and forgotten about by those walking by, Xperii’s co-founder and CTO Cynthia Chen asked if there were any other methods being used to recruit study participants in a more efficient way? There weren’t. That’s when things went into overdrive—with Cynthia bringing on Boston College Carroll School (’16) business student Daniel Williams to assist in market due diligence and operational strategy that would later yield what is now Xperii.

Lessons Learned Along the Way

Startups are in a league of their own, subject to the whims of market pressures and elevated risks. Xperii’s journey thus far has taught many lessons, of which would require volumes to convey in entirety. But here are three of the “top” takeaways from starting a new business.

One, failure is good. Rather, failure is great! This sounds odd, suggesting that failing can ever be good. But failing is usually something we are all told to avoid; it simply is to be viewed as the opposite of succeeding. Startups are not exempt from failures (big or small) along the journey, in fact some of the most well-known successful startups of today have histories marked by repeated mishaps.

The key to failure is using it the right way. Use it as a teaching tool, taking the lessons from why the failure occurred and not just “that it did.” With a mentality that is open to and embraces failure, one better is able to extrapolate the implications and use it as a catalyst going forward rather than a hindrance to dwell upon.

Two, a team is the glue that holds the startup together. Getting the A+ players is the difference between a cohesive team and a dysfunctional one. Starting a venture teaches the importance of having the right people on the “bus” alongside you—those who chiefly understand the vision, want to succeed with you, and are passionate. And why might with be in italics? Because having those who are inclusive and genuinely want what’s best for the team accomplish more than those looking for personal gain at the expense of others’ success.

If the team is solid and gets along well everyone should be able to not only work effectively but also feel valued. If a stake in the game is not felt, employees and early advisors can’t be expected to deliver the passionate results that scale startups.

And third, know when to cut your losses. Often startups are known to raise mega-funding only to wind up a short time later with a zero-balance bank account, with little to nothing to show for it. As a new endeavor, it is important to realize that some level of trial-and-error will be necessary. If the exact path was already known beforehand for the venture, it wouldn’t be a startup any longer. Almost inherent to the startup definition is a risk level, the uncertainty of “is this going to work?” and “how do we get there?”

A major lesson many ought to understand is that the idea is often the “easy part” as billionaire investor Chris Sacca sometimes states. Going from an idea on a dinner napkin to a full execution is no easy feat; there isn’t a guidebook of steps to follow as there is in assembling that new desk from IKEA. But what there is is a willingness to experiment and figure out what works.

Where cutting losses enter the picture is when money has been spent on initiatives that have yielded negligible results after a certain period of time (which is something that must be set to have as a gauge on effectiveness over time). For instance, if you spend $X,000 on marketing over three months that leads to 0 new customers, few warm leads, and little social media traction, there is a great chance that your strategy is not working, nor will it. This is a sunk cost. Rather than pouring more money into a system that’s not working, stop that strategy and reassess. Startups can easily become the sinkhole of spending that can amass quickly if not monitored with the right metrics.

Set your metrics early and stick to them. Every dollar should be accounted for and traceable to an initiative that has both actionable and strategic outcomes that add value to your company.

Below is an interview with co-founder Daniel Williams.

When was Xperii founded?

We were founded in October 2015.

What is Xperii?

Xperii is a web platform that connects researchers with individuals who are interested in participating in their studies. We make it easy to find the studies you’re interested in near you or anywhere in the world by automatically filtering for only the ones you qualify for, and enabling the ability to filter by different features of the study.

Our website or mobile app integrates the entire process of applying to the study, communicating with the researcher, scheduling a time to visit, and even getting paid. Participants are able to make money flexibly, on their own schedule, and researchers can make meaningful discoveries that advance science, medicine, and even make your favorite products even better.

As we grow, we’re looking to expand this to help researchers handle every aspect of their studies, from recruitment, to data collection, to analysis, follow-up and more. We see Xperii as a centralized platform that will make research more efficient and more effective, making science get done better and faster.

Tell us about the founders.

Evan Ehrenberg, CEO of Xperii, skipped 6 grades, attending college at the age of 11, and becoming MIT’s youngest neuroscience graduate student in history when he started his Ph.D. in computational neuroscience at the age of 16 after graduating from UC Berkeley. One of Evan’s early college classmates had a son his age, who later went on to introduce Evan to Cynthia Chen. Now great friends, Cynthia and Evan have collaborated on scientific research for over 5 years, and it was during this time that Cynthia had the idea for Xperii in order to solve the problems they were facing recruiting subjects for their own research.

Cynthia is currently a Junior at Brown University concentrating in Computer Science, Mathematics, and Economics, and has conducted research at several top research universities and developed software that is being used in bioinformatics, theoretical mathematics, and computer vision labs across the nation.

Evan has dealt with the very problems our research customers face during the last 8 years of his research career in computational and cognitive neuroscience. From recruiting, scheduling, and paying study participants, to data collection, analysis, and participant follow-up, giving him the special ability to really sit down with our customers as a colleague rather than a salesman and go through each of their pain points to adapt Xperii to perfectly solve them.

Xperii Team

What problem is Xperii solving?

Xperii is solving problems for study participants as well as researchers. On the participant side, we’ve seen an NIH focus group study in 2011 that showed that many members of the general public were unfamiliar with clinical trials, and were unaware of opportunities for healthy individuals to participate in trials.

Another study found that 85 percent of cancer patients were unaware of clinical trial opportunities, but that 75 percent of them would have participated in a trial if they’d known of its existence. This is coupled with a research community where 34 percent of research studies fail to recruit even 75 percent of their target study pool, drastically hindering any statistical claims they can make with their research, as well as a medical community where clinical trial timelines for recruitment are often doubled, and 86 percent of trials have to extend their timelines because they can’t recruit subjects fast enough, costing the US clinical trial industry an estimated $8.6 billion annually and delaying the launch of life-saving medical treatments.

There’s a clear disconnect in the ability for individuals to learn about and sign up for research studies of all sorts, and for researchers to reach out to these study participants. Xperii connects these two parties in a simple platform that can be accessed through our website or our incoming mobile applications.

Since we have everyone in one place, we go beyond just making the connection and we help subjects apply to studies, communicate their questions to the researchers, send sensitive medical information securely, and we can even follow up with study participants directly through our mobile app to collect questionnaire or biometric data from smartphone or wearable sensors. This makes research studies convenient for the researcher and the participants, and it eliminates the tightest bottlenecks in running a behavioral or clinical study.

Kudos on the funding. Who are the investors?

We have backing from Founder.org, which is an amazing partner organization that provides funding, connections, education, and mentorship to startups that are solving the world’s most important problems across an intense year-long program followed with a permanent mentor-based partnership.

We then received a $50,000 investment from Sylvia and Roger Cox – Roger is a VP of Research at Gartner with world-renowned expertise in the data-storage industry and professional excellence in analyzing market trends. Now we’re in the process of raising a pre-seed round, and we’re eager to work with additional mentors in the health and clinical industry.

What makes Xperii unique among competitors?

Most of our competition in study recruitment are large traditional marketing firms that build custom marketing campaigns for each customer’s new study. They use print media, radio ads, and call centers that have been shown to be ineffective, and the custom nature of their campaigns means they are very expensive and take a long time to launch. These custom marketing campaigns are slow and redundant, making recruitment the leading cost and time driver for clinical trials. There are a few companies out there that are listing specialized studies specifically in clinical trials alone, helping users find trials and learn more about research, but after this connection is made it’s up to the researcher and the subject to work everything else out on their own.

These custom marketing campaigns are slow and redundant, making recruitment the leading cost and time driver for clinical trials. There are a few companies out there that are listing specialized studies specifically in clinical trials alone, helping users find trials and learn more about research, but after this connection is made it’s up to the researcher and the subject to work everything else out on their own.

These custom marketing campaigns are slow and redundant, making recruitment the leading cost and time driver for clinical trials. There are a few companies out there that are listing specialized studies specifically in clinical trials alone, helping users find trials and learn more about research, but after this connection is made it’s up to the researcher and the subject to work everything else out on their own.

Our automated process is markedly different from these traditional strategies. For our users, Xperii is the only software platform that allows anyone to find all sorts of research studies, from focus groups to academic research to clinical trials to product testing. You can work as a taste-tester, advance neuroscience research, give feedback on the latest consumer tech, or assist researchers with creating a remedy for Alzheimer’s.

Most importantly, we’re with you every step of the way. We don’t just list research studies, we help our users apply, communicate, schedule the study, complete follow-up surveys, and get paid, all through our platform. For researchers, we offer a fully automated research recruitment and management system that also facilitates collecting and analyzing data for the duration of their study, no matter how long it may be.

Xperii App for paid experiment

What are Xperii’s revenue streams?

Xperii’s research services are very modular, and we let our customers pick and choose which features they want to use and which they don’t, so they never over pay. We’re a risk-free platform, only charging researchers for participants they recruit through the platform that go through and complete their study.

Researchers have the ability to create custom screening methods, for which a fee is charged for each user that completes the screening. If a customer chooses to pay their study participants through our platform, we take a small cut of that payment from the researcher. For follow-up data collection using our platform, we charge the researcher based on the type and amount of data being collected.

We also put our users in control of their own data, and enable them to sell their results from standardized assessments or medical screens directly to the researcher, saving everyone time and money re-administering identical assessments, and take a small fee for using this marketplace to complete secure medical data transactions between our users and professional researchers. As we scale we anticipate creating anonymous aggregate data reports about rates of different conditions in different cities and using data mining to model trends and correlations in these anonymous data sets which will be invaluable to medical insurance, academic researchers, and consumer product companies.

Where do you see your Xperii, say a couple of years from now.

In the coming years we plan to offer a complete study recruitment and management SaaS platform to researchers and study participants in America’s largest cities, and will be preparing to expand our offering internationally. We’ll be partnering with the best organizations that are working to support individuals with rare conditions, and donating a significant portion of our profits directly back to them to fund patient treatment, outreach, and medical advancement.

Xperii is a software platform that reduces the inefficiency in subject recruitment by linking people with the research studies they are interested in through an automatic, streamlined process. The entire platform automatically handles many of the other bottlenecks in human research including detailed pre-study subject screening, subject scheduling, subject payment, subject assessment on a number of standardized tests, follow-up data collection, and subject monitoring, and secure data storage and analytics. Xperii serves researchers working in academia, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, focus groups, and product testing, and removes many of the tightest bottlenecks in the research process.

Watch the explainer video:

Image Credit: Pixabay

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