In the midst of Manhattan and Kansas State University continually being recognized as major research players for agriculture, a software company named Piestar sprouted in 2014 to monitor, evaluate, and report the needs of research programs.
In 2016, funding agencies invested over $135 billion in global development projects. Piestar believes “the issue is that many, maybe most funding agencies, are unable to accurately account for results and most research program team members (especially those in the fields) don’t have the tools they need to track data, record results, and appropriately report.”
“At Piestar, our software allows our users to ask the right questions, to the right people, at the right time,” CEO Ben Claar said.
Piestar was co-founded by Ben Claar and Aaron Schroeder in 2014, with assistance from OEIE( Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation) and Kansas State University Institute for Commercialization, after realizing that there is a better way to manage databases for research projects. After a tech transfer from OEIE to Piestar later in 2014, Claar and Schroeder grew the company into what it is known as today.
Piestar is a cloud platform providing collaborative research project management systems specializing in effective monitoring, evaluation, and reporting of impact data.
This platform created by Piestar is designed to support federal and state grant-funded research programs and currently serves and supports over 200 projects for USAID, USDA, and NSF research programs in over 60 countries.
“We understand our clients’ needs, their funding limitations, their resource limitations, and the impact and importance of their research and work,” Vice President Ben Kohl said. “We also have a system that is tailored and customized for USAID Feed the Future Innovation Labs, USDA-NIFA research programs, and National Science Foundation EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) jurisdictions.”
The uniqueness of Piestar lies within its customization. “We don’t expect our clients to fit into our software, we expect to customize it fully for what they need,” said Claar. “There isn’t a direct competitor that exists, who does what we do and how we do it.”
Piestar DPx is designed for the purposes of collecting & visualizing data, managing projects, monitoring progress, evaluating impact, and reporting results.
Piestar RFx is designed for requesting, collecting, reviewing, rating, and selecting applications.
Managing Research Programs the Right Way
Kohl noted that “dependable and reliable software takes a long time to develop and home-grown software development almost always fails or is almost never able to capture the full scope of work for research programs.”
Experienced and knowledgeable software development teams are rare, and are typically not found outside the Information Technology industry. “In-house (home-grown) software development and/or information technology teams don’t have the experience, time, and resources to dedicate to one data/project management system for a research program.”
Even the federal government promotes third-party software as a service (SaaS) and cloud-based systems.
Kohl said, “we know that single-use systems don’t work, or at least don’t work for several research programs with similar objectives as well as compliance rules, regulations, and procedures.”
Piestar is able to make continual improvements to the system for the overall benefit of many research programs, while also meeting the specific needs of each research program and project with configurable modules and reports.
The team at Piestar stands on, “this model is proving to be more cost efficient for our clients, especially when they consider the time and resources they are saving by not continuing to invest in a home-grown system that is only as good as the dedication of in-house IT personnel who are the least busy.”
Piestar is headquartered and was started in Manhattan because of the relationship and existing research projects with OEIE. “We love where we live and our entire team are K-State alumni. Logistically, we’re in a beautiful location having easy access to the East and West coast at the same distance,” Claar said.
“Our partnerships with our local university and others across the United States fit into that as well. The ten year goal is to have created such deep and trusted relationships with these partners in higher education and that Piestar is so strong that it is known as the only option to use for research management software,” said Ben Claar.
Piestar is currently expanding their team, and hiring part time developers.
Ben Claar is the CEO of Piestar, Aaron Schroeder is President, and Piestar is co-owned by the Kansas State University Research Foundation.