Startup gets its start at Vernon Area Public Library

Submitted by the Vernon Area Public Library
Posted1/5/2017 10:15 AM

When staff at Vernon Area Public Library received a Facebook notification that a business called Project Credo had just checked in at the library, they initiated a brief exchange.

The back-and-forth messaging confirmed what library staff has long observed: New ventures are born in the public space. Lending books and other media remains the mainstay of the library, but reliable resources, small group meeting spaces, Wi-Fi, a media lab and a copy center make it an ideal environment for entrepreneurs like Project Credo co-founder Brian Kung.

Kung moved to Lincolnshire as a child in the mid-1990s and promptly became a "proud library cardholder" at the Vernon Area Public Library. Growing up, he'd walk or bike to the library, borrowing science fiction and, later, business books and technical manuscripts.

After graduating from Adlai E. Stevenson High School, he studied at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, earning his undergraduate degree in 2011.

Today, Kung is back in Lincolnshire, where he and Will Fan, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Northwestern University, have launched Project Credo, an online tool that makes scientific research accessible and collaborative. The venture, found at, is a searchable, open repository of crowdsourced papers and commentary, a site where the general public and academics alike can cut through dense scientific research on a variety of subjects.

Subjects, or "lists," currently posted at Project Credo include exercise and depression, cellphones and brain cancer, and online education vs. traditional classroom education. Under each subject, research papers are posted along with comments from users.

Kung and Fan met socially several years ago and began talking about an idea that appealed to them both: the democratization of science, or how to make good research easy to find and more useful to the public. They kept in communication and eventually launched Project Credo with the mission of helping a wide audience access published research on important topics.

The two entrepreneurs began meeting at Vernon Area Public Library in June 2016. For several hours each week since then, the pair have shared a table in the library's public space or booked a study room to write the code that now powers their website.

Kung would point out to newcomer Fan all that the library offers, including premium electronic resources, whiteboards in small meeting rooms and, "above all, top-notch staff willing to help with anything."

Kung's business-minded use of the library has not eclipsed his other interests in the public facility. He is a fan of the library's electronic resources, especially Mango Languages, which he has used to study Cantonese and Korean, as well as its shelves of magazines and newspapers in the world's most widely spoken languages.

When he needs to scan documents, "the library's copy center is the fastest place to get it done," Kung said.

He also pays it forward, bringing his niece and nephew to the library to experience all that it offers children and teens.

As a bootstrap startup, Kung and Fan are figuring out the path forward for Project Credo -- how to fund the project, attract new users and improve site functionality. On any given day, visitors to the library might spot them, or other entrepreneurs, making progress on the next big thing.