Creating a site similar to Angel List

Hi everyone, I am working on a site with similar functionality to Angel List. Its for a forum that we do every year in the Middle East. Basically when the forum is over we want people to be able to have a place to connect but without being too onerous.

Most of the features I can replicate without much trouble but what I want is that each lecturer is able to set up a page with their research. This can be done through groups I imagine but we run into trouble because we want to make the site more follow oriented than friend oriented.

So my biggest issue now lets say I have a researcher called Jane, Jane is collaborating on a paper with Dan. Right now Jane follows Dan's profile. When Jane adds her research paper using the group functionality she is the admin but she can't add Dan as a moderator or in this case co-researcher without befriending him. We removed all the friending buttons though so how can this be achieved?

I would love some advice and it would be great to have a plugin that replicates some of the features of Angel List because I think they nailed the idea of creating a social network that isn't so onerous in terms of making people followers of eachother and startups rather than friends.

Thanks for the help.