Experiments-outsourcing marketplace Science Exchange has raised $1.5 million in funding from a who's who of Silicon Valley investors, just months after the start-up graduated from the illustrious Y Combinator incubator program.
Co-founded by two New Zealand-born Australian citizens, Elizabeth Iorns and Dan Knox, the website streamlines the research process by allowing experiments to be outsourced to qualified service providers across a range of institutions.
Launched in mid August, there are over 400 experiment types, and it has signed up over 1000 providers, Iorns said, including Stanford School of Medicine, Yale, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The site aims to democratise access to resources that might otherwise be prohibitively expensive and time consuming, Iorns said in a release. It manages the proposal process, project management and administration, including billing and payment.
Earlier this year, the start-up emerged from the highly competitive Y Combinator incubator program, which recently accepted another Aussie start-up: 99dresses. The Science Exchange model has since been validated by a recently closed $1.5 million round of seed funding, which includes some of the Valley's biggest investors, including Andreessen Horowitz (Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz) and Yuri Milner (Russian billionaire, founder DST Global an investor in Facebook, Zynga and Groupon).
Knox said that the site broadens the network of researchers.
"As the research world becomes smaller, we give researchers the ability to access specialised expertise and equipment on a global scale," he said.
"Rather than relying on local personal networks to establish collaborations, we're hoping scientists will increasingly use Science Exchange to connect with other researchers in order to conduct cutting-edge research, improving the overall efficiency of scientific research."
Knox said that the company is in discussions with the NSW Office of the Chief Scientist about listing some of the research facilities in NSW as providers on Science Exchange.
"As Antipodeans, [that] is pretty exciting for us."
The company has developed a lucrative business model for a real-world problem: inefficiencies in research. There will always be funding for research, which ensures ongoing and increasing revenue. It's secured some very powerful investors that will open doors to research institutions around the world.
The site needs a regular flow of experiments to keep providers engaged and build credibility with researchers. It's also all about building trust.
While it will probably start with low-level work, there's the possibility to move higher up the chain as the site becomes more popular and reliable. It could be quite lucrative for institutions around the world to build global relationships.
The site needs to conduct very thorough qualification of experiment providers, as one bad result could sink the site. However, considering Iorns is herself a researcher and holds a PhD, I would expect that this is being accounted for.
This is a very good idea that could have only been conceived by a researcher who has lived through the problems in the system. Y Combinator was the best possible start for it, and the start-up has capitalised on this with the seed round. It appears to have a very significant first mover advantage, and there is very little doubt that they could succeed from here.