Bootstrapping a Biotech Start-Up


In a matter of months kbDNA has gone from being a niche creative solution to a growing business. We find it equally surprising when others express this as an exciting achievement. It ultimately means nothing. Bio-research or "life sciences" is one of the most challenging industries for establishing a new business. Especially when you are committed to self funding or "bootstrapping" the start-up process. Our stubborn belief in validating proof-of-concept and organic growth first before considering investors-has been both painful and rewarding (mostly painful). Office and lab space are not affordable regardless what deal you find, software/service subscriptions add up very quick and federal labor regulation is just the icing on a tight budget. Let me just clarify that seed funding makes total sense. Not the exaggerated silicon valley type, but genuine, conservative start-up funding can be the right move for the right venture. kbDNA is a rare case biotech that has potential for the "garage start-up". While funds are mostly focused on developing our synthesis platform-we've relied on the following methods to sustain the business development end:

  • Google suite, Google suite, Google suite! talk about saving on software. Not only did Gsuite bundle provide our domain emails and Google voice as interm company phone line, it also came with competitive apps that we would've been extra cost through other services. Google docs came with great add-ons like lucid charts, sci.AI and molview which helped develop scientific flowcharts, apply biochemical equations and build 3D molecular structures. For a company without a website yet, these tools were essential in presenting content to our audience. 
  • Virtual office. By far the most painful yet strategic resource. I probably put 100,000 miles on my car driving back and forth to pick up packages and mail, but it was worth the fraction cost of actual rent. Be careful who you do this with!
  • Co-work lab memberships, incubator spaces, hassling your Alma mater for weekend usage. We had to endure it all. It costs > $500,000 for your own lab. Does seed funding make sense yet?
  • Supplier agreements. Reagents and supplies are big expenses. Can't afford them? Decide on a supplier to marry and find them customers. Refer enough to them and you might gain enough leverage to ask for the discounted yourself (Just don't stop bringing them customers!
  • Freelancers are heroes without capes. My partner, We were on the brink of total burnout until we nailed our first two projects. The fact that we celebrated by sleeping told us one thing. We needed help. Next day, we went through enough dry erase markers to decide what tasks could be contracted and what qualities were essential to each task. After a few candidates on freelance sites; our productivity and health improved 10-fold.

Fortunately we now have our own office and lab space, pay for a real business phone service, Incorporated subscriptions/software automation to support operations.. AND we hired one of our freelancers! Meanwhile we've established two key partnerships that will provide industry expertise and enhance the capacity of our platform services. The big challenge now is developing our novel vision of kbDNA.com. We have been interviewing freelance teams and companies to build it. A key advantage to our Boston location is the strong presence of academia, so we are also considering institutes that have teacher-student programs to meet this demand at a more competitive cost. One thing is for sure is that the holding page has got to go!