There is no need to complicate things. ‘Startup’ is just a hipster word for a new small business that just got, well… started. It’s not rocket science. Unless, that is, you happen to be Elon Musk: founder of the SpaceX program. He builds rockets with the dream of commercializing space travel, and colonizing Mars. In the case of that startup, it most certainly is rocket science.
In every way, that is a very different affair from the typical entrepreneurial effort to manufacture and sell the next iPhone charging case on Kickstarter. Science projects turned startups, have a few more pages in the business plan. Here are a few things you will need to consider before launching your scientific research startup:
Scientific research is not for the faint of heart, or the weak of stomach. The periodic table can be a dangerous and messy affair. You don’t just use the same storage facility that houses your cross-country skis. You’ve got to do better, a lot better.
For secure biological storage service, you are going to have to consider things like:
1. cGMP-compliant storage at any temperature (+4, -20, -40, -80, LN2, etc.), with any platform, in any configuration.
2. Temporary Storage Solutions
3. Storage to the single-box level
4. Redundancy: Environmental control, security, back-up freezers, power, LN2, climatized systems
These are not minor considerations, nor are they all that you have to think about. You also have to have routine refrigerator maintenance, inventory control, and 24/7 monitoring. There is a lot that goes into a scientific research startup. And a big part of it is choosing the right storage.
Being a mad scientist is not what it used to be. For starters, you have to answer to a lot of governmental bodies for what you do. The regulatory aspect, alone, is enough to make a mad scientist reconsider his career.
As it happens, a lot of biological research is quite dangerous. It used to be that the burden of finding and disclosing those dangerous aspects of research were on the funding agency, like the National Institutes of Health. Now, thanks to new 2014 guidelines issued by the Obama administration, that responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the researcher.
To put it another way, the buckyball stops here. And by “here”, I mean, with you, the research entrepreneur. As an aside, buckyballs are now banned due to being deemed to dangerous.
Federal, state, and local regulations have to be consulted every time you need to transport some of that biological material. The transport of dangerous material may differ from state to state. The same goes for storage. If your research calls for, oh, say, nuclear runoff, you are probably going to need a license for that.
Who can you hire to work in an office doing Office productivity tasks? Almost anybody. And while you may have one or two jobs like that, most of what you will need from employees will be highly specialized. You are going to have to be a lot more selective about who you hire.
Hiring your first employees can be tricky, not to mention, expensive. While there are many ways to go about it, you will probably want to look into a staffing service that has people with a science background ready for placement. Fear not, there are plenty of such agencies from which to choose.
Nothing about starting a science-based startup is easy or typical. But I would like to try a little space tourism while I’m on this side of a steady heartbeat. For that, and even more exciting possibilities, someone is going to have to go the extra mile. The future me at age 200 honors you for your entrepreneurial spirit.