How entrepreneurs can validate their business model by studying other sectors
Science Exchange, an online marketplace for scientific experiments, aims to make collaboration more effective and efficient. While working as a professor and biologist at the University of Miami, cofounder and CEO Elizabeth Iorns developed the idea when she realized almost no research was completed without collaboration.
Iorns saw the opportunity to bring marketplace efficiency to the work of scientific research. In an interview, she shared her insights on validation, networking, and attracting talent.
Validate your business model – Though Science Exchange is a software company – and not a life science venture – some of Iorns’ validation techniques apply to both fields. During the market research phase, the team at Science Exchange tracked multiple markers to determine whether to expect more collaboration in research. The team also studied marketplaces in other sectors, asking what worked and why. They noticed that while many large restaurant chains haven’t joined OpenTable, the website still hosts thousands of restaurants. Iorns saw a comparison to Science Exchange. “We’re capturing that very long tail of potential providers and creating a market for them,” she said. “That’s been done very effectively in other sectors, so we used those as models.”
Develop, and cultivate, your networks – Most entrepreneurs lean on their strong networks for advice and guidance, Iorns said. Taking advantage of incubators and mentorship programs is one way for an entrepreneur to develop a network, she said. “Being part of that helps you learn from the collective mistakes,” Iorns said. “It also allows you to see that everyone struggles.” When you realize you’re not the only one dealing with challenges and obstacles, she said, it’s easier to keep moving forward.
Outsource whenever you can – It’s often possible to outsource your company’s accounting and legal services, Iorns said. “We don’t do any of that in house,” she said. “It’s much more efficient.”
Create a culture that attracts talent – A company’s culture should emphasize transparency and involvement, not hierarchy, Iorns said. Every team member should feel equally important in terms of what they bring to the table, she added. If you’re competing for new talent, Iorns said, emphasize the rewards of working at a startup that’s making strides for scientific advancement. “Having a strong vision you can sell is much more important than the monetary gains,” she said.