Experiment.com Gains Big Venture Backers To Bring Crowdfunding To Science Research

Wall Street Journal by Lizette Chapman | February 5, 2014

CindyWu experiment cofounder - Experiment.com Gains Big Venture Backers To Bring Crowdfunding To Science Research

Experiment.com Co-founder and CEO Cindy Wu (Photo: Jackson Solway)

Frustrated  by unpredictable and often political funding for science research,  a handful of young researchers think they’ve found the answer: crowdfunding.

The researchers–who have backgrounds in synthetic biology, rocket science and other disciplines–built much of  their startup, Experiment.com, while at the Y Combinator accelerator in 2013.

Top investors including Index Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz have now invested in the San Francisco-based startup, which launches its platform today.

Like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, RocketHub and other crowdfunding sites to emerge in recent years, Experiment.com allows individuals to donate to projects and receive a gift in return. Unlike those sites, which include art, film, dance, technology and other categories, Experiment.com has one sole focus: science.

“All great companies have missionary cores. People need to believe in a higher calling,” Index Ventures Principal Terrence Rohan said. “We’re very familiar with the space and the challenges. Research that’s risky or novel and doesn’t fit into a neat box is hard to get off the ground.”

Related: Network Analysis of Science Crowdfunding

Founded in 2012 as Microryza, the crowdfunding platform aims to help bankroll projects that range from space and chemistry to ecology and medicine.

“Almost all the donors are individuals,” Experiment.com co-founder Cindy Wu said. “We expected it would be people with money, but we found that many of them were in academia and a lot are parents and families of [ill] patients.”

Another interesting finding: Many donors fund more than one project and researchers with projects often fund other projects on the platform. Unlike other crowdfunding sites that reward donors to art and film endeavors with limited edition prints or select seats to movie premiers, Experiment.com doesn't yet see much of a demand for tangible goods.

Related: The Immunity Project hopes to build a better HIV vaccine through crowdfunding and machine learning

“When we called donors they all said it [the project they were funding] was going to make an impact and affect the real world,” Ms. Wu said. “What they want to see is progress.”

Recently funded projects include enabling a University of Washington professor to rent a U-haul to transport a Triceratops from a Wyoming dig site to a Seattle museum, and assessing the air pollution from natural gas fracking.

Twitter co-founder Ev Williams backed a project making Styrofoam out of fungi while Mailchimp Chief Executive Ben Chestnut backed a project on how spammers harvest email addresses.

Money is only collected from donor if the funding goal is met. Experiment.com takes a 5% slice of all funded projects.

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The National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada crowdfunding hub providing education, advocacy and networking opportunities in the rapidly evolving crowdfunding industry. NCFA Canada is a community-based, membership-driven entity that was formed at the grass roots level to fill a national need in the market place. Join our growing network of industry stakeholders, fundraisers and investors. Increase your organization’s profile and gain access to a dynamic group of industry front runners. Learn more eBrochure |Prezi or contact us at casano@ncfacanada.org.