PLab fits the mold of a lean startup but with a biotech twist. Over the course of 2014, our first year of existence, we grew bench by bench at [email protected], the biotech incubator we call home. Every aspect of overhead is itemized, from individual autoclave runs to monthly tissue culture hood usage. With excellent back-end assistance from virtual lab manager HappiLabs, we enforced capital efficiency at all levels of our operation. Every dollar spent in 2014 has been counted and categorized.
But before we could spend any money I first had to raise it. Our seed round commenced in earnest, i.e., the first funds were wired, in April 2014. Over the course of the following six months I raised $2.21M from over a dozen investors — angels and strategics, no VCs. Here’s a plot showing the range of seed investment sizes:
The smallest investment is $5,000 and the largest investments were $400,000. The mean investment size is just shy of $125,000, or roughly the size of a Phase 1 SBIR/STTR grant. Important to remember that the funds did not arrive all at once. $800,000 kicked off the round. Investments then arrived in dribs and drabs, and then burst in ahead of closing deadlines. Investments of $200,000 or more comprise 80% of the round.
Okay, back to PLab’s 2014 spending:
The biggest slice is capital equipment. These were all one-time costs for the essential components of our HTS phenotypic screening platform. The next biggest slice is payroll. Lab supplies and small equipment include all the consumables needed to keep the lab humming. The fixed costs of maintaining yeast, worms, and flies are low. Service providers include the University of Utah’s genome editing core that CRISPR’d flies for us. Science Exchange gets the assist there.
We’ll continue to drill down into the 2014 budget on this blog in the weeks ahead. In the spirit of Open Science, I challenge all lean biotech startup founders to share last year’s numbers.