Cindy Wu is one the co-founders and CEO of experiment.com, formerly known as Microryza. Cindy studied at the UW and graduated with a B.S. Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology in 2011. She used to be a scientist herself who previously used a videogame to re-engineer an enzyme treatment for anthrax bacteria. During her time as an undergraduate researcher, she recalls that her advisor once told her, “Cindy, the system doesn’t fund people like you, my professor said. It only funds tenured professors.” This experience did not discourage her aspirations though. Later, she and fellow co-founders Denny Luan and Skander Mzali started experiment.com to stimulate crowdfunding for independent researchers with viable project ideas. This method also allowed funders to be individual stakeholders in the project.
By talking with friends (and their friends) and learning how the difficult it was to find funding for their science projects, Cindy and her co-founders discovered a new market demand for finding sources of funding that were alternative to traditional grants. Though crowdfunding sites such as kickstarter.com were available, a crowdfunding site that focused on science projects specifically was not available. Cindy and her team took the idea of crowdfunding for science through the UW Jones + Foster Accelerator program. Shortly thereafter they were accepted into the Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator, which is considered one of the top accelerator programs in the country. They have raised over $1 million dollars from Angel and VC funding to date, grown to a team of 6 members, and helped over 80 projects get crowdfunding. The site receives approximately 100 applicants to experiment.com every month, in which the team reviews the proposed ideas to assure projects meet their criteria prior to posting. Experiment.com takes a 5% fee of the total amount received for each successfully funded project, and only if they are successful.
Experiment.com is uniquely positioned as the only science-focused crowdfunding source. When asked if they considered kickstarter.com as competition, Cindy said they do not. “Success from sites like kickstarter.com actually helps us because it attracts more attention from the public towards idea of crowdfunding. We want them to do well too.” Currently, they only channel they serve their clients is via the experiment.com website. However, they also make efforts to meet with potential clients from referrals and internal suggestions. Interested scientists can also learn about experiment.com through multiple major media sources, including articles written about their progress on the Seattle Times, Washington Times, Nature, Forbes.