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experiment.com ·
San Francisco 500 startups Y Combinator

  • 85 funded research projects
  • 5000 backers
  • 900 lab notes
  • sent researchers to 13 different countries

san francisco ca
The Elevator Pitch Experiment is a crowdfunding platform for science research. We transform everyone with a credit card into a modern day patron of science.

Staff Pick

by Boonsri Dickonson, Wefunder Correspondent, February 24 2013

The average age in mission control was 26 when we put a man on the moon. Hundreds of thousands of Americans contributed to the effort and a half-billion people watched the first step. Experiment is a crowdfunding startup with a mission to bring that same sense of excitement to the science research each one of us cares about.

The meteor that struck Russia in February showed how the internet changes the way science can be experienced. At least for a moment, the world was united over a single scientific event.

Experiment co-founder Denny Luan believes this can happen much more often. "The Internet provides a nice way to connect with science. It happened with the Curiosity rover. These events are like the 60s when a man landed on the moon," Denny said "Everyday in labs and in the field, there are these big moments when discoveries are made, we want to share that sense of wonder back with anybody."

How Experiment Was Born

Experiment helps donors fund scientists that are left behind by the traditional grant funding model. They have big goals, hoping their platform can one day be used to fund a cure for cancer, alternative energy, and put a man on Mars.

When they began the startup, it
seemed the only thing holding them back was their young age and their non-Silicon Valley cred. To change that, the young scientists-turned-entrepreneur duo Denny Luan and Cindy Wu persistently stalked 500 Startups VC Dave McClure until he invested $25,000.

This determination shines through in everything they do. To get Experiment off the ground they taught themselves how to code, design, and record production quality videos. Their current team has made big improvements to the site, but the first version of Experiment was completely home grown by the founders.

Their efforts gave them validation that Experiment could transform the way science is done, and tap the power of the crowd to fund thousands of compelling projects that don’t fit within the rigid confines of the traditional grant funding model. Denny’s email signature says it all “Not stopping until we fund the cure for cancer, intergalactic photon rocket, and time machine.”

Denny and Cindy met while they were undergrads in David Baker's lab at the University of Washington in Seattle. Cindy had discovered a potential way to create an antibiotic to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). However, there was no way to get the small amount of funding she needed to run some initial tests. Luckily her professor funneled money from an existing NIH grant to fund her side project.

Not stopping until we fund the cure for cancer, an intergalactic photon rocket, and a time machine.
- Denny's email signature

"I never would have been able to take the idea forward otherwise, and I was in the unique position of having a professor that could help me. Later, we interviewed 100 scientists and they all told us they had an idea that they had to put on the shelf due to lack of funds so they could definitely use our platform," Cindy said. She later turned down offers from the best Ph.D. programs in the country in order to start Experiment because she knew thats the current funding structure wouldn't allow her to do the kind of science she wanted to do.

Fixing The Way Science Is Funded

Experiment is structured a lot like Kickstarter in that it takes a 5 percent cut of what is raised and the projects only get funded if the goal is met. Experiment is its own scientific experiment, beginning as a place to fund the long tail of research, projects that don't cost that much or require a multi year commitment. The scientists give donors a front row seat to the projects as they unfold by sharing photos, text, and video updates in real-time.

Typically, researchers spend three months a year writing grants, only to have 80 percent of them rejected because they don't fit into the big projects that agencies like the NIH are set up to fund. Helping university researchers is just the start. Cindy and Denny are also building Experiment for the new world of science where innovation can happen at home as well as in the lab.

"Once you think about research and ideas outside of universities, you start to look at citizen science. To do computational biology today, all you need is a fast computer and a PCR machine," Denny said. "Getting beyond traditional research, you start to look at developing countries. It's not just a lack of funding, it's a lack of infrastructure in countries like Africa, Brazil, and India that prevent innovative ideas from getting off the ground. Helping to surface those ideas and get them funded is the long term vision of where we want to take Experiment" Denny added.

For instance, scientists in Tanzania found that they can trap mosquitos by isolating chemicals that cause stinky feet. They couldn't get funding, so they took a grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.They created a device that attracted mosquitoes to it and lowered malaria rates by 4 times.

Donors Get Excited

When Cindy was a kid, she wanted to be a paleontologist. Her mom and dad would take her to museums, but she really wanted to go on digs herself to see the excavation process unfold first hand.

One Experiment donor, who was
keen on donating to a dinosaur project put up by University of Washington paleontologist Christian Sidor, wanted to give her son exactly what Cindy had dreamed about.

Cindy said: "Sidor received an e-mail from a mother asking if she could send her son on the trip. Her son was still very young likely in elementary or middle school. Dr. Sidor obviously could not take a kid on the trip, but he wrote back saying that there may be a chance for her son to be involved with his research in a more hands on way when he was older. The mom made a large donation to the project afterwards."

A few professors are already successfully crowdfunding their own projects. Experiment will open that up to everyone and give donors more options of interesting things to fund. There are thousands of projects that would get a specific group of people as excited as the general public was about the meteor, but they have no way to find them, or participate in the experiences as they happen.

Jose Gomez-Marquez is a professor at MIT who has experienced the pain of grant writing first hand for the do-it-yourself medical devices he makes for the developing world.

"Crowdsourcing science can disrupt the established trends of of prevailing funding targets. It can provide gateways to respond to patients faster than the academic research process as long as it doesn't get hijacked into funding more science for the sake of publishing instead of our quest for impact in everyday people. But like every good experiment, science projects can often fail --- and the backers have to accept those possibilities," Gomez-Marquez said.

Some of our favorite research projects

How does a parasite create zombie-like behavior?
Can we use fungi to break down our plastic and rubber waste?
A colorful world: Signaling in mantis shrimp
Can music improve memories in patients with brain damage?
Cannibalism in Giant Tyrannosaurs
How does natural gas fracking contribute to air pollution?

Meet the Founders

Denny Luan

---and the rest of the team---

What People Say

Scientists calling on the crowd for funding
September 3, 2013
Facing a stark federal budget to support scientific research, Hiller and other scientists have begun experimenting with crowdfunding their research. It is scientific funding for the social media age, with pitches made in brief videos, funders often kept updated on results through blogs, and the normally secretive “peer review” process used to vet proposals taking place in public as funders decide whether to contribute.
Seattle researcher seeks crowdfunding for pet therapy for kids with cancer
August 8, 2013
Chubak is trying to raise $4,000 on the web site "Microryza," developed by two University of Washington researchers who themselves were seeking funding for their projects. The money will supplement the grant she's already received, allowing her to interview more families and do a pilot program at more than one location.
Crowdfunding platforms support STEM teachers
July 29, 2013
“We’re building all these profiles of scientists, and the scientists are sharing directly with the public what they do inside the lab. It’s like a window into the lab, or into the field,” said Wu. “Because it’s all public, students anywhere in the world that have access to internet are able to come to the website and see, ‘oh, this is what a paleontologist does, this is what a cancer biologist does.’”
Microryza helps round up dollars for fund-it-yourself science
July 7, 2013
When two University of Washington graduates launched one of the first crowd-funding sites for science, they had to beat the bushes for projects. A year later, so many researchers are beating on Microryza’s door that the startup born in Seattle is juggling a backlog of 500 proposals.
Crowdfunding Science: Kickstarter Imitators Fund Innovation, With Research Budgets Slashed Across Academia And Agencies Like CDC, NSF And NIH
July 5, 2013
“What we’re seeing now is that the amount of funding available for research isn’t changing, but the amount of qualified researchers has more than doubled,” Cindy Wu, the co-founder of a science crowdfunding startup called Microryza, said in a phone interview with the International Business Times. “There are more and more ideas out there, and there isn’t enough money to support them.”
Academic researchers turning to crowdfunding
June 21, 2013
Some sites do not allow material rewards as they prioritize the purity of the process. Microryza, for one, encourages researchers to provide regular updates and at the research's conclusion they provide supporters with an electronic copy of the study if the campaign is 100% supported.
Tired of Writing R01s? Consider Crowd-Funding
June 14, 2013
Cindy Wu and Denny Luan co-founded Microryza in Seattle after Wu had difficulty getting funds to support her undergraduate research project. "There are people who want to see research happen," Wu explains. "We connect donors directly to scientists."
The List: Four things we wouldn’t have without crowdfunding
June 3, 2013
Crowdfunding itself is being used to raise money across various sectors - from small businesses (Fondomat), to scientific research (Microryza) and even cosmetic surgery (Myfreeimplants).
US gun researcher turns to crowd-funding
May 30, 2013
...federal funding for research on gun violence remains scarce so far. So Sen has turned to the crowd-funding website Microryza, and she is aiming to raise $25,000 in 100 days to fund her research.
Is it possible to kick start science?
May 22, 2013
One of the earliest projects to be fully backed via the site was by University of Washington bioengineer Herbert Sauro, who wanted to make electronic circuits to use when teaching genetics to high school students.
UW chemist says 'All aboard' for coal train fight: 200 wiseguy words
May 9, 2013
Dan Jaffe, a chemist at UW-Bothell, told Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat that after he had trouble finding funding support to study the question -- "I got the sense through channels that nobody wanted to touch this" -- he listed his proposal on a science-based crowdfunding site, Microryza.
UW chemist's coal project gets crowdfunded - in record time
May 9, 2013
Atmospheric chemist Dan Jaffe’s proposal to monitor the trains reached its $18,000 “crowdfunding” goal Thursday, one day after a Seattle Times column about him and only a week after he first put up a request at science fundraising site Microryza.
Coal trains fire up UW chemist
May 7, 2013
Two former UW researchers started it last year after they became disillusioned with the way science is funded (or often, not). Can’t get your research backed by the usual government and corporate suspects? Then take it to the streets.
Crowdfunding: Another Form of Science Outreach
May 3, 2013
At the most basic level, science outreach can be defined as facilitating the understanding of science to non-scientists. While the overall objective of science outreach is clear, the ways in which engagement can occur are numerous. Traditional modes of sc
Who Is Tech's Most Inspiring New Founder? SV Angel's Ron Conway, David Lee, And Brian Pokorny Name Names
May 2, 2013
Ron Conway, David Lee, and Brian Pokorny meet new startup founders practically every day as investors at renowned angel funding firm SV Angel. So when they came backstage at this week’s Disrupt NYC event after their on-stage talk with Michael Arrington, I asked them to talk about the most inspiring up-and-coming founders they’ve met with lately — people who may be flying a little more under the radar than the Jack Dorseys of the tech scene at the moment, but could very well be the next big thing.
GeekWire Awards: Vote for Young Entrepreneur of the Year
April 16, 2013
Denny Luan and Cindy Wu, Microryza: The former University of Washington researchers and recent graduates of tech incubator Y Combinator are building a new crowdfunding platform for scientific research at Microryza. Launched last year, the site has been de
This 16-year-old is spearheading Seattle's first biotech hackerspace
April 3, 2013
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Microryza project needs $2,668 to reach its goal of $5,100. There are 15 days left to donate. You can learn more about the space here.
At Y Combinator Demo Day, many echoes of Kickstarter
March 27, 2013
There was Microryza -- "Kickstarter for science;" Teespring -- "Kickstarter for T-shirts;" Watsi -- a non-profit aiming to leverage the crowd to finance individuals' medical care; Wefunder -- which wants to fund startups using the Kickstarter model; and B...
Blessed by Gates, crowdfunding site funnels cash for high-risk R&D
March 27, 2013
A new crowdfunding platform site called Microryza has started funneling cash to dozens of high-risk scientific research programs, including a number of drug development efforts that would otherwise never see the light of day. Microryza's...
YC winter 2013 demo day: Five startups to watch
March 26, 2013
Whether you think the hype around its startups is justified or not, Y Combinator is still one of the most notable Silicon Valley startup incubators to watch. Its bi-annual demo days are important events for both startups and investors in the tech...
7 Amazing Startups to Watch
March 26, 2013
Research projects often require funding; funding researchers may or may not be able to get based on their degree or college and university affiliations. Enter Microryza, a new crowdfunding site specifically for research. The startup lets you create a pro
5 Start-ups to Watch From Y Combinator's Demo Day
March 26, 2013
Inc. recently featured this so-called "Kickstarter for science," in a round-up of niche crowdfunding sites. Co-founders Cindy Wu and Denny Luan came up with the idea for Microryza when the pair, both 19 years old at the time, developed a treatment for Ant..
'Kickstarter for science' wants to cure Alzheimers, teach coding, save the pandas
March 26, 2013
Microryza is democratizing scientific research. Microryza is a crowdfunding platform to follow and fund scientific research projects. On stage at Y Combiantor’s Demo Day, founder Cindy Wu said that funding for research projects is short-sighted and only a...
Crowdfunding A Focus At Y Combinator Demo Day - Forbes
March 26, 2013
Microryza is a crowdfunding site for hard science research projects. While other sources exist for creative or other projects, sciences does not have an equivalent, the company says. Funders will get updates on the projects as it is progressing.
Y Combinator Winter 2013 Demo Day, Batch 1: Meet Wevorce, FlightCar, Thalmic, And More | TechCrunch
March 26, 2013
It's Demo Day time once again for Y Combinator, the startup incubator that has become a Silicon Valley institution since shaping its first class of startups back in 2005.
3 Unconventional Crowdfunding Niches
March 21, 2013
Platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo win hands down as the crowdfunding platforms that get the most attention and mind share of entrepreneurs and creative types. But they're not the only options out there--a slew of new, niche crowdfunding sites let t...
Of sequestration and crowdfunding
March 4, 2013
There’s a relatively new crowdfunding platform that debuted in April 2012 called Microryza, named for mycorrhizae, very minute, symbiotic fungi that live in plant roots. Interestingly these fungi are of vast importance to plants as they support not only a....
YC-Backed Microryza Is A "Kickstarter" For Scientific Research
February 25, 2013
A Y Combinator-backed startup called Microryza is positioning itself as a “Kickstarter” for science research. The idea for Microryza sprouted when Cindy Wu, then an undergraduate at University of Washington, found that she had little hope of getting fundi
Mad Science: A Kickstarter-y Way to Fund Innovative Projects
February 25, 2013
You know we're all about finding new ways to support technological innovation via platforms like Kickstarter and Quirky, but what about scientific innovation?
UW's Buerk Center awards $170K to 8 student-led startups
February 22, 2013
For the past six months, ten teams from the University of Washington’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship have been working within a Tech Stars-esque Jones Milestones/Foster Accelerator and building their startups. Now, they’re being rewarded for their eff...
Crowdfunding university research and tech commercialization: 6 sites that are doing it
February 13, 2013
Microryza: Founded by two former University of Washington researchers, this science-focused platform hosts a variety of research projects from both within and outside of universities.
Crowdfunding science
February 6, 2013
Micro-patronage could let researchers step around funding obstacles.
16 Innovative Ways to Use Crowdfunding for Education
January 28, 2013
One of the newest trends in crowdfunding is raising money for academic research pursuits. A new portal launched in April of 2012 called Microryza just does this. I had the chance to speak to Cindy Wu, one of the founders who discussed how Microryza got o...
Top 10 Ed-Tech Startups of 2012
December 21, 2012
The first is Microryza, a crowdfunding platform for scientific research. I met founder Denny Luan in late 2011 at a Startup Weekend EDU event in Seattle where he pitched the idea and assembled a team that worked on this project. Microryza launched its bet...
7 Additional Compelling Breakthroughs: Scientific American
November 14, 2012
Crowd-Funding for Science The explosion of social media has spawned the phenomenon of crowd-funding. Charities, rock bands, individuals—anyone—can raise funds from people all over the world via online sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo...
Research 2.0: Microryza
November 2, 2012
Cindy Wu introduces Microryza, an online crowdfunding platform for scientific research at the Research2.0 launch workshop on the USC Health Sciences Campus on November 2nd, 2012.
Crowdfunding is all the rage and scientists are joining in
November 1, 2012
Global recession has meant shrunken budgets.. And, despite strong economic arguments, scientific research has not been spared. Fortunately for some, such a change comes at a time when crowdfunding is all the rage.
Pitching innovation
October 27, 2012
“I like that [Myhrvold] said to embrace failure, which was reassuring,” said Denny Luan, founder of a crowd-funding website called Microryza, “because he definitely isn’t someone who you consider a failure.”
'I can help you succeed': How to get your idea off the ground through crowdfunding
October 27, 2012
American scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle thought the public might well be up for that. In April, they set up Microryza, a website that allows scientists to pitch research projects which anyone could help fund. Co-founder Cindy Wu exp...
Crowdfunding Science: Many a mickle makes a muckle
October 20, 2012
NECESSITY, so the proverb has it, is the mother of invention. And science is nothing if not inventive. So, as conventional sources of money get harder to tap (the success rate enjoyed by those applying for research grants from the National Institutes of H...
Microryza, the Kickstarter for Scientific Research, Adds Five New Projects
October 16, 2012
Seattle-based Microryza, a crowdfunding platform for scientific research which launched in April 2012, recently announced the addition of five new projects to ts platform....
Social Innovation Fast Pitch
October 8, 2012
Microryza, a finalist that will be featured on stage at SIFP Seattle on October 18, 2012, has helped support a research group addressing a problem that is surprisingly prevalent. Greater than 400 million children worldwide are infected with intestinal rou...
Science 2.0: The Science Revolution
September 15, 2012
Denny Luan at TEDxYouth@Seattle
Four minutes on the train with ... Microryza's Denny Luan
August 21, 2012
Team GeekWire participated in the Geeks on a Train voyage between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. as part of the GROW conference, taking place this week in Vancouver. We chatted with folks along the way, talking about a variety of topics. In this installment,
Website of the Month: Crowdsourced Science Funding
August 10, 2012
Microryza.com connects scientists with donors who can potentially fund their research. The Seattle-based staff screens proposed projects for feasibility and novelty and runs checks on applicants to prevent fraud.
Moving Academic Research Out of the Ivory Tower & Into the Crowd
July 31, 2012
Earlier this year, Denny Luan launched Microryza, a website that allows others to give money to research they care about. From bringing a triceratops to Seattle or developing Omnioff, a non-toxic alternative to Teflon non-stick cookware, the platform runs...
Will Seattle Become The Capital Of Social Entrepreneurship?
July 12, 2012
Some of the social enterprises to watch out of Seattle, that all have a for-profit arm but socially motivated goals, says Engh, include: Stockbox Grocers (getting local food to food deserts), Microryza (crowdfunding for science research), Island Wood (env...
Microryza Connects Researchers To The Public
May 16, 2012
Although Microryza's name is hard to pronounce, its platform aims to make it easy for users to back projects they're interested in. The tongue twister is the name of a new crowd-funding website, created by a group of UW students frustrated with the diffic...
Microryza Crowd Funding Science
April 15, 2012
This is a website that has real chance at changing the world and each of our lives. Perhaps you think I am exaggerating a bit, but let me assure you, I’m not. If you compare your life of that of your ancestors of just 100 years ago and the world of today
Meet Microryza: Crowd Funding for Science
April 12, 2012
This is awesome. Launching today is Microryza, a Seattle-based firm that is taking the popular crowd-based fundraising model and is applying it to a critical component of the modern economy: scientific research. Yes, you just might be able to help fund yo...
Frustrated researchers unveil Microryza, a crowdfunding site for geeky science projects
April 12, 2012
Think of it like Kickstarter — just for hardcore science geeks. Microryza was started by Denny Luan and Cindy Wu, former University of Washington researchers who had grown frustrated with the bureaucratic and costly way in which many research efforts were
The Burke Museum's mystery vessel
March 26, 2012
Many strange items have been found on Northwest beaches: Chinese porcelain, beeswax from the Philippines, Japanese tsunami debris, tennis shoes with feet inside, and sometimes even Asian castaways.
Microryza: crowdfunding platform for research
November 21, 2011
Entrepreneurship is something completely new and scary and unfamiliar to me, but entirely awesome. In the past month since winning the fast-pitch contest at the Ashoka Changemaker Luncheon, I’ve come face-to-face with some challenging realities: losing ex

Questions & Answers

WF: Why did you pick this idea to work on?

Science funding for research today is entirely broken. Traditional funding agencies like NIH, NSF, and other large grantwriting institutions are simply unable to support 80% of the research proposals they receive. The number of high-impact, early-stage ideas that go unfunded is tremendous.

At the same time, there is nowhere on the web where you can participate in science. Consumption of science is limited to news headlines or buying a copy of National Geographic. However, the huge online events of the Mars rover, Higgs Boson, and other recent science breakthroughs are showing that people want to be closer to the scientific process, a process that is normally locked up behind paywalls.

We know how the scientific process works, and we know that there are magical stories in the process that can instantly engage people. We want to build something that brings scientists and the public closer together, in an experience that everyone will love.

WF: What's new about what you're making?

The only current alternative to directly supporting science is giving through the Komen Foundation, a giant black hole where 95% of donors never see the outcome. But at best, research foundations abstract away the engagement because of the way incentives around data, and thus research funding, are set up. Other than that, there is no way for the average person to give directly to a researcher for an area that they care about.

WF: Who are your competitors?

At this point, our only real competition is Indiegogo. They recently decided to step into science crowdfunding, but they are also tackling many other crowdfunding areas. They have significantly more resources, and they have a lot of users. Building a community behind these stories will be really important, and we don’t think Indiegogo has demonstrated this ability so far compared to Kickstarter or Kiva. Our goal is to really help showcase the stories behind these projects one by one.

WF: What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don't get?

People don’t give to science research in exchange for tangible trinkets (t-shirts, mugs, keychains – a la Kickstarter model). Trinkets only work in a pre-purchase or prototype crowdfunding model where the goods have value. Many of our competitors (Petridish, Scifund, 16 others) started off by copying the Kickstarter model but many are now switching over to copying our model. From the beginning, we believed that people fundamentally want to support science in order to see their impact.

We know this because we ask every single one of our donors “what do you want” after they give, and they all give the same answer of “I want to see progress, and I want to know my money made an impact”. As a result of this, we know that translating that impact boils down to good science communication on the researchers part. So we are building ways to help researchers do this better than they normally would be able to.

We also know that it’s very valuable to work directly with universities and foundations to set up the right process for the funds, because those relationships turn into a lot of high quality research projects. This is in comparison to just letting the researchers figure out how to process the funds, which often backfires. Petridish did this and they turned University of Michigan against crowdfunding (for now).

WF: How do you make money?

We are already generating revenue through a 5% transaction fee on fully funded projects. We’ve raised over $65,000. Our donor conversion has doubled since we launched (5%), with an average donation of $67.

WF: How big can this company be?

Last year, the National Institutes of Health rejected 80% of proposals: that’s 42,000 ideas. Assuming half of those are fundable and can produce preliminary data with $25,000, that is a $525M revenue/$26M profit opportunity for only health-related projects. Last year, NIH equaled 1/10th of total research in the U.S. This is a billion dollar company if executed correctly. You just have to nail the right verticals and communities first.

WF: How will you get users?

Three main things influence good supply of projects: smaller non-profit foundations that need money for projects, thought leaders in certain research areas, and exciting donor communities around ideas that don’t have traditional support (space travel, 3D printing/ maker, citizen science).

WF: Why do you think enough people will donate to science for this to be a business?

We are trying to change the notion that you are donating to a project, and rather that you are paying for an opportunity to be along for a unique experience. Part of this will be what scientists start to share with backers, but a large part of this will be seeing the significant scientific findings that come out of it.

WF: How will you make signing up projects cost effective?

We are already starting to receive more proposals than we can handle, so being able to build a full-feature platform that allows any researcher to start defining a project to providing the end results of their research will enable us to launch many more projects than we currently have.

WF: Why wouldn't people simply use KickStarter?

Kickstarter as a platform is not optimized for science and research. Mainly because offering a tangible reward is not productive to moving the science forward, and backers on Experiment don’t want a t-shirt or a mug for supporting a research project of their interest.

We asked 200 of our project backers what is it that they want once they support a project, and the answer we got was that they want to see the research make progress, and that their individual contribution had an impact on that scientific progress.

WF: What’s your team’s biggest weakness?

Being young and inexperienced definitely has it’s drawbacks. It has been difficult working out the kinks of how to approach these very large bureaucratic institutions called universities. For the most part, we get by when we can just communicate through email.

WF: What keeps you up at night? What's your biggest risk?

Not moving fast enough. Worst of all is potentially missing out on a research project that could have a massive impact.

WF: What will Experiment look like in 10 Years?

Magic School Bus + Bill Nye the Science Guy + NOVA special + National Geographic = Experiment

WF: Could you foster collaboration between like-minded teams?

This is definitely one of our goals for the future, in terms of how we can make a better experience that ties the researchers directly to the backers. We’ve already had a few instances where project backers have contributed ideas and feedback on the research design that has benefited the researcher.

Collaboration is an extremely interesting area for us to explore, particularly when you take the mindset that the internet is no longer a homogenous mass of the general public, but instead a community of knowledgeable specialists who can lend their wisdom. The crowd has a lot of potential in terms of offering serendipitous engagement, where people who back a project can also help gather and analyze data alongside the main investigator.

WF: Why do you think the requests rejected by the NIH actually deserve funding?

This question comes from the fact that in the last year, NIH rejected 82% of the proposals they received, which means they rejected over 49,000 grant proposals. This graph shows how this number of overall rejections is only going up.

This message here, however, isn’t that funding model is inefficient, because there are many checks and balances in the current funding model that serve a defined purpose to ensure quality of research. The peer review process and rigorous application cycle of an NIH R01 is incredibly important for filtering promising proposals that are ready for the next phase.

Rather, the real problem here is a reflection of the ever-increasing competition for an ever-decreasing pool of available funds. A recent NSF survey shows the increasing number of graduate level scientists who are entering the research system, while funding agency acceptance rates remain at near record lows. While we are able to identify the top 10 researchers in a field to fund at any given time, the funds available can now only support the top 8, and the pool of exceptional candidates has grown to 20. This is a story that we’ve also heard repeated from non-profit foundations and grant-writing institutions.

WF: Do you have any way of classifying projects other than just listing them?

As we begin to launch a variety of projects in more research areas, we will be able to categorize projects by discipline, as well as filter by education level, funding need, and inherent risk in the proposal through a unique measurement of a researcher’s likelihood to succeed.

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