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#FoundersFriday with Johannes Solzbach from Clustermarket

6th October 2017
 | Katy Alexander

We are very excited to bring you a new interview for our #FoundersFriday blog series! If you’ve missed our previous posts, Founders Friday is a forum in which we interview the founders of different technology businesses, asking them to share their advice for others and their perspective on the industry as a whole.

For this edition, we have interviewed Johannes Solzbach (@JoSole89), Co-Founder of Clustermarket, a company that is bringing the sharing economy to research enabling smaller institutions and individual researchers to access highly technical equipment for the first time.

Could you start by describing what Clustermarket does?

Clustermarket is an online marketplace helping scientists, engineers and other technology pioneers access equipment and services they need for their research and business. Universities, other research institutions and businesses offer their equipment and services listed on Clustermarket. The idea is based on the sharing economy concept and supports innovation by utilizing existing resources more efficiently.

How did your background help you to build Clustermarket?

My co-founder Tobias is a sports scientist and like many others in his profession, he experienced the problems Clustermarket aims to solve when conducting research at the German Sports University in Cologne. When he met my other co-founder Niklas, who has a unique understanding of how resources could be used more efficiently, the idea was born. Niklas’ background is in business, but he has a passion for coding, teaching himself how to do it in his free time – he is now responsible for the development of the platform.

My background is in finance, which is very useful when it comes to fundraising and running the business. None of us have started a company within the sphere of science and research, therefore, the feedback we have received has been invaluable in building a business our customers want.

Why is affordable access to science important?

The limited access to expensive equipment and important scientific services increases the barriers to entry and restricts innovation. Harvard professor Peter Galison believes that tools are a greater driver of scientific revolutions than ideas! Our goal is to break down these barriers to entry for science start-ups. Through Clustermarket, every good science idea will have the chance to become a breakthrough innovation, because you have affordable access to the resources you need within a few clicks.

What problems exist in bringing science technologies to the mass market?

The valley of death, meaning the funding gap when trying to develop a product from the idea stage to the proof of concept, is wider and deeper in the science industry than in any other industry. This is obviously related to the high-risk profile of many projects but also to the large amount of capital that is needed to take the project to the next stage. Many companies have identified that renting the resources they need for their research will lower their R&D expenses significantly and will get them closer to bridging the valley of death. Unfortunately, young start-ups with limited financial resources usually cannot rely on an extensive network. With Clustermarket, our goal is to give scientists access to a community of like-minded peers that are willing to share not only their equipment but also their expertise including technical support.

How do you see Clustermarket developing?

We went through two accelerator programs, MassChallenge UK and the Merck Accelerator Program and also raised an Angel round which helped to launch Clustermarket within the Golden Triangle earlier this year. To date, we see increasing traction on the platform, which makes us confident that we can get established across the UK. The interest in Clustermarket from Europe and abroad is overwhelming. We are currently setting up pilots in Norway and Germany, which will hopefully lead to a wider expansion. The success of the marketplace relies on more providers who are willing to share their resources and support the great research projects of our customers. We have a long way to go to democratise scientific research but we believe we are on a good path.

Follow @clustermarket for their latest company updates and more.