Excerpt from New Book “Maker Pro”: Measuring the Success of BioCurious

Maker Pro: Essays on Making a Living as a Maker

Maker Pro: Essays on Making a Living as a Maker

Community biotech labs are heating up. But it’s a mistake to measure the success of a community lab by the number of startup companies created or the number of scientific papers published. I think there’s a much greater opportunity than simply re-creating a new university lab/startup incubator model. Today, the biggest opportunity for BioCurious is pushing beyond the technical and into social elements of science. Can we change who makes scientific discoveries? Can we expand the global conversations around new discoveries to include more groups? Can we increase the number of people who have set foot in a biotech lab?

Excerpt from “Are You BioCurious?”, Maker Pro, O’Reilly Media 2014
By Eri Gentry and Tito Jankowski

Read the Full Chapter from Maker Pro for Free Here On My Website

I borrow vocabulary from startup incubators and university labs to explain the success of BioCurious. For example, “We’ve had several funded startups start out of the lab!” resonates with a lot of people in Silicon Valley.

However, to push new frontiers, we must reinvent how we measure the success of biotech hackerspaces. Biotech hackerspaces don’t need to be startup incubators like YCombinator, or a research machines like Stanford University. I think there are bigger challenges that biotech hackerspaces are best suited for.

What might they be? To start, here’s “success metrics” for a few different industries.

Metrics of University Labs

“Our cutting edge work has been published on the cover of Nature magazine, and is cited 68 times in the past year”.

Key metrics for university lab are: number of publications, prestige of those publications


Metrics of Startup Incubators

“We’ve graduated 20 startups this season, which raised a total of $52mm in investment”

The metrics of startup incubators are: number of startups, and investment in those startups

19 Metrics of 7 Influential Organizations:

Online Education – Khan Academy: number of classes, 40 languages, 80 person organization

Education – DonorsChoose: 1,610, 343 supporters, 219,235 teachers funded, 130,687,273 students reached, 70% of projects full funded

International Business Funding – Kiva: 1,244,177 lenders, $652,188,425 in loans, 98.79% repayment rate

Legal – Electronic Frontier Foundation: number of legal victories, number of donors

Legal – ACLU: 500,000 members and supporters, 200 staff attorneys, and thousands of volunteer attorneys, staffed offices in all 50 states

Journalism – Wikileaks: winner of freedom awards, being banned from receiving donations through major banks

Medicine – Doctors Without Borders: programs in 70 countries around the world

Metrics for Biohacker Spaces?

Here are a few ideas, along with fake quotes I made up to see what they sound like:

Change who makes scientific discoveries
What this sounds like…

“25 published biological discoveries by researchers with no prior degrees in biology”

“Scientific discoveries” probably means scientific publications, I’m wary of using the same metric as academic labs.

Expand global conversations around new discoveries to include more groups
What this sounds like…

“We held public meetings talking about genetically modified foods. This year we hosted 2,924 residents from the Bay Area, 92% of which do not have an undergraduate degree in science, 22% of which have no undergraduate degree”

Increase the number of people who have been in a biotech lab
What this sounds like…

“We held public daily tours of our biotech lab for 5,234 residents of the Bay Area, 94% of which had never been to a biotech lab before. This number represents a massive 11% increase in the number of non-scientists worldwide who have ever been inside a biotech lab.”

Other ideas?


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Tito Jankowski lives in San Francisco. He's a public speaker, biotech hacker, and post-hydrocarbon expert. He is the co-founder of Impossible Labs, expediting the post-hydrocarbon economy through partnerships between startups and Fortune 500 corporations. Find him on LinkedIn. Email Tito at blog@titojankowski.comPublic PGP key. PGP Fingerprint: 5A4F 4C5C E8B7 20C3 2867 9100 C56C 881F 13AE 02D7 EFF Guide to PGP Security

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