Bootstrapping a biotech company. How much does it cost?

Question for founders: How much money did you put into your company before you felt you had something “investable”?

I asked this question to some biotech founders.(Updated)

  • Celine Halioua (Loyal) said $500K.
  • Daniel Ives (Shift Bioscience) said he put in around $70K.
  • Nabiha Saklayen (Cellino) - co-founder used $10k - $20k to buy hardware for first prototype.
  • Jack O’Meara (Ochre Bio) - Entrepreneur First program paid a stipend and invested 80k GBP. Went through Y Combinator to get another $150k,
  • Kristen Fortney of BioAge Labs said she put in $5k- 10k. (Bioinformatics approach)
  • Matt Scholz said typical startup cost could be $1M but cheaper if you are creative. (leverage academic labs with spare capacity)

Does anybody have any other figures they can cite?

I am interested in finding ways to reduce the activation cost of biotech startups. Andrew Brack mentioned that his startup developed a technology (probably part of their drug discovery platform) and charged money for it. Roche is one of their customers now.

Not quite bootstrapping: Crowdfunding seems like a viable option to raise some initial capital. The SEC has raised the cap to $5M per year. The only problem is there are not a lot of premium crowdfunding platforms for biotech startups. A lot of the companies raising on WeFunder and tend to look like Kickstarter projects. There’s definitely a business opportunity here.


I don’t have figures right off hand, but this is an interesting topic. Salaries will often be a big part of costs. In corporate world, I’ve often estimated salaries at $150-200k/yr because that would be approximate cost for a 75k employee taking benefits, etc in to consideration. Lab space can be pricey. If there’s a biotech incubator, that can help. Those seem to come and go, though.

Step one is to de-risk the technology. Anything you can do to make progress up front without burning runway is a good thing. If there is a natural side product you can sell to cover some overhead, like the the Andrew Brack example above, that could help a lot with burn rate. What can you learn doing hobbyist-like experiments in a garage before having to commit to quit your job, raise money, and get lab space? Can you verify that the cell types you will work with grow well, or that a test you will preform often is reasonably reproducible?

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