Startup biotech company Transcriptic has raised $1.2 million in a seed funding round from a wide group of investors led by Google Ventures and FF Angel (Founders Fund‘s seed stage arm), and private investors Mark Cuban and Naval Ravikant. Notably, more than 60 accredited investors contributed $150,000 through a partnership between investment platforms AngelList and SecondMarket, which Transcriptic says makes it the first company to raise a significant equity round online.
Max Hodak, Transcriptic’s founder, told me he had created an AngelList profile but left it dormant until his company gained funding momentum from Cuban, Google Ventures and FF Angel. AngelList founder Ravikant also pitched the benefits of the platform to Hodak. “I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try casting a wider net,” Hodak says. Transcriptic plans to use funds raised in this round to help build its robotic research lab in Menlo Park.
“We’re going to be spending the next year adding capabilities and proving that it can be done for a fraction of the cost that most people in the life science industry think is reasonable. Even with capital equipment, though, people are definitely our biggest cost,” says Hodak.
Transcriptic company develops “next-generation lab automaton and virtualization technology” – in other words, tools that allow scientists to perform biology research from their laptops, sparing them tedious tasks that usually require expensive equipment and hours of painstaking work.
Google Ventures general partner Wesley Chan said in a statement that Transcriptic’s technologies have “the potential to impact biology in the same way that cloud computing has impacted information technology.”
“Right now basic research is all done by hand, by grad students or lab techs standing at benches all day long doing really boring manual labor,” says Hodak. “We’re building a system that can let them do that work remotely via automation in our lab.”
The company started off with making custom plasmids, or molecular cloning, as the first steps towards its goal of letting users write custom experiments directly. Its platform dramatically simplifies the workflow (“Five clicks on a Web form versus a week of back-and-forth with a sales rep, emailing word documents with the DNA sequences copy-pasted inside around,” says Hodak).
The molecular cloning service is a stepping-stone to Transcriptic’s underlying platform, which is now accepting customers on a limited basis after several months of testing. It will be available for general use by mid-2013.