Interview with Johannes Solzbach, CEO of Clustermartket.
Author: Natalia Drzewiecka
Edited by: Iselin H.Wood
Johannes Solzbach is CEO and co–founder of Clustermarket, with a background in finance. The company has a sharing economy concept which lets researchers and smaller institutions gain access to scientific equipment and services.
The life sciences struggle with obstacles hindering speedy development. Getting the right equipment, services and co-workers is expensive and time-consuming. Clustermarket aims to slash costs and speed up the R&D process for their users, lowering the initial threshold for scientists and engineers.
What does CLUSTERMARKET do?
Clustermarket is an online sharing marketplace which allows scientists, companies and other users to get easy and affordable access to laboratory equipment and services. The providers of those resources are universities, other research institutions and businesses; the idea is to enable a sharing economy within science, which will support innovation and help integration in scientific work.
So – we could compare the CLUSTERMARKET platform to an „Airbnb” for lab equipment and services?
Well… I would rather not describe it in that way – but the concept is similar, only for sharing innovative services and equipment, so yes – the way the platform works could be described in that way.
Why did you start working on CLUSTERMARKET? What was your goal?
I started in the company with my friends from University Niklas and Tobias, who wanted to connect their idea to the life sciences. They knew out of experience that the lack of affordable access to laboratory equipment and services is a really big problem in the sector, and he wanted to face it. We wanted to find a solution to this by simply using existing resources more efficiently. I started working with them on this idea at university, – and that’s how the Clustermarket platform was created.
How did your background help you develop CLUSTERMARKET?
Well, it helped a lot! My friend Niklas has a background in business and eventually got into tech, but also in the area of Pharma and Chemicals. Tobias is a sports scientist with lab experience. I am educated in finance, and I believe the combination has been useful to help us get Clustermarket on the market.
What are the benefits to your users? What makes CLUSTERMARKET stand out?
On the one hand, our users get access to equipment and services which is limited for not only startups but for scientists in general. This is what holds back development and innovation for the whole industry. Clustermarket provides you with what you need to get going and make progress with developing your project. On the other hand the portal helps our users to make the most of your resources for providers and handle the administrative work. This can help you save time, defray maintenance costs, cut investment expenses and eventually make research financially sustainable.
How does CLUSTERMARKET work? What should I do if I wanted to book a gass chromatographer, for instance?
It is very easy and doesn’t take you much time. First you need to register, find a provider on CLUSTERMARKET, and request the equipment you need. Registration is free, and you can view the provider’s conditions for rental straight away.
What about services?
Yes, we enable service bookings as well. If you are working on a project and need people qualified in a certain area, you can book the service you need through CLUSTERMARKET and can request quotes from different providers on the platform.
What has been CLUSTERMARKET’s biggest challenge so far?
So far, the biggest challenge was to get our first provider, UCL (University College London) on board and run a pilot with us. Since we didn’t have an operational platform at the time nor any case studies, it was certainly a bit of a challenge. We spent a lot of time on meetings, presentations and negotiations – it took us 6 months, but we finally got it!
What are your plans for the future?
Well, we are currently focused on the UK, but our plan is to set up and spread our online market throughout Europe. So far we have two pilot projects in Norway – at the University of Oslo and NMBU. We still have a long way to go, but we believe we are headed in the right direction.
Do you think CLUSTERMARKET will be able to provide new jobs?
Absolutely! As we develop in the European market, we will need more people in engineering, customer service and business development to introduce users to our platform and its benefits.
Are you open for new graduates, or would you consider organizing internships?
Yes, we are also open for this! We want to hire an intern in Oslo to work with customer services for our current and new users. We don’t need any specific scientific expertise, but we are looking mainly for people with a science or engineering background.
As a member of TLSC, I’m sure you have heard about ShareLab. What do you think about the concept?
Of course – it’s a cool idea! The market really needs these kinds of initiatives. It’s a perfect opportunity for startups to develop their patents, projects and research. I think it’s extremely important to offer resources to help startups gain market access and save on the R&D budget at the same time.