In the LinkedIn LIMS/LI group, I started a discussion for a friend of mine who is going to work at a new startup. The questions is regarding how he could create something better than an Excel spreadsheet to handle the multitude of samples he thinks he’ll have to deal with. He doesn’t think an Excel spreadsheet will be the right kind of tool to help him keep up on his testing and, since he probably has to manage it all alone, possibly being a one-man testing department, at least for a while, he is already planning how to stay on top of it all.
Unfortunately for him, he will basically have no budget and will be so busy trying to perform and manage testing that it’s a stretch to imagine that he would build or even configure a LIMS or ELN for his lab.
I asked the question to the LIMS/LI group in the spirit of helping him, and he’s neither a member of the group nor particularly interested in IT topics of discussion, overall. However, this is actually something I’ve always wondered. I know a number of people who have worked at startups, struggled with Excel spreadsheets or other tools that often don’t work that well for them, and wondered if doing anything else is even practical.
Also, think of it this way – if you don’t have time to finish your testing and don’t have time to try to install new software, you might not be able to spend the time developing the requirements to know what software to purchase. I’m not trying to be negative about this, just saying to any CEOs reading this that you shouldn’t expect to see a fully-fledged LIMS or ELN popping out of your startup lab any time, soon.
Starting this discussion has been somewhat interesting to me, because I sometimes get the impression there are people reading the post thinking that “zero” money means “just a few hundred thousand” or something of that nature, but I think most participants do realize that the startups we hear about in the news as being well-capitalized and making money hand-over-fist are probably the minority. Lots of them quite possibly struggle to get any amount of money and most probably never make it to the product stage.
The other tough thing is that no-one probably needs help more than a startup. No-one probably runs as lean as they do. Unfortunately, they don’t have the money to hire anyone to help them nor would they have the time to work with anyone they might bring in to help them out, either. While I’m sure there must be consultants out there who work specifically to help startups, I haven’t run into one. Of course, since I don’t myself work with startups I would meet others consultants such as myself who are working with the medium-sized and larger customers. Still, it remains an unanswered question in my mind regarding whether I have a startup counterpart out in the world, somewhere.