As a scientist and academic emergency medicine physician, Shuhan He often found himself frustrated at the lack of great equipment and tools available to help him achieve results. That’s why he founded Conduct Science, which creates and distributes scientific equipment to help people conduct better science. To ensure maximum quality, all the tools are thoroughly checked by a team of scientists who give their stamp of approval.
Government contracting regulations prevent Shuhan from sharing any exact revenue details. However, he is allowed to tell us that Conduct Science generated $3-10 million in revenue in 2019 by aligning their products with what their customers actually need. The company is also predicting 50% year-on-year growth and aims to be a public company within the next 5-10 years.
Who are you and what brand did you start?
I am Shuhan He - academic emergency medicine physician in Massachusetts, with years of experience in practicing research science. My regular job involves taking care of patients, and it is extremely rewarding. However, I was also the founder of Conduct Science. We are a company that creates and distributes scientific equipment.
Conduct Science makes technology transfer tools for science, a little like an ‘Etsy’ for science if you will. We take research tools developed by some of the brightest minds in academia, and give them a platform for distribution to other scientists. This way, we hope that people can ‘conduct better science’.
Active research scientists are my target demographic. We are not restricted by age range, since there are people of all ages across the globe practicing science. We tend to target scientists who belong to large research organizations as they have extensive intellectual property portfolios that never get translated into real world inventions. We help guide researchers through the process of technology transfer, doing our best to stand up for the quality of their products and have them used in laboratories around the world.
Since launching Conduct Science in 2012, we have succeeded in publishing a wide range of scientific research. One of our proudest moments was being published in Nature, thanks to Tara A. LeGates et al. 's research into the hippocampus and nucleus accumbens. We have also been featured in Nature, NPR, Huffington Post, Indie Hackers, Popular Science, and Discover Magazine.
How did you come up with the idea, brand name and logo for Conduct Science?
As a scientist myself, I often found myself frustrated at the lack of great equipment and tools available to help me achieve results. I would find myself spending the majority of my time crafting tools, rather than actually running tests and processing data!
I purchased the domain name for Conduct Science in 2012. As touched upon, the name was chosen because the aim of the brand is to help scientists conduct better science.
Secondly, I also realized that scientists spend most of their time publishing and writing without getting the chance to publicize their new tools. I wanted to give scientists a platform to be rewarded for their creations.
Describe the process of launching Conduct Science?
Back in 2012 when I launched Conduct Science, I made sure to build mazeengineers.com into a strong source of scientific mazes. This would give me something to launch Conduct Science with, and sure enough, our first few customers came about because they loved the mazes.
With Maze Engineers now one of Conduct Science’s biggest subdivisions, I look back and realize it allowed me to begin growing my brand using the existing audience of scientists who love Maze Engineers.
As with all startups, there were significant initial costs to contend with. My main method for meeting and overcoming costs is to bootstrap my business. That means growing with my own revenue, and funds accrued through my full-time emergency physician job.
Bootstrapping provided a way for controlled growth at the beginning, without feeling the pressure to impress investors or make a return on their investments of venture capital.
Since launch, what has worked best to attract and retain customers?
Having Conduct Science build a loyal following of scientists has come about, I believe, from focusing on making the products solve pain points I discovered as a young lab technician and scientist myself.
For me, satisfying the customer is essential. In science, it is going to be plainly obvious if you come across sub-standard tools. We endeavor so that all of our products are of great quality, and meet the expectations of experienced researchers.
Our customer base is retained because we genuinely care about their experience, and as a result they use Conduct Science for their future technology needs.
With regards to business growth, how have things changed from a digital, revenue, customer and sales perspective?
Unfortunately, government contracting regulations prevent me from sharing any exact revenue details with you.
In terms of revenue, I am permitted to share a broad range. We made between $3-10 million in revenue in 2019. What I would say is that the most important thing we do is to align our products with what customers actually need. This means every part of our process is entirely aligned with listening to our customers. We keep a custom work division in order to solely make things for customers, and often at a loss for us, just so we can learn and develop new products in conjunction with our scientist partners.
We always commit to this because its what lets us grow. Since we only take customer revenue, we’re entirely aligned with our customers, who are scientists. This is fundamental to our business.
How is the business doing today and what does the future look like?
I am able to share that we are doing well enough to aim for 50% year-on-year growth and are on course to achieve that!
We are working with over 500 partners to design reliable scientific tools, so we hope for even more growth into the future. Our aim is to become a public company within the next 5-10 years.
What’s been the biggest learning experience since starting your own brand?
I look at a lot of modern brands that make it easy for consumers to get the products they need, like Dollar Shave Club, or Apple. What is fundamental to me was that we treat scientists like consumers, because they are. People want products and services that are easily accessible, visually appealing and also functional at a low price. A lot of our user experience with building Conduct Science, the brand, was similar to the innovation in consumer technology.
The work to make our day to day lives easier in things like brushing our teeth or playing music should also apply to scientists doing microscopy and running human therapies to improve brain cognition.
I want to make technical, scientific products just as easily accessible as consumer grade products, and doing so was really important in the brand discovery for our customers.
What are your top 3 tips on how to setup an Ecom store for success?
Here are my top three tips for someone running an ecommerce store:
1) Make products easily searchable, and easy to locate. If a user were to type the first few letters of a product, would it appear as a suggestion? Bonus tip: Allow for searching by SKU, because many shoppers know the SKU number of a product they are heavily interested in.
2) Provide value to the customer, with special focus on saving them money or time. Can you provide a product comparison service? Maybe you can offer a guide on which products would fit their needs?
3) Place focus on having real people available to chat with customers about their needs. Nobody likes talking to a robot, and only real people can truly understand what a customer is looking for.
What are some of your favorite online business tools you use to run Conduct Science?
Here are some of my key online tools for smooth running of Conduct Science:
Slack and Asana are both great communication and organization tools. They’re almost essential for any remote team. Conduct Science consists mostly of remote workers and freelancers, meaning communication is vital.
Google Analytics and CrazyEgg. These analytics tools help me to better understand the behavior of visitors to the Conduct Science website. Checking on the most popular technology and the clicking habits of users allows me to restructure the website in a more intuitive way.
|Project Management||Asana, Trello, Slack|
|Email Marketing||MailChimp, MixMax|
|Analytics||Google Analytics, Crazy Egg|
|Social Media Tools||Hootsuite, Buffer|
|Staff Recruitment||Upwork, PowertoFly|
See what tools and platforms other founders are using.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts or other educational resources?
Indiehackers.com is a great community of entrepreneurs, digital nomads and businesspeople who look to discuss a variety of topics. There are really helpful questions and answers; it helps a great deal to read the thoughts of like-minded people!
Equity podcast helps me to better understand the world of business, shares and stocks. They release frequent podcasts exploring the fortunes of some of the most famous companies in the world.
I also listen to The Pitch, a podcast similar in structure to the TV show Shark Tank. It involves entrepreneurs pitching their products and services to investors with the hope of receiving venture capital in return for a stake in their company. This helps me keep on top of the latest trends in business, and expert investor opinions on other businesses.
I have a fantastic team in charge of our very own Conduct Science podcast. We do fascinating interviews on scientific methods with the likes of Dr. John Boyd - these definitely keep me motivated to work on the business!
Who have been the most influential people for you during this business journey?
I have mentors from almost all walks of life, from personal to research to business. In the business world our team is part of the Harvard Innovation Lab, and this has been incredibly helpful as a resource to connect with other strong entrepreneurs in a community lifting each other up. Sometimes my peers who are in the trenches with me are the most helpful, just seeing the man in the arena, so to speak also going thorugh ups and downs, failures and successes.
I find my father to be a personal inspiration to me. He came from a tiny village in China with almost nothing, worked his way up while working three jobs to a PhD and two masters degrees. He was the first person in his village to ever go to higher education, and I feel the responsibility of carrying the immigrant dream forward. I didn’t grow up with much, but I never knew it. My parents were always there for me, and I always felt loved and supported to reach my goals.
Any other advice you’d like to share with other aspiring entrepreneurs?
I think it’s definitely worth considering whether or not you actually need an office, or if you can be set up as a remote team. This way, you can avoid the costs of hiring office space and also reach out to the best talent worldwide.'Consider whether or not you actually need an office, or if you can be set up as a remote team. This way, you can avoid unnecessary costs of hiring office space'Click To Tweet
Secondly, think of ways you can put all of your effort into pleasing your customers and nobody else. For me, the solution was bootstrapping the business.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now or open to new investors?
We are always hiring - visit our contact page and let us know if you think you have skills you can offer to the Conduct Science team!
I would never be open to selling Conduct Science, however if the right person were to come forward with a minority equity stake, I would consider accepting in order to take Conduct Science to the next level.