Disrupting a well-established industry like laboratory supplies has made LabFriend unpopular with its competitors.
“We’re the new kid on the block,” says managing director Karl Wyzenbeek.
“We’ve gotten some nasty letters already.”
Wyzenbeek and LabFriend are aiming to offer quality scientific equipment, like evaporators, stirrers and analytic equipment, to Australian scientists at cheaper prices by operating online and keeping costs down.
“We really focus on keeping everything online, simple and easy,” he told StartupSmart.
Wyzenbeek, who has worked in sales and distribution of scientific equipment, says they’ve made over $150,000 in sales since LabFriend was launched around September last year.
“Which is pretty amazing for a company that didn’t exist,” he says.
Wyzenbeek says he saw there was a place for LabFriend as Australian researchers sought high quality equipment at affordable prices to make their grant funding go further.
“There is a way we can get the best quality equipment into Australia at the same price as if the researcher was in the US or UK.”
Australia has a wealth of institutions carrying out research, including the CSIRO, universities, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and even manufacturing.
“Our customers are really interesting, exciting people at the cutting edge,” Wyzenbeek says.
He says his previous experience in the industry has allowed him to build up relationships with overseas suppliers and list over 60,000 products on the website.
A continuing challenge, however, is bringing equipment into the country, with Customs a hurdle, especially if equipment is packaged wrongly, which can delay deliveries.
“Logistics, especially into Australia, is a challenge.”
Another challenge starting LabFriend was getting the website built, Wyzenbeek says, initially outsourcing it overseas, which he described as “next to impossible and a disaster”, noting it was not worth doing “unless you’re going to work 24 hours a day and micromanage someone in the UK or Indonesia”.
He says he later had the site designed by a Melbourne-based company, which involved developing technology to connect the site to overseas suppliers.