Chemical Forums

Specialty Chemistry Forums => Citizen Chemist => Topic started by: horse on February 19, 2017, 10:43:20 AM

Title: Starting up a lab supply company from the ground up
Post by: horse on February 19, 2017, 10:43:20 AM
I will soon be inheriting a bit of money (more than enough to buy a building, and setup a well equipped lab and begin stocking up on reagents and equipment) but I will need to research all this heavily, and plan everything meticulously. The only credentials I have are a bachelors degree in chemistry. If anyone here would like to join me on this venture, PM me and let me know, I'll interview anyone and see if they are the kind of people that would fit well into this project.

But this won't happen for at least 6 months, but I want to get started ASAP and start with baby steps by starting an ebay shop selling reagents that I can make but which are expensive to by from the big suppliers. Also big suppliers often won't sell to individuals. Ones I can make cheaply. Actually before starting with reagents, maybe it would be better to start stocking compounds that have uses in different activities like soap making, flavouring, pottery etc. For example I could make a wide range of esters which have different scents.

Has anyone started a business like this? Would anyone be willing to collaborate? Working together we could leverage our different locations, meaning we could ship from different locations to accomodate different users. Additionally certain things that are really cheap to buy OTC in my country, will differ in other countries.

My dream is to setup this lap supply and chemical supply company, then gradually expand into a supplement manufacturing company to produce all kinds of health enhancing supplements like curcumin and resveratrol and also nootropics like vinpocetine and newer ones that are hard to find. And keep expanding, so I want to grow fields of plants from which I can extract various beneficial compounds and also reagents. For example lemon balm, it contains rosemarinic acid which is a good sedative, but you can't find pure rosemarinic acid anywhere. I'm also a web developer and programmer so have a web project that fits perfectly into this.

Any insights and shared experience would be much appreciated, and if anyone wants to join, PM me and I'll talk to you about it. I'll put in the full investment (anyone that joins is free to invest money too, but its not necessary, I don't mind putting it all in so long as you can become a core part of the team and contribute valuable skills and be willing to work and help manage the company).
Title: Re: Starting up a lab supply company from the ground up
Post by: Enthalpy on February 21, 2017, 01:11:55 PM
Hi horse,

my gut feeling (and nothing more!) is that finding a process to produce any compound takes much time, and with very few people, you'll have to specialize a lot at the beginning. The strength of Merck and others is that customers get everything in one single order there. Unless your activity is strictly commercial: buy medium quantities, store locally, sell small quantities.

By the way, you didn't tell whether you plan to synthesise the compounds (lab supplies suggests this) or isolate them from natural material (which must be the standard path to health supplements). The company doesn't need the same hardware for both activities, and the investment differs.

Under "specialize", I could imagine groups of supplies like:
for which an initially small company can be better than the giants, and its speciality be in the mind of its customers.

If you achieve to produce just branched alkanes with a broad liquid range, they seem to have applications ranging from expensive in small amount to cheap in big amount, which is nice to start and grow a manufacturing process:
Vacuum grease can be badly expensive per gram, computer coolant expensive, aeroplane hydraulic fluid costly, but transformer oil must be rather cheap, and kerosene alternative must be dirt-cheap, so you have a road map as your company improves its process.
Synthesis might perhaps use an oligomerization reaction by Yamamoto
or isolate instead the useful compounds from Diesel oil if this works and if the yield permits it
Title: Re: Starting up a lab supply company from the ground up
Post by: horse on February 22, 2017, 11:25:47 AM
Thanks for all the insights and ideas! Yeah speclialisation is definitely the only way to go. Additionally though, there are other advantages we could provide over the big suppliers (Aldrich in my country). One of them being price. Often I look up a compound and am shocked and horrified when I look at the price. Of course this has to do with demand, they rarer, less in demand compounds are more expensive because they have less incentive to develop the methodologies to produce them.

I was also thinking of setting up branches of the company which appeal to the public rather than chemists. For example esters with various fragrances. I could produce a huge range of them that you won't find elsewhere. Then keep expanding that, for example into soap making supplies, ceramic making supplies. But especially finding areas in which people have great difficulty obtaining certain compounds they need (remember the giants usually don't sell to individuals). The company will be a haven for citizen chemists, people can put in requests for ranges of compounds they need, and we'll compile all these requests and start mass producing the most popular ones.

I want to focus on both naturally extracted compounds and purely synthetic ones. Natural compounds is what I'm most interested in. In addition to extracting these compounds (many of which will be relatively unknown to the modern world), I will make various semi synthetic derivatives of them, and use them as precursors for making other compounds which would be very difficult to synthesise via other routes.

I'm open to all those ideas you presented. I'm open to pretty much everything. With the exception of pharmaceuticals as I don't want to get too involved with medical regulatory bodies, although maybe that will change later down the line as we're not producing pharmaceutical formulations, just the raw materials.
Title: Re: Starting up a lab supply company from the ground up
Post by: Enthalpy on February 22, 2017, 04:00:30 PM
Citizen chemists: let's imagine each wants 100+ different reactants, and not every citizen chemist wants the same ones, then your offer must exceed 1000 reactants right from the beginning. This looks (to me!) like an excessive effort for a start-up.

Again my gut feeling: selling reactants to citizen chemists must be a strictly commercial activity, not one of development and production. Buy the 1000 different reactants in 100kg amount on alibaba, store, sell them in 100g amount.


Horrifying prices at Aldrich, Merck and the others: sure, and this can spark off vocations. But isn't their huge catalogue a must? If you need 10 compounds for your next lab trial, of which 1 or 2 are cheaper at but the 8 others are available only from Aldrich, and you know it will be the same next time, will you really issue a separate order for the 1 or 2 compounds?

My similar experience here is more from electrical engineering, and I did just like my colleagues: I bought from the big supplier only because he had everything. Worse: I designed my circuits around the components available from him.

So the entry ticket to compete against Aldrich might be: design production methods for >1,000 compounds first, begin to sell only then. Huge investment.


With "silicon containing reactants", I meant reactants specific to one known synthesis reaction. If you pick a recent reaction, the offer by the established companies may still be limited, so you could show a broader catalogue with a reasonable effort.

Many people here could tell it better. For what reactions are the catalogues of reactants too narrow?

I feel important that your company's offer is very clear to the customers' mind, especially if you're not a giant. If you're "the company that sells more varied reactants for the xyz reaction", or NMR solvents, or deuterated compounds, or ultra-anhydrous compounds... then potential customers will think to you when they have this need. But if you're a small competitor to Aldrich, they'll forget you. And the clearer your catalogue is to categorize mentally, the better you'll stay in customers' mind.


Fragrances: aren't many companies already doing that?


The story with the branched alkanes is just that as I thought at rocket fuels for Mars and the Moon, many other potential uses popped up, some of which accept expensive compounds, so I got the impression that there is an opportunity for a start-up here.
Title: Re: Starting up a lab supply company from the ground up
Post by: Enthalpy on February 24, 2017, 02:50:37 PM
One more reason not to defy Aldrich and Merck: precisely because the production cost is a tiny fraction of the sales price, they can sink their price at selected compounds until a newcomer company is dead.


One trivial natural compound is chlorophyll. 140€/1mg at Aldrich. A Kenyan university isolated it from spinach for the lab's needs, and the operation was very profitable at Kenyan labour cost but in tiny amount. If enough labs want it, a bigger scale should pay more expensive labour and better equipment.

Phytane too is badly expensive, but I consider it as a example of the branched alkanes to be synthesized instead of extracted.


Maybe a viable speciality for a startup: metal catalysts. Do only that, but offer as many metals and forms as possible, get known for that, and offer amounts that labs can afford. I suppose many metal catalysts can share the special production equipment (evaporate ultra-thin films on some carrying foil?), so grouping them in one company would make sense. Right from the beginning, offer metals that are not commonly used.
Title: Re: Starting up a lab supply company from the ground up
Post by: Enthalpy on February 24, 2017, 06:48:46 PM
Provide reactants containing 13C, 15N, 17O (and more if needed), simple but varied enough that chemists can easily put the atom where they need in a synthesized molecule for subsequent analysis by NMR.

Are such reactants already varied enough at existing suppliers?
Title: Re: Starting up a lab supply company from the ground up
Post by: Enthalpy on February 26, 2017, 02:05:25 PM
I describe there
the production of film catalyst.

The machine seems reasonably difficult to assemble from used parts, it is productive, and advantageously, this single machine can produce parts coated with about any metal catalyst: good for a specialized company.

The development demands:
It would save time and money to make the development in collaboration with or at a university that has already a semiconductor lab (even if outdated) and a chemistry lab.

Then, you need a salesman who lets know your company and its products.

The people who developed the machine may have fun in production or not, and you'll probably need them for further development anyway.
Title: Re: Starting up a lab supply company from the ground up
Post by: NewGuyInTheLab on June 23, 2019, 06:39:54 PM
Hello horse, may I PM you about your start up? This thread is 2 years old but I am interested in speaking with you about this, especially considering the time that has passed to learn more about whether you have started this company or not.