Ten years ago, Sajith Wickramasekara dropped out of the Computer Science program at MIT to build something new: a software company that helps life science researchers better organize their lab work. Today, Benchling is the “Google Docs for R&D” and serves over 200,000 researchers across 700 companies. But back in 2012, that value proposition was less clear.
When Benchling first got started, software investors weren’t scrambling to fund digital notebooks in the cloud and, even more so, weren’t familiar with biotech’s problem spaces. That made the initial days especially difficult, but ultimately pushed Wickramasekara and co-founder Ashu Singhal to stay heads-down on engineering and product development.
The hard work wasn’t unwarranted; Wickramasekara knew there was something there. In high school and college, he spent his time outside of class working in research labs. And over time, he had become increasingly wary of how much the R&D industry relies on pens and paper.
While most investors didn’t get what Benchling was solving for and how big an opportunity it could be, Y Combinator’s Paul Graham did and became the first to back the company.
The rest is history. Since then, Benchling has raised over $400 million from the likes of Andreessen Horowitz, Menlo Ventures, and Altimeter Capital, and is valued at over $6 billion in its latest round of funding.