Reimagining Science Start-ups With Digital Nomads

“I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on earth – then I ask myself the same question!”

High speed internet around the world has empowered many freelancers, digital nomads and tech entrepreneurs to embrace remote work opportunities. Unprecedented connectivity amplified by communication channels like slack and google hangouts have allowed them to never miss a beat, while also allowing companies to tap into a global talent pool.

“By 2035, one billion people will be remote workers or digital nomads,” proclaimed Pieter Levels at DNX Global conference in 2015.

Levels, a Dutch entrepreneur, became a renowned voice among the digital nomad circles when he launched NomadList in 2014, all the while hopping from one country to another. NomadList is a website for digital nomads to discover and compare the best places to live and work around the world. Since then, he has also launched RemoteOK, an aggregator for job listings that allow employees to work from anywhere they choose.

Successful tech companies like Automattic and Buffer have led the way by allowing all their employees to work remotely. But can a distributed organisation work for science companies – and more specifically – science start-ups?

Labster is a Danish start-up reimagining science education for the next generation of scientists. The company has a presence in Denmark, Switzerland, USA and Indonesia, although most of the team is based in Bali, Indonesia.

Co-founder and CTO, Michael Bodekaer, presented a gripping demo of their virtual reality simulator at TEDxCERN earlier this year. Students can now run accurate science experiments without access to the cutting edge multi-million-dollar equipment, thanks to Labster’s software in immersive virtual reality.

Besides the [Foto: Falling Walls/KAY HERSCHELMANN] gaming and entertainment industries, virtual reality hasn’t achieved mass market adoption yet, but Labster is making headway into making quality education more accessible and potentially revolutionising how science is taught in the classroom.

Research shows that flight simulators have been proven to be far more effective when used in combination with real in-flight training to train the pilots. The Labster founders, Mads T. Bonde and Michael Bodekaer, asked themselves: why not do that for science education with a virtual laboratory simulator? “We set out to build a fully simulated one-to-one virtual reality simulator where the students could perform experiments with mathematical equations that would simulate what would happen in a real world lab,” said Bodekaer.

This could potentially bring science labs to millions of more science students around the world who otherwise may not have access to the real equipment. However, Labster’s technology isn’t meant to completely replace textbooks or lectures, but augment the learning experience to amplify the results. A statistically significant scientific study of how laboratory simulations impact learning when mixed with traditional teaching methods showed that it effectively doubles the impact of a science teacher without any additional time spent.

EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) is a New York based non-profit that leads cutting-edge research into “protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease.” As you’d expect EHA researchers spend a lot of time at their international field locations in over 30 countries, but EHA also embraces remote workers for several of their software development positions. RemoteOK lists 10 job openings where EHA was open to hiring remote workers.

It’s a direct reflection of an evolving world now that there are more millennials than baby boomers in the workforce and they seek more flexibility. Health tech businesses like ClearCost Health and Gecko Health Innovations are also adapting to this new reality by allowing some employees to work from anywhere. Most of these still tend to be technology jobs, like software developers, database administrators, etc. but as companies get more comfortable with employees working remotely, it is safe to bet that more job functions will soon be available to remote workers as well.

“It’s only a matter of time before virtual reality will become indistinguishable from actual reality,” posits Facebook CTO, Michael Schroepfer. That will have a profound impact on how any company is structured geographically – whether it’s a small start-up or a Fortune 100 company.

Despite greater challenges, such as higher costs of starting up than a tech start-up and more difficulty in hiring the required talent, many science start-ups today are solving big problems with ingenuity and cutting edge technologies, all the while collaborating with colleagues around the world. Are you working at an innovative science start-up or know someone who does?

Falling Walls Venture is an international forum for outstanding science based start-ups, venture capitalists and opinion leaders. 20 start-ups will present their business to a distinguished international jury who will then award one of them the title Falling Walls Science Start-Up of the Year.

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