Laboratory management just got easier thanks to an app to source lab supplies developed by U of T startup Indaggo.
U of T Scarborough alumna Melanie Ratnam designed her startup to help science run smoothly. And that’s what Indaggo is doing-just not quite the way they planned it.
Indaggo’s core product streamlines the laboratory management process to find the best deals for lab supplies. When the company’s launch was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ratnam and team pivoted their software to connect organizations in need of health and medical supplies to local community members willing to donate these hard-to-find items.
Building a startup with U of T Entrepreneurship to improve research laboratory management
Ratnam came up with the idea for Indaggo during her time as a PhD candidate in a neuroscience research lab at U of T Scarborough. She says lab budgets can be tight and every dollar needs to go a long way, but it’s also important to source quality materials so that experiments won’t be compromised.
“It’s not uncommon for some researchers to spend anywhere from 10 to 20 hours per week searching for the best products and prices,” says Ratnam. “It occurred to me that some of this work could be handled by software, allowing researchers to spend more time on their research.”
She and her team built a SaaS-based software platform to help scientists find the best deals when buying lab supplies. The Hub, U of T Scarborough’s incubator, provided comprehensive help.
“They gave us physical space to work and access to a conference room-and during COVID-19, virtual space to continue collaboration and mentorship online,” says Ratnam, praising the “invaluable guidance from our business development mentors: Vania Sakelaris, Gray Graffam, Luki Danukarojanto and Donovon Dill.”
“All this enabled continued access to collaboration with other startups too,” she adds. “At monthly meetings, startups shared new resources, lessons learned, and how they overcome challenges. Thanks to U of T, we had access to training on things like product-market fit, sales and marketing, and to seed funding to develop our minimum viable product via pitch competition. The resources that U of T Entrepreneurship made possible throughout were invaluable to our growth and business development as a team.”
How Indaggo became a front-line resource during the COVID-19 pandemic
Ratnam originally planned to launch Indaggo in March 2020 during U of T’s Entrepreneurship Expo, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused U of T to cancel the expo and lock down labs, requiring her to put things on hold.
In those first days of Canada’s lockdown, it was challenging to find everything from personal protective equipment to hand sanitizer. Ratnam and her team of nine created the Respond app, which lets organizations put out a call for an item and volunteers-both individuals and companies-donate toward the goal.
For example, Service and Housing in the Province (SHIP), a large organization in Ontario that supports people who are homeless or living with a mental health issue, used the application to find tablets and hand-sewn face masks to assist with virtual and personal counselling sessions.
Scarborough Health Network (SHN) used Indaggo’s service to help secure personal protective equipment for hospital staff and patients. “We are grateful to the Indaggo team for developing this platform,” said Alicia Vandermeer, president of the SHN Foundation. “Innovation is a key pillar in our approach to health care at SHN. This creative and generous effort is a demonstration of the greater community rallying their support around our hospitals and health-care providers during these challenging times.”
Indaggo’s official launch is yet to come, but Ratnam says her team has been happy to offer help when they could. “I feel so privileged to be part of such a creative, hard-working ecosystem, which we have at U of T,” she says. “There’s no way we could have pulled it off without everyone coming together.”