Start-up / Scale-up / Developers & TechnologyView profile
We recently had a great chat with Matthew Bone, Founder & CEO at Molydyn. Molydyn is a software company based in Bristol, UK. They’re passionate about making computational chemistry accessible, and using modelling to drive materials discovery.
The purpose of article series ‘Product | People | Potential’ is to feature and showcase the very best start-ups with grand potential, truly inspiring businesses that are shaking up their sector. We capture and share the stories behind the name. We collate authentic peer to peer real talk, while celebrating the growth and success thus far and gather a glimpse of what’s ahead.
Matthew: My name is Matthew Bone and I am founder & CEO of Molydyn. We’re a Bristol based software start-up and have been in development for the last year. Molydyn is working to help create a new generation of sustainable materials through our accessible computational chemistry platform Atlas. Simulating new polymers or plastics allows scientists to save time, money, and limit their environmental impact by virtually screening new materials before taking them into the lab. Our focus on accessibility makes us unique: giving all chemists the opportunity to quickly and easily build simulations of their research, which also makes Atlas a useful tool for teaching!
Matthew: I somewhat stumbled into computational chemistry during my degree and realised it let me explore chemistry from the comfort of my desk. I wasn’t much of a lab chemist, but wanted something that let me do chemical research and use my new found love of coding. From then on, I was looking for a way to get more people involved in computational chemistry, which is a lot less popular than other areas of chemistry.
Whilst I was working on my PhD in computational materials science, I realised that I had built a suite of tools and a workflow that made setting up simulations quite simple. From there I began imagining what a polished interface might look like, and quickly realised I had no idea what I was doing. After talking to lots of potential users, I hired a designer to get me started and began creating Atlas.
Matthew: I think a lot of start-ups struggle as all their plans involve having a team of capable people on standby, which simple isn’t affordable. They then get bogged down trying to perfect things that they don’t have the skills to do. Rather than try and hire too early, we’ve built our roadmap around what we can achieve right now, knowing we can improve our approach when we’ve hired people with the skills we lack.
In the meantime, getting out and talking to people has made our starting position much stronger. Most people are willing to give advice and have a chat for free.
A good mentor can fill in for a whole team in the short term by directing you to learn and focus only on the most important tasks. Equally, a strong network can introduce you to people you would never otherwise reach with an advert.
Matthew: Getting out and talking to as diverse a group as possible is the main tool a start-up has available to make sure they are building something useful. This starts with the obvious target customers, in our case academics in chemistry and industry people working in chemical and material companies. From there, try to broaden out and learn what the boundaries of our stakeholders are. They’re a lot larger than you think! I’ve had great discussions with secondary school students and teachers, users in related simulation fields with different tools, or people with no knowledge of materials science but have a passion for the sustainability and the environment. They’ll all have an opinion about what you’re offering and this diversity of thought leads to the best ideas.
From there I love doing a good software demo. There’s always the pressure that it won’t work live (it never does…), but I learn as much from my audience as they do from me. Seeing which bits people immediately understand, and answering seemingly random questions, really highlights what you are doing well and where you need some tweaks.
Matthew: As computational chemistry is rather unheard of in materials science coming up with a clear pitch that lets people see the potential has been challenging. There are many different moving parts to what we offer so in the beginning people can think that Atlas isn’t the right tool for them. However, with some case studies and clear messaging we’re now effectively getting the word out – accessible simulation means a clear direction to new materials for a fraction of the resources.
At the same time, committing to accessibility makes development harder. There is always the temptation to assume that people will figure it out and make something so niche that only a handful of users understand it. Ultimately, embracing this challenge is what makes what we do special, and it’s very satisfying to see it succeed. Hearing about the awesome work our users are doing with our tools is what drives us.
Matthew: Start early and try to build momentum long before trying to go for a deal. We’re looking to raise investment later in the year, and we’ve seen a little prize leads to a grant, which leads on to a larger prize, a larger grant, a small piece of business, and so on. All of this gives you external validation and helps to get your foot in the next door. An investor told me “You need to give us FOMO (Fear of missing out)”, which I think is really nice way of looking at it! A few prizes and grants under your belt will help to start building that FOMO.