The world’s first citizen science campaign to sequence the human microbiome has raised almost $200,000 from 1500 people in over 30 countries in less than three months on Indiegogo – the largest successful citizen science project in history. How did we do it?

By Jessica Richman (Co-Founder, uBiome)

The microbiome are the bacteria that live on and within us; all of us are actually covered in helpful germs.

Studies have linked the microbiome to anxiety and depression, diabetes, gut disorders, asthma, cancer, and allergies.

The more people that join us, the more statistical power we have to understand how the human microbiome affects health and disease.

To bring this technology to the public, my co-founders and I started uBiome, the world’s first citizen science effort to map the human microbiome.

From a small sample on a cotton swab, a uBiome test can start to unlock the secrets to:

  • IBD, Crohn’s, and other bowel conditions
  • Diet, obesity, and weight loss
  • Antibiotic use
  • Cancer
  • Allergies
  • Other chronic conditions

Here are the top 3 lessons from our crowdfunding campaign:

Lesson #1: Have Many Hooks

uBiome is a citizen science project to sequence the microbiome, bringing cutting edge technology to the public. The microbiome is the bacteria that live on and within us and has been linked an imbalance to autism, depression, and anxiety as well as many gut disorders.

Combining citizen science with crowdfunding with cutting edge science gave us an edge. Because of this, there were multiple ways to relate to the story, multiple angles for press, and multiple ways to connect to our audience.

Lesson #2: Product Design Is Everything

Think very carefully about the product you are offering and make sure that it’s easy to understand, as tangible as possible, and has a “wow” factor for your audience. Sometimes it’s not the primary application of your technology or service that works best for crowdfunding. For example, we spent a lot of time and effort designing our kits so that they were easy to use, simple, and had provided the most useful information.

Many people have called us for help with their campaigns, and I tell them that especially with science and technology products, it’s important to make sure that you’re not thinking about features, but about benefits – not what it does, but how it benefits the user.

Lesson #3: Don’t Over-Promise

Don’t promise that your product will get there sooner, do more, or be less of an experiment than it actually is. Our product is a science experiment and we invite people to be a part of that process.

It’s cutting-edge research. We make that clear so people won’t be disappointed.

We welcome Women 2.0 members and their loved ones to join our project, and to learn more about your health!

Women 2.0 readers: What’s your favorite science startup?

About the guest blogger: Jessica Richman is co-founder of uBiome. She started and sold her first company after high school. Returning to formal education, she attended Stanford University, where she earned degrees in Economics and Science, Technology & Society. She worked for Google, McKinsey, Lehman Brothers, the Grameen Bank, and top-tier Silicon Valley venture firms as well as other entrepreneurial projects and adventures. Jessica arrived at Oxford University as a Clarendon Scholar and completed an MSc at the Oxford Internet Institute. Currently a Green Templeton DPhil Scholar, her academic interests include network analytics, innovation, and collective intelligence.