Backyard Brains has come a long way since its inception in 2010. Back then it was a side project of a couple of neuroscientists looking to sell a few insect neuroscience kits to teach grade-school students how the brain works. Today it is a multi-national corporation selling those kits on three continents.
The Ann Arbor-based company expanded into South America last year focusing on the Chilean education market. It has since cemented its presence there and is now expanding into Africa, making sales in Nigeria, Uganda, Morocco and Ethiopia, among other nations.
"We're now in 60 countries," says Tim Marzullo, co-founder of Backyard Brains.
"That's pretty exciting."
Marzullo and Greg Gage launched Backyard Brains with its RoboRoach
product. The testing kit enables students to control insects via antennas. Its flagship product is SpiderBox
, a bioamplifier that allows users to hear and see spikes of neurons in invertebrates.
Backyard Brains sales of these products have increased an average of 5 percent a month over the last year. Revenue spiked to $70,000 last November (the business’ busy season and when it struck a partnership with Harvard) and reached $40,000 in February, which was still up considerably from a year. International sales, especially in Chile, are helping drive the company's growth.
"It (the Chilean market) is where Backyard Brains was three years ago," Marzullo says. "We're making sales there every month now."
The growth has allowed Backyard Brains to add staff. It has hired three people (an engineer, an accountant and a designer) in the U.S. over the last year, expanding its staff to six full-time employees and six part-timers. It also employs one full-time person and three part-timers in Chile.
Source: Tim Marzullo, co-founder of Backyard Brains
Writer: Jon Zemke
Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.