Science 37’s office is sleek from floor to ceiling. It's mostly clean lines excluding a few elements: the imperfect, irregular ceramics that decorate the space.
That mix of modern and earthy is also seen in co-founders Noah Craft and Belinda Tan, a husband-and-wife team. Their cerebral natures show in their creds — each holds an M.D. and doctorate — and in their company.
Science 37’s platform helps clinical trial researchers find the right patients, who can participate from their own homes. That freedom accelerates study enrollment and scientific discovery, with the aim to deliver safe, effective treatments faster for less.
But the pair is also artistic and outdoorsy. Craft and Tan are potters who made those ceramics by hand. And they frequently get out into nature, contemplating business in mountain cabins and campsites.
CEO Craft says that they’re scientists, artists and explorers at once. He co-founded Science 37 with chief medical officer Tan three years ago. Today, they employ engineers, physicians and clinical research coordinators, and recently opened a San Francisco office. But Craft and Tan work to preserve a people-centric culture.
“My style of leadership is to understand people's own creativity and sense of exploration and give them tools and guidance, then just get out of their way and let them explore on their own,” said Craft.
They recently discussed how they make sure growth never eclipses exploration and empathy.
SCIENCE 37 AT A GLANCE
FOUNDED IN: 2014.
EMPLOYEES: 149 in Los Angeles (plus 12 in San Francisco).
WHAT THEY DO: Science 37 is a tech-enabled clinical research company that makes “site-less” trials available to patients. NORA, the company’s cloud-based mobile research platform, connects researchers and patients safely and securely online. This enables people to participate in studies from their own homes, with video-based telemedicine visits between study staff and patients.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Playa Vista.
WHO THEY DO IT FOR: Individual patients, clinicians and clinical trial clients and partners.
IN HOUSE: The VP of people is a clinical psychologist who interviews every potential hire.
IDEAL CANDIDATE: Someone embodying Science 37’s core values: be kind, useful, awesome; keep it simple and the quality high; and do it together.
NOTABLE PERKS: Free lunch daily; four weeks of vacation; dog-friendly office; 401k matching.
Tell us about your role at Science 37. What do you generally do in your day-to-day work?
Noah Craft, co-founder and CEO: We work at three extremely different levels of impact here. First, we take care of patients directly. At the same time, we do clinical trials that look for new cures for diseases. Finally, through our end-to-end clinical trial services, we're transforming how science and medical research is done at a global scale.
In terms of my day-to-day, I interact with nurses, coordinators and other doctors who take care of the patients who are participating in trials. I also work with our clients around big projects or global-scale clinical trials. In addition, I interact with investors and supporters.
Belinda Tan, co-founder and chief medical officer: I function as more of a builder. When we recognize that our business needs new services or new types of expertise, I'll spearhead the start of those teams. Over the past six months or so, I’ve built out a team of full-time leaders in therapeutic areas, including diabetes, neurology, psychiatry and dermatology.
I am also starting to be more outward facing. There's just so much going on in the startup world — and certainly in tech, medicine and science — where there’s a need for me to be part of the conversation as a female co-founder.
Craft: She's a kind of medical team leader and chief inspirer.
What’s a challenge your people face?
Tan: We face all the usual challenges of any software shop with a data security and privacy component. In addition, we have to respect regulatory guard rails. Certainly in our case, the guard rails are rigid because we’re in the clinical research space. On top of that, we're dealing with people and their personal health information.
Craft: Our platform, NORA, is regulated by the FDA and by all the medical rules of HIPAA and compliance, security and privacy. It's a big job. In addition to developing the product, we contend with a huge overlay of compliance and quality. That slows down development, but it makes you really proud when something can withstand that type of scrutiny.
When did you initially realize you had leadership potential?
Tan: I didn't start using the word leadership until recently, because our organization has grown and people clearly are defining us as leaders who need to do X, Y and Z. But when I think about it, leadership was part of my role when we were just starting this company, because we had to pitch the company and sell it to people we wanted to join us — and many of those people already had great jobs.
Craft: We consider ourselves scientists, artists and explorers all in one glove. And to be an explorer, you need to have a team that trusts your leadership to take them on an unknown journey. My style of leadership is to understand people's own creativity and sense of exploration and give them tools and guidance, then just get out of their way and let them explore on their own.
How has your leadership style evolved?
Craft: I tend to listen more and try to appreciate a lot more perspectives.
Tan: I, too, am a listener. Where I probably have evolved is in being more definitive about making decisions but also allowing my people to make their own decisions as much as possible.
Your motto is "be kind, useful, awesome.” Tell us how people show that.
Craft: One example is that, in addition to our homebrew beer club and sports teams, we have a philanthropy club. When I learned about that, I was impressed. To me, that speaks to the motto. People are here to do powerful things for society, not just be a tech company or be a fast-moving startup. And other people see that spirit. Whether it's a client, a regulator or an interviewee, they get our sense of fun and compassion.
Tan: People don’t have that attitude of, this is my work and my work only and I won’t step into your space. People help one another here. So that part about being “kind, useful and awesome” is happening every day.
Describe your ideal candidate.
Tan: When we were growing at our most rapid pace earlier this year, we knew that we needed to hire a lot of people fast. We were looking for A players. We were looking for people who had all the skill sets and experience. That led to some really strong hires, but it also helped us recognize that there's actually more to it. There needs to be a blueprint of our values so that we can find people who fit.
Craft: An ideal candidate is going to be really mission-driven and willing to work with our team very closely. There's a lot of emotionality here. You're taking care of very sick patients, some of whom are in life or death situations, and it's intense.
What questions do you ask to find out if someone's a culture fit?
Craft: We have an intense commitment to quality of character. Susan [Ko], our VP of people, is a clinical psychologist who interviews every candidate. And we have a formal interview process organized around character and psychological principles. Of course, people have to have the skill set or the ability to grow to that skill set, but there is no specific question to determine that.
What kind of growth opportunities might a new Science 37 hire experience?
Tan: This company is growing so quickly, there are always new roles.
Craft: We've enjoyed an incredible retention rate. We consider it a huge win if someone sees another growth opportunity and applies internally, whether it's inside a department or cross-departmental. We've had quite a few successes there.
Just how can Science 37 change the world?
Craft: We believe that all people should have the ability to make their own choices about healthcare and their participation in science. Our core mission is to make it so easy and accessible for both healthcare and science that anybody anywhere can participate.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.