Music and Microbiology: A Case Study from Nyoka Labs

Key Takeaways

  • Don’t just get excited about a solution because you have the skills to pull it off.
  • Your ‘side’ talents before entrepreneurship become the niche no one else can occupy.
  • Don’t try to get everything done yourself. This isn’t school. But if you’re willing to take a risk, it’s ALL about trusting yourself.
Left: Paige Whitehead. Right: Yamila Franco. Cofounders, Nyoka Design Labs.

Specific Actions to be Sustainable

Nyoka Design Labs is a company that wants to create a world with sustainable biotechnology. Usually, we think about controversial debates when it comes to biotechnology. For Paige though, biotechnology offered the tools needed to make a positive change in the world! Also, she just REALLY (really) loved bioluminescence…

The Journey to Get Here

So how did all these changes get started? Well, it was quite an unexpected journey to say the least!

Paige showing a secret-ish glow from the Light Wand ;-)

Some Numbers Behind the Story

  • They made $9000 USD from selling 100 units of their first product on Kickstarter. In 2020, they’re just starting to sell at larger scales with their new online store.
  • Profit margins vary based on the stage of product development. They could range from losing money (in prototype testing), breaking even (hopefully with early sales), to making a profit once production is more streamlined! Then, they achieve between 50–100% margins.
  • To date, they’ve initiated 530+ events that used glowsticks without plastics.
  • They JUST raised $320,000 after getting into one of the world’s top science accelerators, Indie Bio!

What Worked Well and What Didn’t

The biggest thing that Paige thinks they should’ve done differently is very deeply understanding the problem instead of falling in love with the solution. For a long time, Nyoka was trying to develop its Light Wand from their original idea. In the end, they did have a product. But it still needed more development to bring the costs down (it currently costs around $80 USD). Typical glowsticks today range from a few dollars/pack at a Dollar Store to industrial glowsticks for $15 USD.

Advice to other Founders

The biggest piece of advice Paige would give other founders is to train the skill of radical empathy, both for yourself and for others. Soft skills like knowing how to respect yourself are ESSENTIAL for managing a team of people. And regardless of what industry you’re working in (or even if you’re going about day-to-day life), this skill continues to prove useful time and time again.



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Madhav Malhotra

Madhav Malhotra

Cofounder at The Plastic Shift. Learning how to create a sustainable planet. Linkedin: