BenchSci is a Toronto-based hypergrowth startup whose evolutionary vision is to bring novel medicine to patients 50% faster by 2025. The company empowers scientists with the world’s most advanced biomedical artificial intelligence to run more successful experiments. BenchSci is a CIX Top 10 Growth company, 2021 Deloitte Tech Fast 50 company, certified Great Place to Work®, and top-ranked company on Glassdoor.
BenchSci has doubled in size in the last year, and is set to double its employee base again this year. Since launching its commercial offering, BenchSci has seen a ten-fold increase in license size each year, 100% year-over-year growth in revenue for the last three years, and has doubled its valuation with each financing round. In late January 2022, the firm announced it had raised CAD$63 million in Series C funding to accelerate its technology’s global reach; spearheaded by longstanding BenchSci investor Inovia Capital, via its growth fund, and U.S.-based TCV, this latest financing round brings BenchSci’s total funding to CAD$123 million to date.
A stunning space to accommodate rapid growth and creating new ways of working
By fall of 2019 BenchSci had outgrown its 10,000-square-foot space at 559 College Street, resulting in the firm securing its current headquarters at 25 York Street with the help of longtime agent Andrew Ross from Colliers.
“We saw some really cool industrial style offices in different parts of the city, but many of them weren’t conveniently accessible by transit and didn’t have a lot of walkable food options,” says Liran Belenzon, co-founder and CEO of BenchSci. “Our new space is open and expansive, and so able to accommodate our firm’s continued growth.” Connected to Union Station, the building is also easily accessible for employees.
“In March 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak saw companies around the globe switch to remote working practically overnight. Months into ‘The Great Work from Home Experiment,’ businesses, including BenchSci, began to realize that the experiment was evolving into a new, standard way of hybrid working,” says Ross.
“A lot of companies started leaning into fully remote work,” says Shelby Reaburn, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisor at BenchSci. “We found ourselves with two office spaces (one half under construction), big plans, and no idea when anyone could even come see the space. We decided to build for the future.”
BenchSci’s new, state-of-the-art, 27,500-square-foot office designed by Linebox Studio offers ample space to social distance, as well as 20 meeting rooms to facilitate collaboration between teams, and private spaces for quiet, isolated work. A town hall space supports remote meetings, and is an event slash lunch area where workers can safely socialize or enjoy a meal. A podcast room provides the ideal recording environment and an exercise room helps employees maintain their physical and mental health.
Remote working a change in physical location, a shift in mindset
Belenzon did not initially see the merit in remote working. According to him, “In full transparency: I didn't trust others, nor myself, to work and collaborate effectively at home. I was especially concerned that, as a startup, we would lose innovation and momentum if people weren't in the office together.”
With the onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent – and abrupt – transition to working from home came a shift in Belenzon’s mindset.
”Nobody took advantage of the situation, our team became more productive, we attracted global talent, and we had our most successful year ever,” he says. “COVID-19 made working from home essential to people's health, which we prioritize. Since then, we've overcome many challenges and seen incredible success with remote work, leading us to become a remote-first company.”
Belenzon points out that “remote work isn’t perfect” nor is it for each and every company. He states that not being together physically means the firm has to be intentional about building relationships, culture and an environment that fosters equity. While “nothing can replace the magic of working together in a room,” Belenzon acknowledges that in the case of BenchSci, when it comes to remote work, the advantages far outnumber the disadvantages.
In August of 2021, BenchSci announced that it had made the shift to being a remote-first company.
The office as a place to physically connect, build culture, and foster Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The BenchSci office reopened in September 2021. It has been renamed “BenchSci Commons,” alluding to the “commons” of political economics: the cultural and natural resources society shares.
“Our office has always been a big part of our culture,” says Belenzon. “The relationships that are built, the collaboration, and the communication that happens within an office space are invaluable and when a company goes the extra mile to invest in their office space, employees notice.”
At the core of BenchSci’s DNA and culture is its commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). According to the Globe and Mail article Canadian companies emerge from COVID-19 pandemic with new diversity and inclusion plans: “For Mr. Belenzon, improved diversity at BenchSci is a boon to his team and to the bottom line, especially if the company aims to be a global player. ‘DEI doesn’t touch only team members,’ he explains. ‘It touches your product, your vendors and what we are doing externally.’”
While the BenchSci headquarters are temporarily closed due to the Omicron wave, they will reopen when it is safe to do so. And the company looks to make the space a true nucleus for in-person togetherness and innovation. “Once a quarter, when it is safe, we will bring the entire company together, using the Commons as our home base, to connect on strategy, make plans, and celebrate successes,” says Reaburn.
“BenchSci is a company to watch and one that has really made a mark in the tech and science space,” says Ross. “BenchSci was one of very few companies that was in the unfortunate position of having to design and build space when no one knew how they were going to return to the office and utilize space. The end result is truly remarkable and in line with how companies are now reconfiguring their spaces.”
Read more on The Workplace of the Future