Spiffy’s Interview: renegade.bio – Focusing COVID-19 Testing on the People It Helps
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse stories with the mission to inspire kids and youth around the world to become entrepreneurs with empathy. This series features interviews of LGBT founders by a character named Spiffy to help young readers observe Pride Month with a renewed commitment to building a more equitable world for all.
Hello Planet Earth! My name is Spiffy, the interplanetary journalist, I’ve been interviewing leaders for Pride month. Today I’m thrilled to get a moment with Craig Rouskey from renegade.bio.
SPIFFY: Hi Craig, thanks for talking to me – I hear you’ve been busy. Could you tell me about renegade.bio?
Craig: Hey Spiffy, I’ll always make time for you. renegade.bio was formed in March 2020 to address the shortage of COVID-19 testing and to assure that all people, regardless of income, have access to crucial testing during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and beyond.
SPIFFY: Universal testing is really important in a time like this! What prompted you to start?
Craig: I couldn’t agree more. When the World Health Organization declared SARS-CoV-2 a pandemic on March 11, we saw the lack of preparation for such an outbreak in the United States as a real shortcoming. Our communities were suffering, and we needed to help. We’re motivated by community, for community, and with community.
SPIFFY: And how do you make sure this community focus translates into a more equitable world?
Craig: We’re a queer-owned and operated business and a public benefit corporation. We elevate our communities and have the opportunity to help co-create a new business landscape where the triple bottom line is the focus. We’re proof that a company that puts people and the planet first can thrive in a changing business ecosystem.
SPIFFY: Things have happened so quickly during the pandemic (even if it’s hard to tell). Could you fill me in on some of your recent milestones?
Craig: It really did happen in a flash. Since Early April, renegade.bio has been working diligently to scale in NYC and the San Francisco Bay Area, which is our birthplace. We initially partnered with the New York Genome Center and operated under their CLIA license until June 11, when we received our very own CLIA license to work independently. We’re now fully operational on both coasts. We have now expanded our testing capacity from 5,700 samples every day in NYC to 12,000 samples per day in both labs, greatly increasing the number of community members we can serve!
SPIFFY: You’re more than 4 times bigger by now, what a jump! Could you tell me about a failure that you’ve learned from as a startup?
I don't believe there is such a thing as failure. All experiences, from the world of startups to personal relationships, all teach us something. It is what we do with those experiences - learning the lessons - that guides us to the future, new opportunities, and new ways to succeed. With that said, I have co-founded other startups, and have 'failed' in turning them into unicorn companies; but, I believe that the growth I've experienced through these processes makes me a success.
SPIFFY: You’ve got a great outlook. What’s something you’ve learned unexpectedly from someone?
Craig: I have learned several lessons from the renegade.bio team during this pandemic. First, is that a pandemic motivates (some) people. I am extremely proud of the work done by the renegade.bio team in a short period of time. We all came together with one very simple goal: help people, and we're doing it! Second, I've re-learned that the only way to truly help people is to prioritize them. By forming this public benefit corporation, we've found that we can’t go wrong as long as we keep people at the center of what we do.
SPIFFY: I’d expect nothing less from you and your team, thanks for talking to me.
Craig: Of course, Spiffy, you’re always welcome.
Craig Rouskey holds a Master of Science degree in molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry, and immunology and has worked extensively in the field of molecular biology and immunology for over 15 years.
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