Scientists in the Living Room

Scientists in the Living Room
Kids use a Generation Genius science kit.

When Dr. Jeffrey Vinokur was young, he used to make things bubble, fizz and explode in a lab he made in his garage. These experiments set him onto the path of becoming a scientist, and he would later get a doctorate in biochemistry from UCLA. In 2018, he founded Generation Genius Inc., an educational platform that creates science videos geared towards K-8 grade students. Since its founding, the company has grown drastically, both in sales and presence in schools.

“I’m sharing that passion with the next generation,” Vinokur, who is now the company’s chief executive officer, said.

Based in Beverly Crest, Generation Genius is now used in some form at 30% of elementary schools in the nation. Its videos star Vinokur, who has legally trademarked the name “The Dancing Scientist” in a Bill Nye-esque blend of education and fun. Generation Genius then launched ready-to-use science kits last July. While the kits’ ingredients won’t explode as Vinokur’s own childhood experiments did, they will hopefully help kids gain an interest in science outside of the classroom.

“It’s not a course and it’s not supposed to feel like school,” Vinokur said. “The point of it is (that science) can just be fun and exciting and cool, and that’s something that has resonated with parents.”

After selling five kits on its first day, he said the company now regularly ships out more than 1,000 kits per day. Kits can be ordered on a one-time basis or as a monthly subscription, and each one includes three different experiments. A three-month subscription and a six-month subscription are $44.95 and $39.95, respectively, with free shipping. There is no paper manual, instead children can watch a video of Vinokur walking them through the steps and giving verbal instructions. The experiments can each be done multiple times and include activities like turning water to snow or making “liquid worms” out of calcium chloride and sodium alginate.

Vinokur runs the company with president and co-founder Eric Rollman, who is an Emmy award-winning children’s television producer. Vinokur said that while kids can make their own experiments with things like baking soda and vinegar, or salt and pepper, Generation Genius’ kits take things to the next level. All ingredients are safe and non-toxic when used as directed, and its website said the only other things a child needs are “water and curiosity.”

As business has increased, Generation Genius has upgraded its warehouse space and workforce. It had about 20 employees last summer and passed 50 this month. Kit production originally started in a 1,500 square-foot Chatsworth warehouse, and now comes out of a 15,000-square-foot warehouse in Simi Valley. Rollman said the company saw about $900,000 in revenue from kit sales alone in the first six months they were on the market.

Generation Genius has never had venture capital backing. It has still managed to raise $2.67 million to date. This includes $1.07 million in crowdfunding, plus a $1.6 million seed round that included a substantial recoupable grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Vinokur originally pitched the idea of at-home science kits in January 2022. He said he got the product ready to launch in July by essentially turning his own residence into a laboratory, then spent months there and in the warehouse developing the experiments.

“That’s how you go from a lightbulb moment to launching a product that does a million dollars in a couple months,” Vinokur said. “People call you crazy, but it works.”

Rollman, whose father was a science teacher, said that he got involved at the company out of admiration for Vinokur’s determination and a desire to reinvent himself outside of his work in Hollywood.

“It’s been an incredible journey working with Jeff,” Rollman said. “He’s a very disruptive leader and we’ve been able to create something in this space that hasn’t been done before.”

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