We are going to creating a start up that offers services to biotechs; our deliverable is to discover bioactive compounds in a given biological context (such as pharma). We want to follow some of the "Lean Startup" principles so our first objective is to check reality, i.e., if the customer really needs/likes our product. For this we think the best is to do the following;
What do you think about this strategy? Any other alternatives? Our main point now is to realize what customers are and really need, in such biotech context.
I could be wrong, but there are probably some assumptions you can make about your market:
When you can answer these, you will have your answer.
Lean Startup principles don't suggest giving away your product for free.
Rather, the concept is the reverse: build just enough to start charging, and let your customers help guide the product in the right direction. That way, you can be sure you've built something that customers actually want, rather than just something you think they want.
Also worth noting: if someone isn't paying you for your product/service, they may be a user but they are not really a customer. You want customers far more than you want users.
Do you think anyone in the Pharma industry is going to take you seriously if you even suggest to do work for free?
You have to align your price with the customers expectations, if you are too expensive you won't get any sales because the customer won't be able to afford your product - but if you are too cheap the customer will assume your product is cheap for a reason (and that reason is that your product is garbage) and you also won't get any sales.
From my personal experience I would strongly suggest you to charge your customers and not give it for free. At this point you want to validate your customers. And giving it for free is not going to do any validation. Think about it, you would even take a flyer for free even if you are not interested in what it is about. So, nobody is going to think hard enough if you are giving your product for free.