Singularity University To Incubate Synthetic Biology Startups With New Program


Synthetic biology is poised to become one of the big technologies of the 21st Century – a game changing area of science that could alter everything we know about health, energy, and humanity. But if the synthetic biology revolution ever wants to get off the ground, it’s going to need a new wave of entrepreneurs to develop companies and establish the industry. Singularity University is looking for those entrepreneurs…and it’s going to help them succeed. The Synbio Startup Launchpad is SU’s latest effort to empower the next generation of business leaders with the disruptive influence of accelerating technologies. Using software incubators as a model, the Synbio Startup Launchpad will give top tier startups up to $50k in funds, supplies, and lab services. They also provide mentors, a community of peers, and Singularity University’s unparalleled network of investors and partners. The first session for the Synbio Startup Launchpad will run May to August this year and Singularity University is actively seeking qualified applicants. Apply online soon, the deadline is close: April 1st. Synthetic biology incubators are a nearly unexplored space in the investment world, so who better than SU to lead the way into the future of this most exciting technology.

Not that Singularity University is doing it all alone. Far from it. SU has partnered with some great names in the field. It was Andrew Hessel (a big synbio advocate), and John Cumbers of NASA AMES who first brought the idea to SU. Triple Ring Technologies is co-leading the program and providing wet lab space and services. Science Exchange will give each startup up to $2500 in science service discounts. BioCurious is opening their doors to all the Synbio Startup Launchpad participants, with Eri Gentry also serving as a mentor. In fact, looking through the list of partners, faculty, and mentors involved, it’s hard not to get excited. These are the people you want on your team when you venture into unknown biological territory.

Like many other incubators in other fields, the Synbio Startup Launchpad is also providing the material considerations that every fledgling company needs. Stipends are good: $12k per company plus $3k per member for living expenses. Each business will also receive capital towards lab supplies and expenses, and access to facilities both at SU and Triple Ring Technologies. Business mentors, as well as tech mentors, will be provided for each group, and there will be guided introductions into a community of investors. That last bit alone is probably reason enough for any startup to apply to this session. In return for the mentoring, the money, and the meet and greets, Singularity University will be taking some equity – 6 to 8% depending – but that’s a pretty standard exchange, and follows the software-incubator style .

Gabriel Baldinucci
SU's Gabriel Baldinucci is developing the Synbio Startup Launchpad, with more ideas in the same vein coming in the years ahead.

Singularity Hub spoke with Gabriel Baldinucci, Vice President of Strategy and New Venture Development at SU. He highlighted the importance of the Synbio Startup Launchpad, both for the emerging field, and for the great vision of the university:

“Synthetic biology is a great example of a technology area undergoing exponential change. The continued lowering of costs is removing barriers and enabling the democratization of innovation in this space. Singularity University was the perfect place to create the first incubation program in this emerging field. We have the faculty and network to help these entrepreneurs succeed and we are looking to add some brilliant minds to our community of people working to solve humanity’s grand challenges.”

There are a few tech incubators out there whose brand is almost as powerful as the services they provide to their companies. TechCrunch’s Disrupt events, YCombinator – get the right pedigree from one of these groups and your new business will never lack for investors or interest. Synthetic biology, however, doesn’t have that brand…yet. I think Singularity University is going to create it with the Startup Synbio Launchpad. SU has the resources, the people, and the networking to serve as a great incubator. In fact, you could say that the SU Graduate Studies Program each summer, and (to a lesser extent) the Executive Programs already work as de facto incubators. They’ve certainly got enough emerging startups from those programs as evidence to that end. But what’s really exciting here, and what I think is really new, is the pairing of a such an incredible institution (SU) with such a powerful and under developed industry (synthetic biology). The seeds planted here could become huge influences in the future. The era of synthetic biology looks to have gotten much closer.

Want to get involved?
Startups apply here (April 1 deadline).
Prospective Investors and Partners go here, and contact Gabriel Baldinucci.

[image credit: Singularity University Synbio Startup Launchpad]
[source: Gabriel Baldinucci]

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