SF Bio Entrepreneurship | Why Bio+Tech

by Bradley Miller on August 4, 2010

Bio+Tech was started as a monthly gathering to bring together the best and the brightest entrepreneurial minds in biomedicine and combine them with leaders in the SF tech start-up world.  The idea was that we have an amazing collection of biomedical entrepreneurial minds in SF and with the advent of bio-incubators and tech breakthroughs, the barriers to starting a bio start-up continue to drop.  There’s also a curiosity about biomedicine in the tech realm.  Who better to infuse biomedical and informatics start-ups with entrepreneurial energy and push biomedicine start-ups over the entrepreneurial hump than folks from this bastion of entrepreneurial energy? Plus, the biomedical start-up world doesn’t network nearly to the same degree as does the tech start-up world – that’s critical to the tech start-up world’s success in the SF Bay Area.  Thus Bio [plus] Tech – not just the same old biotech complete with high barriers, lack of networking and support.  Six months in to the Bio+Tech experiment I’d say that so far it’s been a success.

As a note: When I talk about biomedical entrepreneurship I mean that broadly – whether informatics, biotech, pharma, bio-energy, etc – it’s all welcomed and encouraged at Bio+Tech. And, I can’t emphasize enough that not only are we looking to bring together biomedical folks, we’re also looking to bring tech folks – developers, co-founders, start-up managers, etc – in to the mix.  You absolutely do not need a PhD in biophysics to join the group.  Just a healthy interest in bio or medicine – trust me, you’ll blend right in to the group!

Bio+Tech has grown from a group of 10 in January to an average of about 30 people at each monthly gathering.  To boot, that growth has been achieved solely through word of mouth.  I’ve been to a lot of meet-ups and gatherings where there’s lots of noise and very little signal – Bio+Tech has been purposefully kept small to keep the quality of the level of interaction high.  This set up was inspired, in part, by the SF meet-up Founder Dating, which requires an actual application and recommendations from other start-up folks.  Jess Alter and her crew do an amazing job!  Go check it out if you’re looking for a tech start-up or a techie person to help you build your start-up.  I also want to give a shout out to Vinnie Lauria and his Silicon Valley NewTech Meetup as the founding source of inspiration behind Bio+Tech.

Bio+Tech isn’t quite as complicated as Founder Dating and not as large as the SV NewTech Meetup, but to join the invite list you do need to demonstrate a basic interest in biomedical, tech or bio-energy entrepreneurship.  All too often a lot of biotech meet-ups are crowded with sales people and other vendors who are more interested in selling than sharing ideas, tips, contacts or starting businesses.  That’s not to say that we don’t accept sales people in to the group – you just need a genuine interest in creating a company or joining a start-up.


Michael Shuster speaks on the changing IP landscape and how that affects biomedical entrepreneurship.

Want to join us? Each month, the time and date of Bio+Tech will be posted on its webpage, with the location in SF to be announced. If you’re not already on the invite list, feel free to contact me at windmiller@gmail[dot]com and let me know why you’d like to attend.  Just a little paragraph with your interests and what type of company you’re looking to start or join, and a link to your LinkedIn profile – nothing too complicated.  In return, I promise to do my best to connect like-minded people at the meet-up.

We’ve had a couple bio start-ups find co-founders or developers – heck, there’s even been cross-pollination of neuroscience-principles back in to a tech start-up’s social media algorithms!  Yes, it’s a bit nerdy, but I can honestly say that out of the 6 gatherings so far, everyone who has attended has been someone I’ve really enjoyed talking with and sharing ideas.

Each Bio+Tech starts with a good bit of mixing and conversation.  It’s kept that way to maximize interaction and to warm things up.  We then get together to introduce each other to the group – with 30 people I’m always amazed at how efficiently we get through the group.  This is an opportunity to introduce yourself to the group and also spot others with like minded interests.  And, of course, we welcome solicitations for co-founders or technical help or any other start-up needs to the group.  This is a chance to network and find those you’d be interested in working with.

Starting in August we’re going to try to have monthly speakers as well.  It’s a highly informal 10-20 minute talk from people in the biomedical start-up or in the tech start-up world designed to bring ideas and prime the conversation.  We’ve had Michael Shuster, partner at Fenwick & West, speak on the changing landscape of Intellectual Property (IP) and how that’s affecting start-up strategy and execution.  A lot of biomedical start-ups are realizing that execution is just as important as securing IP to start-up success.  This isn’t news to tech start-ups, but this shift in perspective is somewhat groundbreaking in biomedicine start-ups.  We’ve got John Wilbanks, VP of science at Science Commons speaking at our August gathering on the open sourcing of biomedical data sets and tools and how that is altering and encouraging opportunities in the biomedical start-up scene.

And, Bio+Tech is purposefully kept free.  Whether you’re an undergrad or grad student, or on your 5th start-up, everyone is welcome and encouraged to come.  I believe firmly that cost should not be a barrier to attendance.  And, please pass this along to people you think would be interested in Bio+Tech – that’s how we keep new, fresh ideas coming in to the group!

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