Not a month goes by without the Venture Development Center receiving several inquires from bioentrepreneurs about workspace and collaboration. While there’s lab space available right now in the Boston area, the occupancy rate is holding relatively steady so no one is chopping up that space to accommodate startups. The darwinian reality is that while there’s ample opportunity for young biotech companies to find space to grow into, small, reasonably priced space to emerge from is scarce.
Squeezed on all sides, founders end up sharing bench space with an established company or university. It works for a while. But space matters in biotech. For business reasons, sharing a couple of benches in the middle of a raucous, enormous lab is terrifying. And startups soon find they need a place of their own.
When we opened the Venture Development Center in May, 2009, half of our 400 square feet wet labs were ready for occupancy, and not surprisingly, taken quickly. The others will be ready next month.
Biotech incubators such as ours are valuable to startups because they eliminate the task of finding small outfitted spaces with a laboratory. They also allow companies short on money to stretch their dollars by sharing critical and expensive laboratory equipment. Biotech startups especially like to be close to universities, where there is ample opportunity to share both equipment and expertise, online journals, grant collaboration, and the like.
But as incubators go, ones catering to companies in the biotechnology industry are highly specialized and costly to construct. We bit the bullet. We understand that while the region actively works to recruit and retain new medium and large biotech companies, it must also invest in new company creation and catalyze further growth.
We’re not alone. San Francisco, ahead of Boston in the number of public biotech companies (73 to 59), is going to great lengths to accommodate startups. QB3 Garage, for example, an incubator associated with the University of California, rents micro amounts of laboratory space to entrepreneurs. This 3-year-old program already has helped four biotech startups close Series A financing.
At a QB3 expansion announcement this year, Mayor Newsome said: “The … incubator makes it easier for new companies to start and grow … by offering companies turnkey incubator space, a premiere … location and access to the proven success of … business support services.”
The Venture Development Center is Boston’s startup incubator that gets you to the point where you’ve built something impressive enough to acquire customers and raise money on a larger scale.