March 3, 2015
Four Female Biotech Founders Share Their Austin Startup Stories
“Screw the Valley” is, of course, a reference to Tim Sprinkle’s new book that pans Silicon Valley as the epicenter of all things entrepreneurial. The author chronicles a coast-to-coast tour of promising US cities that offer talent, funding, and innovation for tech startups without the California price tag.
Austin, Texas is listed in Sprinkle’s book as a city that delivers an enticing startup culture along with an enviable quality of life. Other sources add the claim that Austin is leading the way for successful female-led ventures as well.
Is Austin living up to all the hype? I caught up with four busy female founders, all in biotech, who wanted to share their views on building a company deep in the heart of Texas.
Meet the Founders
Their businesses range from antibody modeling software to innovative medical devices to 3D bio-printing to improve nipple reconstruction. All four companies launched within the last five years and are making a splash in biotech circles.
- Monica Berrondo – Macromoltek.com – SaaS for protein molecular modeling
- Jeanette Hill – SpotOnSciences.com – blood sampling device for anyone, anytime, anywhere
- Cyndi Nickel – DxUpClose.com – portable bacterial diagnostic medical device
- Laura Bosworth – TeVidoBioDevices.com – 3D bioprinting of a woman’s own cells for breast cancer reconstruction
Why launch in Austin, Texas?
MB: I’m here because of the incredible startup culture, vibrant entrepreneurial community and high quality of life. I’ve also been impressed with the amount of female leaders and business owners and their willingness to help each other out.
JH: I’m originally from another state and could have started my company there but having worked in Austin for several years I knew that there was a nucleus of support and a strong network that I could reach out to.
CN: The networking scene is very inclusive and everyone lends each other a hand in a “pay-it-forward” fashion. I like that everyone pulls together across Austin to improve access to whatever you need.
LB: The entrepreneurial community is fantastic but it is a challenge being in biotech due to resources not keeping pace with growth.
CN: Yes, finding incubator lab space was a real challenge.
There’s a lot of press about gender-bias faced by women-led startups when it comes to funding. Have you come across this issue?
CN: I don’t really stop to think about it much but answering this question makes me realize that I have not seen any women when I pitch to VC’s.
MB: No one has told me I can’t or shouldn’t do anything along the way. Despite always working in male-dominated environments and often being the only female in the room, it’s never negatively impacted me.
JH: There’s a subconscious sexism. I’ve had salespeople make calls at the office and they speak to team members in the room who are male and won’t make eye contact with me even though I’m the final decision maker.
LB: Grants have really been the best way to get funding but the press doesn’t want to talk about that.
JH: Right, biotech companies get grants, which is great news, but funding is the only thing that grabs headlines. If women are less likely to go for funding then you end up with a built-in disadvantage when it comes to good PR.
Headed to SXSW in Austin, Texas this month? Come see for yourself if ATX lives up to its rep for being a great place to start a business. You can even catch two of these biotech startups at a SXSWi pitch event!
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