Y Combinator and its new model for funding startups is making itself known on the biotech map. The project? A biotech startup called Glowing Plant that went above and beyond its Kickstarter goals in months.
Y Combinator works by investing what are comparatively small amounts of money into larger numbers of companies and then moving them to Silicon Valley for a three month period of pitch refinement. Once that cycle is complete, YC helps the companies pitch themselves to select groups of investors.
Glowing Plant is a synthetic biology firm which has as its first major project engineered plants that luminesce. Other than being aesthetically pleasing, these kinds of plants have the potential to function as air fresheners, repel insects, and otherwise double as useful objects in the home or office. Originally the idea behind glowing plants was to reinvent outdoor lighting, making a clean, beautiful, low-energy source of lighting a reality.
Now, Glowing Plant hopes to avoid some of the troubles hurting companies that incorporate genetic engineering into their products like Monsanto by making genetically modified organisms a useful, standard part of every home without working with food products. Antony Evans, Glowing Plant's CEO points out that the right kind of products and marketing may make the difference: “With food, the risk of unintended consequences is much larger. We just want to build fun, cool products.”
As anyone who follows nanotechnology or biotechnology knows, costs are coming down in genome sequencing and other key technologies. YC probably sees not expanding into biotech a bigger risk at this point than staying uninvolved. With biotech startups a new, appealing, useful, and affordable trend, this kind of investor interest is inevitable.