Chapter 9. A Biotech Wave at SXSW

South By Southwest (SXSW) is a music, film, and interactive festival that happens in Austin, Texas every March. Since its inception in 1987, it has evolved to become a launching pad for a wide range of innovative technologies (Figure 9-1).

Figure 9-1. The SXSW festival, imagined in an illustration as a phylogenetic tree, reflects cultural attitudes toward tech adoption.

The rumblings of a biotech wave is indicated in a closer look at the evolving programming of the ecosystem. Biotech labs, startups, academic labs, investors, and incubators like Craig Venter, 23andMe, UBiome, Genspace, La Pailasse, Ginkgo Bioworks, BioBuilder, Synbiota, Open BCI, Glowing Plant (TAXA), Backyard Brains, New Harvest, Perlstein Lab, JBEI, Bioeconomy Capitol, the crowdfunding platform Experiment, and more all indicate that a storm surge is rising.

Hugh Forrest, executive director of SXSW, forecasts:

We see biotech as a strong area of growth for SXSW in 2017 and beyond. This belief stems from a lot of different factors. One is the explosion of wearable technology at SXSW, a lot of which has a strong connection with health and biotech. Also important is that so many of the startups we see at SXSW have a biotech focus–and as more of these startups find success in Austin in March, they should attract even more biotech related entrepreneurs to the event.

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