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Happy birthday, Startup Hall!

Written by François Baneyx, UW Vice Provost for Innovation and director of CoMotion / September 19, 2023

Celebrating a culture of innovation

Startup Hall Training Room Lobby

Startup Hall Training Room

On September 16, 2014, University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce announced the launch of Startup Hall, home to CoMotion Labs and its technology incubator. Partnering with Techstars Seattle and Founders’ Co-op, UW envisioned a bridge between academia and industry, a collision and collaboration space where aspiring entrepreneurs and their transformational technologies would flourish. Nine years later, Startup Hall has proven to be a fertile ground for cultivating game-changing ideas—it has been home to over 120 companies that have collectively raised nearly $500M, including a tech unicorn and a life sciences startup that Google recently acquired. But the numbers are only part of the story.

While UW has long been a hotbed for innovation, Startup Hall has acted as a magnet, attracting startups, investors, and industry giants to the area. This influx of talent and capital has catalyzed job creation, invigorated local businesses, and contributed to our region’s economic growth. Just as important, the collaborative environment of Startup Hall has bolstered experiential learning as students engage with real-world projects and master practical skills that they will use throughout their careers. Teams from the Jones + Foster Accelerator, the Holloman Health Innovation Challenge, Engineering Innovation in Health, and the Brotherhood Initiative use the space to move their ideas forward, gaining the competitive edge that only proximity to fellow entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors engenders.

Later in the year, CoMotion will move operations from the Blume building on the corner of 45th and Roosevelt to Condon Hall, bringing our office closer to the Seattle campus and to Portage Bay Crossing, the next phase of UW’s growth. This campus expansion will blend gathering spaces, academic and research facilities, affordable housing units, and green spaces. It will be a place where students, researchers, private companies, and nonprofits partner with the community to imagine, build, and deploy solutions that address our most pressing societal challenges. The new district will be anchored by the 340,000-square-foot W27 building, which will house the Washington Clean Energy Institute and its Testbeds, the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine, and the Institute for Protein Design. Mission-aligned tenants will occupy the remaining two-thirds of the building’s footprint. As it attracts more innovation partners and diverse talent, Portage Bay Crossing will grow into a gestalt where people discover, learn, live, and play, and into a tissue connecting the main Seattle campus to the growing city around it.

In many ways, Startup Hall has been the prototype—the minimum viable product?—of Portage Bay Crossing and what is possible when academia embraces entrepreneurship and partnerships to transform discoveries into impact. CoMotion remains steadfast in its commitment to strengthening these ties, ensuring that audacious ideas born of UW research are nurtured, tested, and refined so that they reverberate around the world.

Happy birthday, Startup Hall! May your legacy continue to inspire and drive progress for years to come.

Be well,

Signature of Francois Baneyx

François Baneyx

UW Vice Provost for Innovation and director of CoMotion