The six-month mark

Written by François Baneyx / October 1, 2020

Dear friends of CoMotion,

As I look outside at the turning leaves, it is hard to come to the realization that we have now been working from home for more than six months and that a very different autumn quarter has started on a sparsely populated UW campus. The pandemic has imposed profound changes upon all of us. Like most crises, it has accelerated some trends and culled others. It has pushed us to embrace tele-everything, further blurred the boundary between our professional and personal lives, and at the core level, made us rethink how we interact with one another. While the coronavirus forcing function has been devastating to some sectors of the economy, it has also made us more resilient and creative, and turned all of us into innovators who strive to make a difference and build a better future for everyone.

Entrepreneurship is alive and kicking in the midst of the pandemic. It will likely play a key role in seeing us through to the other side and it will help us recover once we get there. Witness these developments. In June, CoMotion signed a license with Wavely Diagnostics, the 250th spinoff launched by UW, and a milestone that does not include well over a dozen companies created on open code developed by UW faculty and their trainees. The startups supported by CoMotion have been extraordinarily successful at fundraising. (If you have not yet seen it, check out this infographic summarizing recent raises.) Exits are also multiplying: Stabilitas, a maker of threat response software, was acquired by OnSolve in August, while Athira Pharma, which develops therapeutics to fight Alzheimer’s and other diseases, just raised $204M in the third Washington state IPO of 2020. Last but not least, our partnerships are making a difference: startup Routable, a graduate of the BECU FinTech Incubator, announced a $12 million Series A funding round this summer.

In these challenging times, CoMotion has been more dedicated than ever at equipping researchers and startups with the knowledge, tools, infrastructure and connections they need to succeed. We collaborated over the summer with eight regional universities to teach the first-ever Greater Pacific Northwest I-Corps customer discovery program, 22 teams have already applied for participation in the fall Innovation Gap Fund and WE-REACH, and DubPitch, our startup pitch event, is scheduled for November 10. While physical distancing requirements have affected CoMotion Labs’ operation at Startup Hall, the Fluke Hall wet labs have been operating under a strict COVID-19 prevention plan that has enabled progress while protecting all. Even more excitingly, we have been expanding our Fluke Hall incubation footprint over the summer to promote multi-tech integration and serve the needs of hardware startups. Stay tuned for an announcement of our kickoff celebration!

In my June communication, I talked about the need for CoMotion to intensify efforts to address racial and gender equity in our entrepreneurial community. With my own awareness of systemic inequities more acute than ever, I believe a majority of Americans yearn to usher in a more just and equitable society. As a bridge between researchers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, investors, business leaders, and politicians, CoMotion should – and will – play a crucial role in leveling the playing field for all innovators and entrepreneurs. To be successful, we have started with our own team, learning about cultural competency, explicit and implicit biases, and proactively thinking about how we can build inclusive pathways for success and systems of opportunities for all. I have also had, and will continue to have, discussions with university and community leaders as well as members of the UW Innovation Roundtable to better understand the issues that BIPOC entrepreneurs are facing, how to break down barriers, and how to increase diversity in entrepreneurship. These have been great conversations and have given us much to consider. Addressing systemic issues requires implementing systemic solutions. This will be a marathon, not a sprint, and the entire CoMotion team is committed to the journey.

Be well!

Sincerely,

François Baneyx
Director, UW CoMotion and Vice Provost for Innovation