Editor’s Note: Christine Magee is an analyst for CrunchBase.
In the last quarter, Seattle-based companies raised over $500 million in venture funding — the highest amount raised in a single quarter to date — according to CrunchBase data. In the past year, the region has seen a significant increase in larger and later-stage venture deals, as outside investors take notice of what Seattle has to offer.
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Not surprisingly, a good chunk of these deals are in biotech. Cancer immunotherapy developer Juno Therapeutics tops the charts as Seattle’s most highly funded private company, with $176 million raised in the past year alone. Genomic immunology company Adaptive Biotechnologies follows closely behind, recently announcing a $100 million Series D round in April.
But the distinction between biotech and IT deals is becoming less clear. “Biotech and IT are starting to become heavily interlinked, although they are very different disciplines … so I think it is useful to talk about it in aggregate,” says Madrona Venture Group’s Matt McIlwain.
A new wave of startups is introducing an IT approach to the biotech and healthcare sectors, utilizing big data and analytics platforms to impact research, data collection and doctor-patient relationships.
Socrata, for instance, a cloud software company focused on democratizing access to government data, has created a platform tailored to healthcare data specifically. For healthcare providers, pharmacy automation company Talyst provides software to help manage the flow of medications in hospitals and clinics. And on the consumer side, apps like Carezone help families organize and share medical records.
Red Russak, founder of StartupSeattle and Seattle Tech Meetup organizer, says he’d guess that on average only one out of every 10 applicants to a Seattle accelerator program has a biotech focus. But “if it’s a platform for consumers to access knowledge or access data, it’s a big play — if they’re dealing with data, they’re cool,” says Russak.
Seattle is well-equipped to host this emerging healthcare IT industry. Building on the historical success of local biotech firms, the University of Washington and the City of Seattle are taking steps to encourage and support entrepreneurs. The Office of Economic Development recently purchased StartupSeattle, an online hub for the startup community. Seattle’s OED also launched its own initiative to boost the local startup scene, working with the university, business owners, and other city departments to make Seattle more appealing to founders.
Part of this initiative, says StartupSeattle director Rebecca Lovell, includes constructing additional office space in the university district and ensuring that zoning types accommodate the needs of biotech labs, as well as startups that may need to expand and contract rapidly.
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