We can officially add two more companies to the list of startups in San Antonio. They’re not based out of an entrepreneur’s basement, or the dorm room of a few brilliant students. They didn’t gather momentum within the corridors of the co-working space, Geekdom.
Theracle and iBridge Medical are the newest life science startup companies to be born out of the medical device business incubator, InCube Labs, a private-public enterprise that includes the City of San Antonio among its investment partners.
On Thursday, the partners took the stage to announce their latest ventures.
Theracle is now working on a combination therapy for one of the most lethal forms of brain cancer, known as gilomas. Theracle and the three original technologies in the incubator, are inline with the incubator’s goal, “to dramatically improve patient outcomes and care … by developing new therapies for chronic diseases.” said InCube Labs Chairman and CEO Mir Imran at a press conference at City Hall on Thursday.
iBridge is a slight divergence from typical InCube startups, Imran said, because it focuses on the patient care and outcome side of that goal. iBridge is a communications tool rather than a therapy – it enables wireless data sharing between implanted medical devices and physicians, hospitals, patients and implant manufacturers.
The concept is to develop groundbreaking, innovative biomedical technologies by creating a new partnership that brings together Silicon Valley entrepreneurs with San Antonio venture capital and public sector support.
The biosciences and health care are industries that San Antonio needs to continue to develop, Mayor Julián Castro said Thursday.
“We want to cultivate a cluster of startups in biosciences and InCube Labs has played an enormous role in helping to make that happen,” Castro said. “We expect that these companies will be a success and will lead to more jobs, more investment, more entreprenurialism and help San Antonio compete as a 21st century economy.”
The City of San Antonio’s courtship and subsequent investment in Imran and InCube Labs began in 2009 when Imran began looking to expand the incubator from San Jose, Calif. (Silicon Valley) and three of its existing startups: Fe3 Medical, Corhythm and Neurolink. Imran had been considering several other Texan cities, including Dallas and Austin, for the new InCube branch but ultimately came to San Antonio because of the city’s “close relationship with angel investors … the availability of investment dollars” and “it’s much easier to attract people to San Antonio,” Imran said, citing a lower cost of living and high quality of life for families.
Through the San Antonio Economic Development Corporation, the City committed to invest $6 million of the $10 million total for the Innovation Center in Northwest San Antonio. Bexar County, the Texas Research & Technology Foundation, UTSA and the UT Health Science Center are also investors.
So, how many jobs have been produced so far?
The three original InCube companies only have about eight full-time employees – combined. About three consultants have been retained. Any payoff appears to be long-term.
These companies and technologies are both complex and heavily regulated, Imran explained, meaning initial hiring and development is slow and methodical, “and we’re working with (scarce) equity capital.”
However, Imran said, once these five companies begin medical trials (Fe3 will start within the next year) and enter the manufacturing phase, the City and InCube Labs estimate that about 400 high-wage, high-tech jobs will be created over the next 10 years.
“We have to measure success on a much longer time scale,” he said.
Imran estimated that one-third of the current staff was hired in San Antonio and “more (employees) will be local hires in the manufacturing stages.”
Thursday’s launch of iBridge and Theracle fulfills his contractual agreement with the City to open five startups. InCube Labs Innovation Center also must produce 50 jobs by the contract’s expiration in 2015.
Imran has invested $15 million into the local incubator, an investment decision that comes with a high level of experience and expertise. He holds more than 200 patents and is known for his “contributions to the first FDA-approved Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator. As an entrepreneur, (he) has founded more than 20 life sciences companies,” according to the InCube website.
“Success” for biomedical startups often means being bought by or merging with a larger company, said BioMed SA President Ann Stevens after the press conference. Some companies and their management teams won’t last beyond the initial spark as large companies keep a close watch on possible, profitable startups to acquire.
“We have a strong base for biomedical startups in San Antonio,” Stevens said. “It attracts investment from larger companies and investors.”
“These startups put products in the market, attract buyers, are acquired, and sometimes move away – freeing up the management teams, entrepreneurs with even more experience, who usually go on to create more startup companies,” Stevens said. “It’s a cycle that feeds itself … and grows industry.”