Ginkgo Bioworks is the first biotech company YC funded, and today they are going public. To celebrate their IPO, here’s the story of how Ginkgo Bioworks ended up in YC, and what their journey was like as YC’s first biotech startup.
In 2014, YC had been funding startups for 9 years, but we’d mostly funded software companies. While we hadn’t funded many, we thought that the YC model might work well for hard-tech companies. We were especially interested in synthetic biology and the intersection between biology and computer science.
At the time, the first SynBioBeta conference had yet to be held and the first synthetic biology startups had just been started. But we thought that the potential was interesting enough to put out a “Request for Startups” on our blog, a call for people working in this area to apply to YC. Here’s what we wrote:
“Biotech. It’s still early, but it seems like we’re finally making real progress hacking biology. There are so many directions this can go—fighting disease, slowing aging, merging humans and computers, downloading memories, genetic programming, etc. We are certain that this is going to be a surprising, powerful and controversial field over the next several decades—it feels a little bit like microcomputers in the 1970s.”