The same kinds of business accelerator and incubator programs that have supported the dynamic biotech industry for years are helping blockchain startups.

The ICX Station, launched by the ICON Foundation on Aug. 17, is one of the latest blockchain accelerators. It joins the likes of Blue Hill, Block Chain Space and Deutsche Bank’s Blockchain Business Solution Accelerator (aimed at financial technology).

Many of the benefits accelerators offer can be gleaned from the greater blockchain community.

ICX Station will have hubs, called launchpads, in major cities around the world, with the first in San Francisco. In the works are launchpads in Seoul, Singapore and Tokyo.

Blockchain and Biotech Similarities

Biotech accelerators and incubators have created plenty of successes. Just one example: Rubius Therapeutics, which was launched and incubated by Flagship Ventures, this year conducted a successful initial public offering that raised $241 million.

There’s a case to be made for business accelerators in both blockchain and biotech industries, according to experts.

“The similarities between biotech and blockchain startups are pretty strong,” Chris McClure, a board member of the Icelandic Blockchain Foundation and chief marketing officer for Svandis, a cryptocurrency data and trading tool company, tells ThirtyK.

McClure knows firsthand. With a Ph.D. in epidemiology and a master’s in public health, McClure worked with more than a dozen biotech startups, venture funds and accelerators before transitioning to blockchain technology.

“Biotech companies often are founded by scientists, and blockchain companies by technologists,” he says. Neither have much business experience. Accelerators offer their experience in things like how to build a blockchain company, run a token sale and attract investors vital elements that are outside the experience of many technologists.”

Building an Ecosystem

The ICX Station provides some of those elements. Most notably, it offers grants of up to $100,000 and supports efforts to raise additional capital through token offerings, along with insights gained from ICON’s own experience.

The ICX Station launchpads won’t be interested in grooming rank novices, however. They want companies that venture capitalists would consider late-stage investments, with a strong understanding of blockchain’s capabilities, a viable token economics model and, ideally, a “minimum viable product” – that’s “proof of concept” in biotech lingo – that can become more robust in future iterations.

Additionally, the ICON Foundation wants to nurture startups that will expand its own blockchain ecosystem, so it will select only companies building decentralized applications atop its infrastructure.

By focusing on companies that already have passed their early milestones, ICX Station can help those with the best chances of success. The result? A robust, fast-growing, blockchain business ecosystem.

The premise, well proven in biotech, is that “involvement in an incubator helps investors and entrepreneurs glean knowledge from each other,” McClure says. Building that relationship in an industry hotbed is particularly beneficial. That’s why the San Francisco launchpad requires its member to come to Silicon Valley.

Accelerators Aren’t Always Necessary

Before a startup signs on with any accelerator, it should weigh the terms carefully. There are significant differences among them, cautions McClure, who has turned down offers from several. “Some offer minimum financing but demand a major stake in the company, a $10,000 investment for a 35 percent stake in the company, for example, he says.

Many of the benefits accelerators offer can be gleaned from the greater blockchain community, he says: “There are incubator-like communities all over the world. Berlin has a lively one, for instance. Experienced people in blockchain want to help. They may or may not invest, but their knowledge and support are available.”

Gail Dutton
Gail Dutton is a veteran journalist who has interviewed several Nobel laureates as well as leading innovators in the fields of biotechnology, IT, and business. She has written for a variety of trade and consumer magazines, including Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Scientist, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, Life Science Leader, Data Center Knowledge, and Data Center Manager, from her office in Washington state.