Last August or so, I was on paternity leae, I was browsing in a book store, I ordered the Marcus Wohlsen Biopunk book. I was a biomajor 15 years, I was a defense contractor so I thought it would be interesting to see if there was anyone in SD doing this. I went to the meetup group, they had two meetings, and the organizer stepped down. That just means that the dude didn't pay dues. So I figured I'd pay $50 to keep this thing alive, so I became the organizer.

I setup my first meetup, and it was at Starbucks, and I get there, and the only person who shows up is the previous organizer. I figured that I wouldn't carry this on my own, so I put it aside in my mind. And I kept getting these emails about people signing up, up to 50 people. And then I got the email from the WMD coordinator who wants to see the garage lab. I didn't erspond to the documentary person because I didn't know what to say.

I sent an email to the group said there's a lot of people, a bunch of members, does anyone want to step up? So Joe Jackson replied, he was in the area, so I go by after work and meet him, and he introduces me to Carlos who we saw earlier. There was Kevin, a serial entrepreneur and between the three of us, we have a core team of people that want to see this happen. I figure hey, I can sorta give this thing some momentum if they bring their expertise and experience and so now I am here telling you the story.

What do we have and what are we trying to do? We have our core team. Larry, one of our little get togethers and doing this for helping. From my perspective, I was originally interested in the citizen science piece and the .. piece. But as I will explain in a minute, there's a startup incubator piece as something that has crept in that we might want to incorporate for stability and financial reasons. The city of Carlsbad has this building that has 6k sq ft, it has been vacant for 8-10 years, and they put out a RFP a year ago. Joseph had the best proposal, but didn't have the money, and nobody else had anything good. So they are still excited about this, about creating some jobs, so that's the incubator piece.

They want to give it to us, so that's pretty tough to beat- free rent, free building like that. Kevin has some lab benches and others from the previous lab he sold. Carlos has his lab at UCSD, there are some other people with equipment from over time. We have the space and a good start on equipment, it looks like some of the biggest hurdles are already dealt with, especially finding the space. Assay Depot.

The big challenges that we had with finding these key people, the people who were signing up for the meetup, to give you a sense for who they were... there was an electircal engineer with no biology, someone had no biology experience, haven't been in a lab in 15 years, that's who we're working with. That was not to me seem to be the core group. We have some enthusiasm and we need expertise to get this off the ground. Just in the last month it looks like this is really going to happen.

The short term goals, and I am naively optimistic, I am sure all of these would be headaches. I plan to incorporate as a non-profit, and legal protection and that sorta thing, I have to write a proposal for Carlsbad, and they might be hung up on the startup incubator.. what if we say we don't have that money, or the VC money or something? Assuming they approve it, we'll plan a move in, and do a publicity event.

Carlsbad has 100s of biotech companies. Kevin has been giving talks. Everyone thinks this is the greatest thing ever, and there's surprisingly little awareness of this movement in the industry. They all think ti's great adn want to know what to do to help. Long-term, I think this is a little bit much to bite off if we all have day jobs. I am happy to see that there are some people here who want to help, including Max in San Diego. I think we are going to need some moeny, we still have to figure out what the utilities and consumables are going to be.

Hopefully we will find some startups that want to setup shop there, we can call ourselves an incubator, maybe get them to pay some rent, we're pretty early in our stages for that thought process. Then we can open our doors and start having classes and workshops and fun things like that.

Genspace has had these debates about being a biotech incubator. I wanted to be a scientist and not a landlord. I don't want to make space for companies to move in. That somehow that I would be running around making sure that equipment is calibrated, that things weren't leaking, that I wouldn't get to do what I wanted to do. Once people start paying to be in your space, then your responsibility increases. You are still a non-profit lab on a shoestring budget. I thought it might be difficult to blend the two cultures.

When we tried to get startups, we found that actually it was not working. Attracting companies, and once you get enough people in to your space, you end up with the health club business model where lots of people are paying you to not use your space. So just by adding memberships, then you make more money. Membership with cowrokers do not pay as much per square foot as members do.

My preference is the community lab aspect. From what I've heard, have someone give you 6000 sq ft building is worth quite a bit of headache to getting the doors open. Where to strike that balance? I don't know yet what the city is going to say with how far along these startups have to be. A couple people with some ideas, that's not different from DIYbio except they think their ideas are going to make them some money someday. If they have organized and raised money already, that's different already. If that's what carlsbad wants, that may be a dealbreaker or not.

Comex has this dual model. They provide services. They make introductions to private equity and VC. Their point is to bring in the incubator and help them get out. In San Diego, what we find is that .. who is paying for it? Qualcomm because we're trying to fund.. in Carlsbad, we had the huge list of life tech companies, one of them is with Carlsbad and they want to bring industry and jobs there. San Marcos is down the street.. every CEO of biotech companies in Carlsbad has to drive by this building. That's a very unique situation. So maybe in this case, it might make perfect sense where, in NY, where the Bay Area is frantically is trying to breath life into the biotech industry there... the hub of biotech is near Carlsbad. All the startups of SV adds up to a lot, adding a big space like this, hopefully the ext generation of entrepreneurs will be able to grow out of spaces like this.