Ginkgo Bioworks Secures $45 Million to Support Next Stage of Growth

Ginkgo Bioworks announced that it has raised $45 million in an oversubscribed Series B round. Ginkgo Bioworks is at the intersection of industrial design and biology, delivering designer organisms built to specification for customers. The company specializes in engineering microbes to produce cultured ingredients such as flavors, fragrances, cosmetics and sweeteners. The latest round of funding will be used to expand to new product categories and build out the next phase of its state-of-the-art foundry in Boston.

Ginkgo Bioworks first received local funding from the MassVentures’ START program which supports the commercialization of Massachusetts-based companies developed under SBIR contracts. The company continued to demonstrate growth against its objectives, and over the next two years received additional START funds.  Recently, MassVentures invested in Ginkgo Bioworks’ first round of equity financing via its Traditional Fund to capitalize on these SBIR and START funds.

“The most recent round of funding clearly demonstrates the success of the START program,” commented Jerry Bird, President of MassVentures.  “The START funding in addition to the funds received from the MassVentures traditional fund, provided the company the chance to commercialize its technology and ready itself for significant growth and funding. We are pleased to see the progress the team at Ginkgo Bioworks has made in this exciting and critical new industry and look forward to its continued success in the burgeoning Massachusetts biotech industry.”

Viking Global, a firm managing more than $30 billion in capital, led the round along with previous investors including OS Fund, Y Combinator and Felicis Ventures. The new funds will be used to expand into new categories such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and probiotics, as well as hire additional employees and build out Bioworks 2, the next generation of Ginkgo’s robotic Foundry.

“MassVentures has been with us from the start, arming us with the capital, experience, mentoring and network to help our transition to a high-growth company,” said Reshma Shetty, Co-founder at Ginkgo Bioworks. “The START program is critical for SBIR-funded companies that need this type of support to move from a research-driven company to commercialization. We thank them for their support and expect a fruitful partnership moving forward.”

Women Thriving in Tech

The START program is a nationally-recognized, Massachusetts-based, unique feeder system that helps SBIR companies capitalize on their SBIR funds and arm them with the capital, experience, mentoring and networks they need to transition to high-growth companies in Massachusetts.  It has provided a diverse group of 40 high-tech projects with $9 million and the resources and guidance they need to reach their potential and enjoy sustained growth.  Our goal is to provide a supportive and productive environment in which these companies can thrive.

In the recent announcement highlighting this year’s winners, a photo was taken of the winners.  It was obvious when we looked back on the photo that something was missing.  The program is diverse in the industries it funds and its ability to reach companies often overlooked by the VC community. Nine of the 40 START projects to date have women on their founding or executive teams – 22.5% of the START winners.  Nonetheless, the photo is an epic fail in terms of reflecting this diversity.

Take a look. You guessed it, not a single women in the photo.

2015 winners






We tweeted out the announcement and we had some feedback:

@beclarke: Is this just an unfortunate photo op or are there really no women getting funding from @massventures? #allmale…

@jason_muth: Not a single woman in this photo. Embarrassing. @BostInno @DianeHessan ‘s words from #BOSSOI never more true……

We wanted to reply to these tweets not to defend our position but to lend another show of support for more women in technology and what we all can do to make a difference.  One way of doing this is to highlight some of the women in tech not necessarily well known on the speaker circuit that are kicking butt at what they do.

With regards to the START program, we will keep working toward improving the 22.5%.  In the meantime, there were some women that were missing from the photo.  Let’s take a look at some of these rockstars:

Karen Benedek Among the 2015 START Stage I $100,000 winners, Karen Benedek is the owner of Primaira.  She has mechanical engineering degrees out of both Stanford and MIT.  She advises companies and government agencies on strategic, market, and technology issues related to new product development. Her experience is in the application of advanced technologies to achieve safety and reliability enhancements, performance improvement, environmental benefits, and energy-use reduction. Karen is an inventor with multiple patents, the most recent of which provides an apparatus and method of treating impurities in air and materials.  This unique Bluezone® Technology is already being used to keep foods and flowers fresh in transit and now Primaria will use the START award to develop an air purifier for the Chinese market built on Bluezone®.


For the past 3 years, Melissa May has been the VP of Strategic Development at Waltham-based NetBio.  The company was founded based on pioneering research performed at MIT’s Whitehead Institute. Melissa joined NetBio from MIT Lincoln Labs where she managed the competitive ANDE Research and Development contract awarded to NetBio by the Federal Government and worked closely with NetBio on the development of the ANDE Rapid DNA Analysis System.  In her previously position as Senior Director under the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, she was responsible for assessing new and emerging technologies and providing strategic guidance on the investment of the Department of Defense’s $25 B Research and Development budget. Melissa combines her deep technical knowledge with her passion to transition NetBio’s portable Rapid DNA Analysis System to the places where it is most needed, whether that is mass disaster events, counter terrorism actives, homeland security, or law enforcement booking stations to enable police to rapidly generate DNA profiles and search them against unsolved crimes while an arrestee is in custody.  Her insight and strategic approach to the market helped NetBio win its $200,000 START Stage II award this year and its Stage I award in 2014.


Reshma Shetty (@reshmapshetty) is a co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks who received a Stage I and III START award and recently received funding from MassVentures as part of a Series A round. A researcher out of MIT, Reshma has helped build the world’s first organism engineering foundry: Bioworks1.  Reshma is a rising star in Massachusetts’ burgeoning life science industry.  In 2008, Forbes magazine named Shetty one of Eight People Inventing the Future and in 2011, Fast Company named her one of 100 Most Creative People in Business.  Ginkgo Bioworks was Y Combinator’s first biotech company.  At Ginkgo, she is a jack-of-all-trades, managing Ginkgo’s operations and finances since inception of the company.


Rajini Arajininachi is the CEO of mZeal Communications in Littleton, MA.  She is passionate about solving hard problems to make our digital age lives more secure. Rajini founded mZeal to create technologies that mimic cognitive faculty of our mind.  The federal government including USTranscom, the Intelligence community, and the US Army and Airforce Materiel commands have already adopted her technology.  Now she is focused on business strategy and creating new growth opportunities for mZeal in the commercial market with the help of her START Stage I and Stage II awards.

It’s been our pleasure to help these four women grow their businesses and watching them succeed.  They each have an amazing story that deserves to be heard. We would like to hear from you on women you think deserve to be credited with helping to build a vibrant tech ecosystem here in Massachusetts.  With many baby steps, we can create a diverse, creative environment in which we all benefit.

MassVentures Awards 2015 START Program Winners

MassVentures today announced the 2015 START program winners. Each has received a grant to help grow employment opportunities, promote manufacturing and commercialization, and stimulate innovation across the Commonwealth.  As of today the START program will have awarded $9 million to 40 Massachusetts SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) Phase II companies.

The START program is a three year process designed to provide increasing financial rewards to SBIR Phase II companies that demonstrate progress on the path toward commercialization. At the outset of Stage 1, ten companies are selected to receive $100,000 in funding. Over the course of the next year, each company, with advice and coaching provided by MassVentures and the START ecosystem, strives to execute on its product commercialization strategy.  After that year, five of the original ten winners are selected by an expert panel to each receive $200,000 grants.  At the conclusion of the second year, the judges choose two companies to each receive $500,000.

The 2015 winners are:

2015 winners






Stage 1 (each receiving a $100,000 grant):

Stage 2 (each receiving a $200,000 grant):


“The START program is a unique feeder system to MassVentures and the venture community that fosters growth of companies and readies them for venture funding.  Recently, MassVentures funded past Stage 3 winner, Ginkgo BioWorks, for commercializing the world’s first organism engineering foundry,” said Jerry Bird, President, MassVentures. “MassVentures helps companies like Ginkgo BioWorks capitalize on their SBIR funds and arm them with the capital, experience, mentoring and network they need to transition to high-growth companies.”

Program highlights:

  • Past winners have grown revenues by 20% and have used, or will use, their START grants to secure an additional $24,000,000 in funding.
  • Massachusetts receives nearly 12% of all US SBIR funding, or approximately $250 million – the second most SBIR funding in the country and the most per capita,
  • Winning companies have increased employment 30%, adding dozens of new jobs to the ecosystem,
  • 60% of the over 200 recipients of SBIR II awards in Massachusetts have participated in the START program.

National Award Recognition

In addition, the MassVentures’ START program received a national award for its contribution to the innovation economy.  The 2015 Tibbetts Award recognizes companies and individuals that have leveraged SBIR, or helped others do so, in a way that has generated measurable value to their firm or the nation.  The award was presented to MassVentures in Washington, D.C., for its efforts to help others leverage SBIR/STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) investment to generate measurable value to their firm or the nation. “The Tibbetts award is liking winning the World Series of the venture community. It’s a prestigious, national award that recognizes the best of the best in the SBIR world,” said Bob Weiss, President of Technology Transitions.  “The START program provides companies the ability to foster research to the point where they are able to attract private capital. This mimics how the 128 high-tech corridor was born and is how Kendall Square has been reborn.  With SBIR recipients in gateway cities throughout the Commonwealth, START provides an opportunity to spread that growth and create a broad resurgence in Massachusetts as the center for high technology.”

Jay Ash, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development for the Commonwealth and Chairman of the Board for MassVentures commented, “The START program has provided a diverse group of high-tech companies with the resources and guidance they need to reach their potential and enjoy sustained growth.  START is a catalyst for our innovation economy and sends a resounding message to high-tech businesses around the world that we are creating a supportive and productive environment in which these companies can thrive.”

MassVentures Named 2015 Tibbets Award Winner for START Program Success

Today MassVentures received the 2015 Tibbets Award for its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Targeted Technologies (START) program, which has awarded $6,000,000 to 27 technology companies over the past three years. The award is named for Roland Tibbetts, acknowledged as the father of the SBIR program, and is presented to companies, supporting organizations, and individuals which have leveraged , or helped others leverage, SBIR/STTR investment to generate measurable value to their firm or the nation. SBIR is coordinated by the Federal Small Business Administration, and is intended to help small businesses conduct cutting edge research and development that is too risky for private venture capital.

“The START program has provided a diverse group of high-tech companies with the resources and guidance they need to reach their potential and enjoy sustained growth,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, who chairs the MassVentures board. “START is a catalyst for our innovation economy and sends a resounding message to high-tech businesses around the world that we are creating a supportive and productive environment in which these companies can thrive.”

Tibbetts award acceptance

The START program helps high growth companies increase employment opportunities, promote manufacturing and commercialization, and stimulate innovation across the Commonwealth.  In addition to funding, START brings together an ecosystem of companies, expert reviewers, service providers and company advisers. Companies that received START awards during the first two years of the program have grown revenues by 20%, and have used, or will use, their START grants to secure an additional $24,000,000 in funding.

“By helping companies utilize their SBIR/STTR Phase II funding to grow employment and stimulate innovation, the START program shows that the Commonwealth will not sit idly by while high-tech companies wait for capital to help commercialize their technologies,” said Jerry Bird, President of MassVentures.  “It is critical that we continue to work with entrepreneurs and actively demonstrate the state’s commitment to these industries.”

“The emphasis that MassVentures has placed on small business development has been vital to making Massachusetts a world leader in innovation,” said Assistant Secretary of Business Development Nam Pham, who attended the Tibbets award ceremony.  “This administration is privileged to have such an adept investment team working to assist these developing companies.”

MassVentures was selected to receive the Tibbets award by the Small Business Administration based on the recommendations of a panel of judges.

MassVentures Continues Investment in lifeIMAGE

MassVentures today announced it participated in the latest round of financing for lifeIMAGE.  The $17.5 million round of financing led by Cambia Health Solutions (Portland, Ore.) will be used to expand resources for its growing customer base, increase the breadth of its network capabilities and implement the next phases of its go-to-market strategy.

Lack of access to imaging exams is the primary cause of unnecessary, duplicative procedures that delay care, frustrate clinicians and patients, and cost the country’s health system about $30 billion each year. lifeIMAGE helps providers improve care coordination for patient consultations, referrals and transfers by making medical imaging exams from unaffiliated hospitals, physicians and patients accessible worldwide.

“Image sharing has reached a critical inflection point. Our customers have validated its correlation to quality and cost of care, and it’s now considered part of the standard of care,” said Hamid Tabatabaie, CEO and co-founder of lifeIMAGE. “With the added funding from MassVentures and our team of investors, lifeIMAGE will scale up and demonstrate how innovative health plans can take advantage of our network to bring value to their providers as they adopt a value-based approach to managing the health of their patient populations.”

“MassVentures is committed to investing in companies like lifeIMAGE that are helping the State’s innovation economy thrive,” said Jerry Bird, President of MassVentures.  “With its innovative technology and strong management team, they are well positioned to meet their goal of providing universal and seamless access to medical images for both clinicians and patients worldwide and we are excited to continue our support.”

MassVentures’ strategic investment in lifeIMAGE is part of a new round of equity that also includes participation by existing lifeIMAGE investors Cardinal Partners, Galen Partners, Long River Venturesand Partners Innovation Fund. Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. acted as exclusive placement agent for lifeIMAGE.

About lifeIMAGE

lifeIMAGE provides a medical image exchange platform that is deployed at hundreds of leading healthcare organizations to facilitate the secure, e-sharing of medical imaging information among hospitals, radiology groups, physicians and patients. Our services are helping providers improve the quality and timeliness of care, expand referral business, and eliminate wasteful spending.

2015 START applications closed

Thank you to all that submitted for the 2015 START program.  Applications are now closed.  We received a terrific response and look forward to reviewing all applications.

This year (2015), the fourth year of the START program, MassVentures intends to:

  • award ten (10) new “Stage I” grants of $100,000 each,
  • award five (5) new “Stage II” grants of $200,000 each to the most promising “Stage I” winners from last year and
  • invest up to $500,000 of seed capital in a “Stage III” commercial spinout (or other commercial arrangement intended to provide a return on investment to MassVentures) from the most successful Stage II companies.

Companies that have submitted for 2015 will receive invitations to present no later than May 7, 2015.  For more details, please click here.

2015 START Program RFP Now Open!

MassVentures invites all eligible companies to submit now for the 2015 START program. This very successful program, now in its 4th year, has awarded 27 companies $6M in funding. Learn more:

What is START?

START is a program funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to assist Massachusetts companies that have received SBIR Phase II funding to commercialize their technologies. The program was created to assist high growth companies that will grow employment opportunities, promote manufacturing and commercialization, and stimulate innovation across the Commonwealth. The primary objective of the program is to provide funding to commercialization-ready technology companies that have received at least the equivalent of a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (“SBIR”) or Small Business Technology Transfer (“STTR”) grant from federal agencies.

Who is eligible?

Any Massachusetts company whose application to the program is not based on an alternative energy, pharmaceutical, therapeutic or medical device technology and has received a Phase II SBIR. There is no strict requirement about when the qualifying Phase II SBIR was received. However, if it was received prior to March 1, 2011, you should explain in your application why it remains commercially relevant today. A “Massachusetts company” is one that conducts its research, development, manufacturing and commercialization primarily in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and for the purposes of this program commits to continuing to do so. It is expected that START funds will be spent primarily in Massachusetts.

How do I apply?

A detailed description of the application process is located here.

When is the Deadline for Applications?

The deadline for submitting applications is Wednesday, April 1, 2015, at 12:00 pm EST.

How Do I Get More Information?

Many of your questions will be answered on our website, including specifically our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Join our Conference Call for more information:

MassVentures will be hosting a conference call on Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 2:00 pm at which potential applicants can ask us questions about the START Program and the Stage I application and selection process.

When: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 2:00 pm
Call-in Info: Dial in #862-902-0240 Pin #7551599

Startups Can Now Apply to MassChallenge 2015

bakerMassVentures has always been a proud supporter of MassChallenge, the world’s largest accelerator program. MassChallenge officially kicked off the call for startup applications to the 2015 accelerator program.This year, Governor Charlie Baker joined the global launch.  Application deadline is April 1. Get a recap of all the action and apply here.

Join us! Funding Options for SBIR-developed Technologies

SBANE and MassVentures invite you to the kick-off of START 2015! It’s a networking event for the entire START and SBIR community.

This is a wonderful opportunity to connect with other innovators, funders and advisors involved in many levels of the SBIR program. We anticipate a strong turnout from past winners of the START program as well as the judges and reviewers who have been so critical to the program’s success.

Please join us to learn about START, the past winners and how to get involved in 2015!

When: January 20, 2015, 4:00-7:00pm

Where: Westin, Waltham, MA

Register now!

4:00 pm – Registration and Networking

4:30-5:15PM – Welcoming and Panel Discussion

5:30 – 6:00 PM – START Fast Pitch Presentations

6:00 – 7:00 PM – Networking Reception


  • Jack Finning, Partner, Alexander Aronson Finning CPAs


  • Ted Acworth, CEO, Artaic
  • Ross Haghighat, CEO, Triton Systems
  • Mark Smithers, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Boston Engineering

START Program Winners Announced!

MassVentures, the early-stage venture capital firm focused on fueling the innovation economy in Massachusetts, announced today the 2014 START Stage III program winners. Each has received a $400,000 grant to help grow employment opportunities, promote manufacturing and commercialization, and stimulate innovation across the Commonwealth.  The winners of the Stage III awards are:


Artaic combines modern robotic technology and design software to make custom tile mosaics affordable and accessible for designers and architects. Boston, MA

Energid Technologies An ultra-lightweight robotic manipulator, trainable by anyone. With a humanoid structure and powerful control software, it provides large and small manufacturers with a turnkey cost-effective solution. Cambridge, MA
Ginkgo Bioworks Ginkgo Bioworks learns from nature to develop new organisms that produce natural ingredients for the fragrance, flavor, energy and pharmaceutical industries. Boston, MA

START is a $6 million initiative funded by the Patrick Administration and administered by MassVentures to help growing Massachusetts-based companies commercialize technologies developed under Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contracts.

In total, MassVentures has awarded $6,000,000 of START funds to 27 technology companies.  The first two years’ companies have grown revenues by 20% and have or will soon leverage their START grants to secure an additional $24,000,000 in funding.

Revenue Growth 20%
Job Growth 26
Leverage $24 million

Revenue, Job Growth and Additional Funding

In addition to this funding, the START program has served an equally impactful purpose in Massachusetts, that of bringing together an ecosystem of companies, expert reviewers, service providers and advisers who have helped make the program a success. The program has also reached a more diverse group of companies than typical early stage funding: six of the 27 winners and $1.7 million of the $6 million have gone to companies led by women.

“Massachusetts receives more funding to the SBIR program per capita than any other state. The START program has proven to support small business by providing funding, guidance and connections to help our mass of scientific founders turn technology into companies that will grow and stay here in Massachusetts,” said Greg Bialecki, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development. “Congratulations to the 27 companies that have benefited from the success of the program, we look forward to their future success.”

“In total, the START program has created an ecosystem of 200+ unique companies, reviewers, service providers and advisors to create the next generation of successful Massachusetts technology companies,” said Jerry Bird, President of MassVentures. “MassVentures is pleased to have driven the program’s success and are pleased for the continued support from the State to support initiatives such as these that help drive economic growth.”

Quotes from our winners:

“It’s great to see MassVentures supporting some of the underserved industries in the technology sector in Massachusetts. We are honored to be selected as a START Stage III award winner from such a competitive field of applicants. ” said Ted Acworth, CEO and Founder of Artaic. “With the support of our START funds, Artaic has grown revenue 1,483% in the past three years, tripled our staff in the past 18 months, while designing and producing beautiful mosaics for clients at our home in Boston, as well as across Massachusetts, the US and abroad.”

“START funding has enabled Energid to secure high-profile strategic partners, add beta sites, accelerate marketing and refine our robot hardware and software,” adds Neil Tardella, CEO and Co-founder of Energid. “We are encouraged that MassVentures shares our vision for light, affordable, safe, and smart enough robots to be used by anyone. With the funding, we have recently added a critical, new employee in Massachusetts and are looking forward to growth in the new year as we launch our next generation of robots.”

“Ginkgo Bioworks has used START funds to accelerate our business development activities. In the short time since we received the funds, Ginkgo signed multiple new customers covering several new products,” stated Reshma Shetty, Co-founder, Ginkgo Bioworks.  “We’re very grateful for all the tremendous support from the MassVentures’ START program and look forward to growing our company here in Massachusetts.”

For more details on the program, eligibility requirements and the application and granting process for 2015, CLICK HERE.