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3D Bioprinting Startup VoxCell BioInnovation Wins PITCH Competition at Final Collision

VoxCell BioInnovation was announced as the winner of the final Collision PITCH competition on Thursday, defeating Biofect Innovations and Proceve. PITCH is Collision’s startup competition, bringing together the world’s leading early-stage startups for a live onstage battle.

Hailing from Victoria, British Columbia, the winning startup is revolutionizing 3D bioprinting with a universal bioink kit that mimics natural soft tissue, allowing pharmaceutical companies to test new drugs faster. Currently, the company focuses on printing human-like cancer tissues.

“VoxCell has created the first bio-printed human-like cancer tissue models that drug developers can utilize to directly inject their drug candidates through the blood vessels. This allows us to identify ineffective drugs much earlier in the process”, explained Asees Kaur, business operations coordinator at VoxCell BioInnovation.

VoxCell BioInnovation took on fellow Canadian PITCH finalists Biofect Innovations, known for developing plant-based proteins as alternatives to processed foods, and SaaS platform Proceve, which integrates requirements, tasks, and tests into a single intuitive platform for streamlined product management and workflow.

The impact of 3D bioprinting

VoxCell BioInnovation made its debut on the Web Summit Rio stage in South America last April, making it all the way to the PITCH final. The project was born in 2020 to help decrease the high failure rate for chemotherapy drugs, which VoxCell founder Karolina Valente attributes to problems with the way in which these drugs are typically tested. Karolina was inspired to improve the current system with 3D bioprinting after witnessing her own mother’s battle with cancer.

“And our market isn’t just constrained to cancer, this is just what we’re starting [with] because it’s a US$16 billion market. Our next market from here is neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” said Asees.

From securing initial funding in 2020 from friends and family, the Victoria-based startup is now backed by VCs and angel investors. Collision’s final event has highlighted the growing trend of bootstrapped startups – startups that don’t seek external funding to launch. Canada-based PITCH finalists Biofect Innovations and Proceve are also examples of self-funded ventures.

“My expectation over the last number of years has been, as venture capital has begun to decline sharply, that the number of startups we would see getting started, not just attending Collision, but just being started in general, would begin to decline. But actually, the opposite is happening, and there is a very stark decoupling of venture capital and startups. The number of bootstrapped startups that we have at Collision this year is extraordinary. And while there have always been bootstrapped startups at our events in the past, the ratio is changing, and changing very dramatically. It’s incredible to see two out of three PITCH finalists as bootstrapped startups, and that the PITCH winner started out as such,” said Paddy Cosgrave, founder and CEO of Web Summit.

Collision’s last days in numbers

More than 560 startups applied for the group rounds of the PITCH competition, with just 70 chosen to present onstage at Collision’s final week. Out of these 70, 10 were selected for the semi-finals, with the three finalists unveiled on Wednesday, June 19.

The trio of Canadian finalists pitched their businesses on Collision’s Centre Stage, in front of judges Marlon Thompson, chief experience officer at Spring Impact Capital; Rachel Slaybaugh, partner at DCVC; and Eva Wong, co-founder and COO of Borrowell.

The PITCH final marked the last day of Collision 2024, and the end of Collision’s 10-year run, including six years in Toronto. The closing chapter drew 37,832 attendees from 117 countries to Ontario’s capital, showcasing 1,623 startups from 57 countries − 45 percent of which were founded by women.

More than 120 hours of stage content took place over three days, consisting of rigorous debates and discussion from 570 speakers, including Aidan Gomez, founder and CEO of Cohere; Geoffrey Hinton, the Godfather of AI; Vinod Khosla, founder of Khosla Ventures; and Maria Sharapova, entrepreneur and tennis legend. Artificial intelligence, the state of the VC market, and tech’s role
in democracy were some of the key themes this week.

Featured talks and attendees

Collision’s new Summary Service covered a series of the event’s top talks, and created summaries of more than 30 so far, which are available at about.websummit.com. Top talks at this year’s Collision included Geoffrey Hinton calling for governments to step in and force AI testing, Vinod Khosla calling out the Federal Trade Commision chair for not being “a rational human being”, Boeing whistleblower Sam Salehpour saying he fears any dinner could be his ‘last supper’, and more incredible discussions on AI, quantum computing, the state of VC and what the future holds for startups.

Some of the largest technology companies in the world, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Snowflake and Dell were among the partner companies exhibiting on the Collision floor.

The cohort of CEOs, startups, investors, media outlets, policymakers and creatives in attendance took part in 1,180 investor-to-startup meetings, 57 Mentor Hours sessions, nine startup masterclasses, 12 PITCH competition rounds, and 12 different evening events and After Hours parties dotted around the most exciting neighborhoods of the city.

While Collision is coming to an end, Web Summit’s North American event, Web Summit Vancouver, will take over British Columbia in May 2025.

About Collision:

Collision is considered the single most important tech deal-making event in the world, gathering the next generation of leaders reshaping the world. Half a million people have attended Web Summit events – Web Summit in Europe, Web Summit Rio in South America, Collision in North America, Web Summit Qatar in the Middle East, and RISE in Asia – since the company’s beginnings as a 150-person conference in Dublin in 2009.

Web Summit’s mission is to enable the meaningful connections that change the world. Web Summit also undertakes a range of initiatives to support diversity, equality and inclusion across the tech worlds, including Impact, women in tech, Amplify, our scholarship programme, and our community partnerships.

Read our coverage of last year’s Collision conference here.

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