By John Harbison, TCA Chairman emeritus
Tech Coast Angels’ San Diego network first saw at its 2016 Quick Pitch competition what Discover Echo’s Revolve microscope could do: the company won the Grand Prize and a cash award of $15,000. The technology and team were so impressive that TCA generated one of the largest funding seed rounds in the network’s history for Discover Echo (then called Echo Labs): $2 million in less than two months, solely derived from TCA members and leveraging insights of the deep life sciences expertise from TCA members during Due Diligence. The company’s breakthrough product, Revolve, integrated the functionality of an upright and an inverted microscope and incorporated software and tablet-based technology.
Over the past five years, Discover Echo has gone from strength to strength, launching two more innovative microscopy products: the entry-level Rebel for education and medical labs and Revolution, a high-end robotics-assisted platform. The company, steered by its CEO Eugene Cho, also successfully raised additional funding through a Series A deal co-led by TCA and Dolby Family Ventures in 2018, and another TCA-led investment in 2020. In total, TCA led $14 M across the financing rounds.
“In the early days, we were really excited about Eugene and his vision,” said Dean Rosenberg, TCA deal lead across all three investment rounds. “As time went on, we saw that vision turn to execution as Discover Echo’s expanded product line was adopted by some of the most respected names in the industry.”
“In addition to the product, we were also impressed with Eugene and his team. Introducing new, disruptive products to an entrenched market is hard enough – but macro events also required the team to navigate other challenges, like the China tariffs and the Covid pandemic.”
Discover Echo was recently purchased by Cellink (now BICO Group AB), a public biotech company based in Sweden. Discover Echo was in full execution mode and the future was bright when Cellink approached them in late 2020. At the time, the company wasn’t for sale. Rosenberg continued, “Eugene and our board of directors almost dismissed Cellink’s initial interest. But that interest turned into action and we were able to complete a transaction that was a win for all.”
Discover Echo went through a relatively fast dating period that turned into an acquisition for $110 million in July 2021. TCA members who invested received an all cash return, earning up to 5x their investment. With a total of $2.9 million invested by TCA members, that translates into a combined gain for TCA members across all rounds of over $9.4 million (or 4.2x overall). The company will retain its local office San Diego office.