• Karl Schmieder

Right Now, This Very Minute Is When to Prepare for SynBioBeta 2019, Or Any Event You're Attending

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

Are you attending SynBioBeta for the first time?


SynBioBeta is one of the most exciting events of the year bringing together the founders, investors, thinkers and people who are changing the world with synthetic biology. The conference is one of the only places where you can see the future of biology by being around the people who are already creating and living it.

This will be my fifth SynBioBeta and I am more excited than ever. The new venue at the old Fillmore West looks amazing. And it should, the stage had been graced by the Grateful Dead, Santana, The Who, Miles Davis, the poet Allen Ginsberg, and even Led Zepplin, among many others. The crowd will be bigger. And, it’ll be great to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Here are a few tips for making your trip to SynBioBeta useful. Career-changing. Positive for your business. Maybe even a catalyst for your present or future acts.

Dude, Plan Ahead.

The SynBioBeta website should become your BFF over the next few weeks. Unless you’re a chilled-out Buddhist monk, the three-day schedule will be overwhelming if you haven’t prepared.

Understand that the schedule is like a slow-mutating virus. Things may change over the next few weeks. That’s why you should give that schedule the once-over twice.

Take a few minutes and get familiar with the schedule.

Study the keynotes and breakout sessions.

If you’re the print-it-out type, print it and grab a highlighter to mark the sessions and workshops you want to attend.

What You Want Really Want? Really? Really?

The amount of content you can consume at SynBioBeta can more than inspire you for years to come. But, if you’re not careful, again it can be overwhelming.

But don’t despair. The solution is simple.

Decide in advance what you want to get out of the conference.

If you’re looking for high-level inspiration, plan to see the keynotes.

If you’re looking for knowledge you can take home and apply immediately, sit in on some workshops.

If networking is your game and you need investors or customers, spend time in the hallways, and attend the networking events.

If you get yourself invited to a party, invite me too ;-).

Choose to go wide or deep.

Wide means you’re going to the tapas restaurant and want to try everything on the menu. From the calamares to the patatas bravas.

Deep means you’re only going to focus on the organism engineering, the gene synthesis, or Green New Deal sessions.

Either way is correct. You need to figure out what works best for you before you get to San Francisco.

Bring the Right Stuff

Everyone is different, so what I suggest you bring to SynBioBeta might be different from someone else might suggest.

Here’s what Opentrons’ Kristin Ellis and Humane Genomics’ Andrew Hessel suggested.

Kristin: You’ll want to remember everything and everyone so bring a notebook, a pen, business cards, and a mind so open your brain might fall out of your head! Honestly, my first SBB was beyond my wildest expectations. It was both sci-fi made real and the sobering reality of a long path ahead.

Andrew: Bring an open mind. Prepare for it to be blown a few times. Bring an appetite! There’s lots of good food and drink. And [bring] lots of business cards — you’ll meet a lot of people you’ll want to follow up with since this is the place to network in synbio!

If it were me and I was attending for the first time, I’d heed their advice and add dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes.

Start Networking Before You Arrive. Because You Can.

SynBioBeta offers an app to attendees that makes it easy for you to start networking before you arrive.

As an obsessive networker, I study the speakers before I study the schedule. I like to know who’s attending. I look up profiles on LinkedIn. If it makes sense I’ll reach out via the app.

You can do the same. The app makes it easy.

However, some of the best networking happens randomly when you least expect it.

You meet someone in the hall. You sit next to someone at lunch. You overhear a conversation.

No matter how introverted you might be, strike up a conversation with the person standing in the corner trying to figure out what to do. Be helpful.

If there’s someone you really want to meet, ask someone who knows them. (If all else fails, hit me up. You never know.)

Make Sure You Give Yourself Some Free Time.

SynBioBeta can be three days of information overload if you choose. It can also be the best, most informative three days you ever spend in San Francisco.

Each day is filled but I’d suggest you give yourself some time, between sessions, to wander the hallways, to see the posters, to visit the vendors, and to listen.

To me, the most important talks and the most important relationships you develop happen in the hallways when you least expect it.

Sure, you can grab a speaker as soon as they walk off the stage (when everyone else is mobbing them) but you’ll have much better luck if you wait. Until you’re in the halls. Until you’re at lunch. Or until you’re having a drink and can connect person to person. Serendipity has a funny way of bringing the right people together. Let it work its magic.

It’s worth remembering we’re all super busy, so going to conferences is one of the few times we can relax. Sometimes people don’t want to talk business right away (or at all). Connect to people as a person and they’ll be more likely to remember you than the person handing them a business card the moment they walk off stage.

Finally, if you’ve never been to San Francisco play tourist. See the Golden Gate Bridge. Visit Chinatown. Climb Lombard Street. Or grab tacos at La Palma Mexicatessen (and make sure you invite me: If you say tacos, my answer will be "yes.").

When It’s All Said and Done, Follow Up.

Attending the conference and absorbing information is great. But when the conference wraps up and you have a pocketful of business cards make sure you follow up. Connect on LinkedIn.

Followup is where the professionals do their jobs. If you’re looking to develop a business relationship, it’s all about the followup. Be persistent without being overwhelming or annoying. The perfect relationships do form. Sometimes they take time.

The Joy of SynBioBeta 

I hope that if you are able to attend, you’ll be in the company of like-minded people. When I’m in San Francisco at SynBioBeta, I feel energized and inspired. I’m in my tribe. I’m with my people.

I hope that if you are able to attend, so you’ll experience that sense of community as well.

See you in a few weeks