San Diego startup acquired for $110 million by billion-dollar Swedish unicorn

Discover Echo's microscope, called the Revolve, combines two commonly used designs (the upright and inverted).
Discover Echo’s microscope, called the Revolve, combines two commonly used designs (the upright and inverted).
(Courtesy of Discover Echo)

Discover Echo, which pioneered a futuristic microscope, has been purchased by global startup Cellink


A multibillion-dollar unicorn startup in Sweden is acquiring a small local company that makes futuristic microscopes for $110 million.

The San Diego company, called Discover Echo, was an early player in the local startup scene, winning a pitch competition and catching the eye of local investors for its new-age instrument. Back then, it was known as Echo Laboratories.

Echo makes a modern microscope called Revolve, which combines the functionality of two commonly used microscopes (the upright and inverted) into one piece. It also has a vibrant touch screen display and custom software.

When it was new to the market in 2016, the makers of the Hollywood film “Alien: Covenant” requested one of Echo’s microscopes to use on set. It looked like a microscope of the future, they said.

Now, Echo is being acquired by Cellink, a fast-growing bioprinting and instruments startup that’s acquiring other startups at a rapid clip. Cellink is currently valued at $2.6 billion. The $110 million Echo deal was mainly cash, but 11 percent was paid in newly issued shares of Cellink’s series B fundraising round.

Echo’s founder and CEO Eugene Cho said the relationship between the two companies began several years ago when the two startup CEOs collided at an industry conference. Cho said the two companies shared cultural values and a desire to do big, innovative things in laboratory tech.

When Cho first imagined his startup being acquired, he thought it would be sold to the giants of the life science industry. Instead, he feels excited by the newness of Cellink, which was only founded in 2016 and rapidly grew to employ hundreds of people. It went public in Sweden 10 months after its founding and has acquired seven other startups in recent years.

“We’re joining this really fast-paced, young, energetic company,” Cho said.

The San Diego chapter of Tech Coast Angels made an early bet with Echo, writing, at the time, its biggest investment check in a local company after it won TCA’s annual pitch competition. The angel investor group went on to help Echo attract customers and strategic partners.

“Discover Echo was a true success story within our startup ecosystem,” said Dean Rosenberg, TCA vice president and board director at Discover Echo. “Eugene inspired us with his product vision in 2016 when he won our Quick Pitch competition, resulting in TCA leading both the seed financing and Series A financing for the company.”

Cellink plans to keep Echo’s operations as is, keeping the local office in Miramar, its 50 employees on staff, and its leadership team in place.