It’s probably irritating to many of my Arizona colleagues but I roll my eyes every time someone in economic development says it. “The collaborative gene.” Apparently Arizona has it. They love to throw this term out when discussing Biotech in Arizona, like this is the thing that sets us apart and makes better than all those Biotech leading regions like Southern California, Massachusetts and Northern California for that matter. I have been involved in biotech related activities in Arizona for the last decade and I haven’t seen it – until now!

The annual BIO International Convention is the largest gathering in the biotech space and perhaps the most important conference in life sciences. However, it was with reluctance that I agreed to attend BIO 2016 with team Arizona. Our company has attended often in years past. Our presence represented our support for Arizona and the Arizona life science community. To be honest, I was embarrassed time after time.

The reason I agreed this year was because my company, arivis, has a shiny new technology. Our amazing virtual reality application. I wanted to showcase it at BIO to get attention of our customers and because I know it draws a lot of people into a booth. So we committed to joining at BIO 2016 in the AZ Pavilion.

I am just back from the event and felt I had to tell Arizona that we left our mark. Joan Koerber-Walker, president& CEO of the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio), and Sergio Gazic, Bioscience Portfolio Manager at the Arizona Commerce Authority came together and worked tirelessly. They envisioned a large, professional and functional booth to represent the state. Most importantly they worked to find a new way to position Arizona in the Biotech community. They collaborated with our companies, our universities, and our various regions to agree on this new approach. You see, we are not number 1. But we are a rising star. This year we went to show what we are made of. Not to use words but to use actions. To show our “shining star” biotech companies. And shine they did! We may not have changed the world’s opinion of Arizona as a biotech leader but we certainly changed some important minds.

The biotech companies representing Arizona at BIO included arivis, Beacon Biomedical, IronHorse Diagnostics, and NuvOx, and they were all there to play and to change the game. Beacon alone had 17 meetings with VCs during the conference, many of them at the Arizona Pavilion’s dedicated meeting area. Beacon is rounding out its seed investment round and preparing for an A round. Because of BIO they are likely to finish out their seed round and get an early start on their A round. They also met with key strategic partners and customers for their technology in early cancer detection.

After giving dozens of Virtual Reality demonstrations every day of the conference, I had lots of “WOWs”, “amazings” and “you have to show this to…” comments.  We blew people away with our technology. We also have some great new customer opportunities. People came to see our technology and stayed to talk about Arizona.

The investors and partners, other biotechs and economic developers, educators and researchers who talked to Joan and Sergio, Beacon and NuvOx, Iron Horse and ASU, U of A and NAU, they left impressed with us in Arizona. They left impressed with our great companies, our great facilities, and most of all our great unity in working together to make Arizona a leader in biotech.

Investors and biotechs alike learned about the White Hat Investor Conference, another great Biotech specific advantage for Arizona. It presents an opportunity to meet in Phoenix this fall to match investors and companies with presentations and partnering events. We had several new commitments to attend coming out of BIO in San Francisco.

You see this is incredibly important to Arizona. Biotech brings in advanced, high-paying jobs to the state. Each one of the companies represented at our pavilion has the potential to grow their business and employee base significantly in Arizona. They are all working on life changing and life saving advances that will affect us all. And we, in Arizona need to be leaders. We need to find our way to the top.

Due to our showing at BIO I believe in our “collaborative gene” and agree that this does set us apart. I am proud to have been on team Arizona at BIO and want to let the rest of the people of the great state of Arizona know that you should be proud too. We are on our way and will continue to strive for the top.

Dirk Karsten Beth is managing director of arivis Inc. and founder of Hyalescent Ventures.