From Seed to IPO: Zymergen Brings Biofacturing Public
By Matt Ocko and Zachary Bogue 04.22.21
Technology has changed so much of the world in the past 50 years. Mobile phones, for example, were invented, became ubiquitous and changed dramatically in function and form factor. And now consumers focus on millimeters of thickness or very modest battery life improvements, believing that thinner or smaller somehow means innovative.
Any attempts at true electronics innovation – think folding phones or rolling ebooks or devices whose batteries don’t need materials from combat zones – fall flat quickly because chemical and materials science hasn’t kept pace with our imaginations. It’s too cost-prohibitive to develop new materials to make a folding phone possible using incumbent processes. Using the limited molecular palette of the traditional manufacturing processes we’re so reliant on, we may not be able to create those materials anyway. And, even if we could do better creating new molecules from hydrocarbons with “business as usual” processes, they’d generally be as polluting and energy-intensive to make as what we have today.
Now imagine that innovators and manufacturers across the globe weren’t constrained by that limited molecular palette – or by its environmental degradation. That you could design, develop and commercialize new products economically, at industrial scale and without negatively impacting the environment. That’s the opportunity ahead of Zymergen (Nasdaq: ZY) and why discerning investors supported its public market debut.
When we first met the team at Zymergen almost 8 years ago, we knew that the company’s ambitious goal to reshape what it means to make things wasn’t science fiction. It was an achievable objective from a world-class team possessing a defensible technological lead and dedication to self-optimizing processes. We also saw a company that embodied every aspect of our Deep Tech thesis. Our shared mission with the Zymergen founders and team is why we enthusiastically supported the company, financially (leading and/or substantially supporting rounds) and operationally (a hands-on role in strategy, recruiting key employees and customers, and offering management support and a sounding board while still delivering frank and constructive advice).
We firmly believe that Deep Tech is a potent approach to pragmatically and cost-effectively tackling trillion-dollar challenges in nearly every industry. And that Deep Tech solutions in these industries do so while multiplying the benefits of capitalism for everyone while at the same time managing its consequences. Zymergen’s biofacturing platform is a unique end-to-end fusion of molecular biology, chemistry, materials science, robotic lab automation, hyper-scale data, and machine learning designed to deliver breakthrough products with unique performance that traditional chemistry cannot. And while Zymergen enables these breakthroughs – think about that foldable phone – it also replaces the polluting traditional chemical factory with a tiny, flexible, easily reproduced, but incredibly valuable engineered cell.
These concrete outcomes that make the world around us better are at the heart of Deep Tech and why Zymergen is the seventh DCVC company to move toward the public markets in the past five months, joining AbCellera (Nasdaq: ABCL), Recursion (Nasdaq: RXRX), Rocket Lab, Evolv Technology, Desktop Metal (NYSE: DM) and Lucira Health (Nasdaq: LHDX). These companies are making the world around us safer as we go about our daily lives, opening up Earth’s orbit for new discoveries, offering high-accuracy at-home diagnostics for COVID-19 and advancing effective treatments for COVID-19 in record time.
Zymergen and the successes of the DCVC portfolio in the past few months offer a small look at Deep Tech’s transformative impact. We’re excited for a future that achieves even more, whether it’s making good health accessible to all, allowing us to see what’s happening on Earth even through smoke and clouds or making roads safer and transportation more efficient.
Congrats to the Zymergen team on an exciting day for the company and our planet. We can’t wait to see what’s next!