A clean energy company now has a market cap rivaling ExxonMobil

The news last week that NextEra Energy, a U.S. utility and renewable energy company, briefly overtook ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco to become the world’s most valuable energy producer shows just how valuable sustainable businesses have become. It’s yet another proof point that there are billions of dollars available for companies focused on renewable energy alone — and a sign that, finally, the floodgates may be about to open for companies that build their businesses to service a sustainability revolution.

Large money managers are already returning to investing in earlier stage sustainability investments after an extended hiatus. These are institutional investors like the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which could commit billions between them to technologies focused on mitigating the impacts of climate change or reducing greenhouse gas emissions across industries. The flood of dollars into renewable energy and sustainable technologies actually began in the first quarter of the year.

Some of the largest private equity funds in the U.S. like Blackstone (with $571 billion in assets under management), announced a flood of investments into renewable power generation and storage. Blackstone alone invested nearly $1 billion into Altus Power Generation, a renewable energy developer, and NRStor, an energy storage company; while Generate Capital raised $1 billion for renewable energy infrastructure projects; and Warburg Pincus (with over $50 billion in assets under management) backed Scale Microgrids, which developed clean energy and storage projects, with another $300 million. In March, the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board closed its investment in Pattern Energy Group, a $6.1 billion transaction that gave the massive money manager ownership of a renewable power project owner and developer with assets across North America and Japan.

Behind all of that massive investment will be a surge in demand for technologies that can orchestrate resources that will be more distributed and provide better energy storage and distribution technologies for a more complicated grid. Indeed, the beginning of the year saw venture firms like Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sequoia and Union Square Ventures begin to plant flags around sustainable investments in startup companies. Microsoft announced a $1 billion climate change-focused investment fund and in the second quarter, Amazon followed suit with the commitment of $2 billion to its Climate Pledge Fund that would invest across a range of renewable and sustainability-focused technology startups and climate-related projects.

“You’ve got all of this activity even without policy changes — and policy changes are even going in the wrong direction,” said Abe Yokell, a longtime investor in technologies addressing climate change and the managing partner of Congruent Ventures, in an interview with TechCrunch earlier this year. “Our general framework is that the venture model applies to some but not all of the solutions that will solve the problem of climate change.”

Environmental and social investing rises again

In 2007, John Doerr, then one of the world’s most successful venture investors and a leader at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers (now just Kleiner Perkins), delivered an emotional speech to an early audience of TED talk attendees. In it, Doerr announced that KPCB would be investing $200 million into a range of “clean technology” companies and encouraged other investors to make similar commitments. Doerr spoke of a coming climate crisis that would reshape the globe and wreak vast economic damage on communities. He wasn’t wrong.

But the solutions that the first generation of clean tech investors backed were economically unfeasible and markets weren’t then ready to embrace massive investments required to avoid what were, at the time, future risk scenarios. Prices for solar and wind energy production technologies were too expensive and energy storage options too unreliable. Biofuels could not compete at costs that would make them competitive with existing petrochemicals, and bioplastics and chemicals suffered from the same problems (along with a consumer culture that had not awoken to the perils of plastic and chemical production).

While there were a few notable successes from that first generation of clean tech companies, including, most notably, Tesla, there were far more failures. Kleiner alone poured hundreds of millions into companies like Think and Fisker Automotive, two early electric vehicle companies. Another electric vehicle bet, Better Place, lost $1 billion for investors like VantagePoint Venture Partners. The losses weren’t confined to electric vehicles. Solar energy companies, biofuel companies, grid management companies and battery companies all racked up millions in losses for a generation of venture funds.

Yokell, who previously worked as an investor at Rockport Capital, saw the failures, but managed to persevere and raise new cash with his fund Congruent. “Things are different, but they are different for 10 different reasons — not one different reason,” Yokell said. “The preponderance of dollars went into the physical layer that would drive down the cost of accessing a product or technology. Solar is a great example; wind is a great example; batteries are a great example. [But] this time around, the venture dollars that are going into the ecosystem are being applied to products and services that are going to the end product.”

This means focusing not on the generation of electricity necessarily, but managing and monitoring how those atoms move. Or in the case of food tech, making the processes of creation and distribution more efficient in addition to making new sources of supply. “Venture is a rule of exceptions,” said Yokell. “If you use what works for the venture model and apply it to Tesla [most investors] were wrong. It only takes two massive successes to prove the rule wrong.”

More often though, the money for venture investors is in following some basic rules of investing — chiefly look for high-margin businesses with low upfront capital costs. If something is going to take $40 million or $50 million just to figure out that it might work and then you need to spend another $200 million to prove that it does work … that’s likely not going to be a good bet for a venture firm, Yokell said.

Public markets and large corporations now lead the way

Even as most venture capital dollars shied away from investments in technology that could move the needle on climate (one large exception being Vinod Khosla and Khosla Ventures … another story), the world’s largest investment firms, money managers, publicly traded energy and agriculture companies began stepping up their commitments.

In part, that’s because the economic viability started to become more apparent for decades-old technologies like wind and solar. The costs of these energy-generating technologies made sense to develop because they were, in many cases, cheaper than the alternative. A June report from the International Renewable Energy Agency showed that renewable power generation projects were cheaper than the cost to operate existing coal-fired plants. Next year, the energy agency said, the 1.2 gigawatts of existing coal capacity could cost more to operate than the cost of new utility-scale solar photovoltaics. According to the agency:

Replacing the costliest 500 GW of coal with solar PV and onshore wind next year would cut power system costs by up to USD 23 billion every year and reduce annual emissions by around 1.8 gigatons (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to 5% of total global CO2 emissions in 2019. It would also yield an investment stimulus of USD 940 billion, which is equal to around 1% of global GDP.

Beyond that, the real effects of climate change began to be felt in rising insurance payouts as a result of increasingly frequent natural disasters and money managers beginning to realize that you can’t have a functioning economy if you don’t have a functioning society thanks to social unrest brought about by rising populations consuming increasingly limited resources thanks to climatological collapse. 

In early January, BlackRock, one of the world’s largest investment firms, pledged to refocus all of its investment activities through a climate lens. The investment bank Jefferies has declared 2020 to be the shot from the starting gun for what will be a decade of investments focused on environmental, social and corporate governance. Big energy companies were already picking up the slack where venture investment left off, with firms like National Grid Partners, Energy Investment Partners and others committing capital to new energy technologies even as venture investors pulled back. In 2016, Bill Gates launched a $1 billion investment fund that would focus on climate-related investing, backed by several of his billionaire buddies (including Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr and former Kleiner Perkins managing director, Vinod Khosla) and take the big swings that many venture firms were unwilling to take at the time.

Opportunities beyond energy

Investments in clean tech and sustainability were never just about energy, although that captured a fair bit of the imagination and some of the earliest returns — in biofuels companies and electric vehicles. Now, the breadth of the thesis is being expressed in a deluge of exits and millions invested in areas like novel proteins for food production, new technologies for a more sustainable agriculture, new consumer food products, new technologies for managing power and distributing it, and fantastic new ways to generate that power.

Last week, AppHarvest, a company using greenhouse farming techniques to grow tomatoes more sustainably, agreed to go public through a special purpose acquisition vehicle, and just today, a bioplastics manufacturer is taking the same tack. With the world awash in capital and looking for high-growth companies to generate returns, sustainability looks like a good bet.

Those are the companies that have managed to access public markets in the last week. Beyond Meat captured the attention of institutional investors and the investing public with its better-tasting hamburger substitute, and Perfect Day snagged a massive investment from the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board to make an alternative to cow’s milk. In fact, Perfect Day was the inaugural investment in the national pension fund’s climate strategy. Other deals should follow.

Meanwhile, as carbon emissions monitoring, management and sequestration gain broader commercial and consumer traction, other investment opportunities will begin to open up for digital solutions.

#beyond-meat, #biofuels, #chemicals, #climate-pledge-fund, #congruent-ventures, #energy, #exxonmobil, #fisker-automotive, #food, #food-tech, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #greentech, #microsoft, #nextera-energy, #renewable-energy, #sustainable-energy, #tc, #warburg-pincus

0

Motif Foodworks preps commercial production for its first ingredient, improving the flavor of beef substitutes

Motif Foodworks, the Ginkgo Bioworks spinout focused on developing new plant-based flavorings and food ingredients, is readying commercial scale production of its first product an ingredient to improve the flavor of beef substitutes.

The expansion of Motif’s manufacturing capacity presages the commercial availability of its new flavoring, which should be on folded into consumer products by the fourth quarter of 2021, according to Motif chief executive Jonathan McIntyre.

“We’re making the product at pilot scale and we’re happy with the pilotization and now we’re scaling up to do large scales in formula development and characterization and talking to contract manufacturers about getting the product put in,” McIntyre said.

There’s a second product under development that’s focused on nutritional attributes for applications in sports nutrition and nutritional supplements, McIntyre said.

In all, Motif has nine ingredients under development with academic partners that will soon be coming to market.

“The first wave of those [ingredients] is targeted at plant-based meats,” McIntyre said. “Ground beef is the first one and the thing that you usually validate in.”

As the industry matures, there’s a growing sense among the lab grown meat and plant-based meat substitute manufacturers that the process isn’t as simple as just coming up with novel proteins to replicate the bloody taste of meats (like plant-based heme). Instead there’re going to be an array of ingredients and proteins that need to be identified and developed to replicate the fibrous textures and fats that make meat taste like meat.

It’s not just the muscle meat, what is critical is getting the flavor attributes and the other tissue attributes. When you get a steak and you see the marbleizing. That marbleizing creates a relationship between the protein fibers and the fat… has a lot to do with taste… that does not occur in a plant based product. Even when you cook a plant based burger next to a beef burger you see the fat behavior differently.”

So Motif is working on new ways to make that connective tissue using plant-based substitutes. It’s part of the company’s mission to be the plant-based ingredient company that can replace the chemicals and animal byproducts currently used to add texture and flavor to a whole range of food products.

“The technology is a plant-based set of ingredients that have been transformed to have properties that have connective tissue,” McIntyre said. “We don’t lock in to just one technology. We lock into what is the issue that is going to taste better. We have been building as strong as a food science, food application, culinology approach as we have protein science. Those ingredients are in the late analysis stage.. Where we’ll be making tens of kilos of material and getting those in front of consumers quickly.”

Looking ahead McIntyre said that Motif Foodworks is looking to create what he called new “food forms”. The idea, McIntyre said is to start making foods that have their own unique flavor profiles and ingredients that won’t necessarily need to be compared to an animal substitute.

“If you’re figuring out a way to make the plant-based option taste better, can you do other food forms that may not suffer by comparison to a burger?” McIntry said. “We want to show the plant-based food world it’s not about replacements.”

This is the next step in the evolution of a company that’s not yet two years old.

Motif spun out of Ginkgo Bioworks in February 2019 with a $90 million investment from Fonterra, the New Zealand-based multinational dairy company; the global food processing and trading firm Louis Dreyfus Co.; and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the climate focused investment fund financed by a global gaggle of billionaires including Marc Benioff, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman, John Doerr, Vinod Khosla, Jack Ma, Neil Shen, Masayoshi Son, and Meg Whitman.

Motif isn’t just focused on making new ingredients and alternatives to traditional meat-based products. The company is also looking at ways to make existing food healthier with novel ingredients.

 

“That fortification game has been played a lot. We need to figure out how to get more servings of fruits and vegetables to consumers,” said McIntyre. “It could be that our list of ingredients could be more expansive to include not just plant protein.. It might be having two servings of vegetables combined with all of that in a great new food.”

#bill-gates, #breakthrough-energy-ventures, #chemicals, #consumer-products, #food, #food-science, #jack-ma, #jeff-bezos, #john-doerr, #marc-benioff, #masayoshi-son, #meg-whitman, #michael-bloomberg, #motif, #new-zealand, #reid-hoffman, #richard-branson, #tc, #vinod-khosla

0

These Everyday Toxins May Be Hurting Pregnant Women and Their Babies

PFAS, industrial chemicals used to waterproof jackets and grease-proof fast-food containers, may disrupt pregnancy with lasting effects.

#babies-and-infants, #breastfeeding, #chemicals, #containers-and-packaging, #diabetes, #dupont-co, #environmental-protection-agency, #european-food-safety-authority, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #hoosick-falls-ny, #obesity, #parenting, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #science-and-technology, #teflon, #thyroid-gland, #water-pollution

0

Alternative protein companies have raised a whopping $1.5 billion through July of this year

Companies like Perfect Day, Impossible Foods, and a host of other startups that are developing replacements for animal farmed goods used in food, clothes, cosmetics, and chemicals have raised a whopping $1.5 billion through the first half of the year.

That’s according to a new report from The Good Food Institute which is tracking the growth of investments into sustainable foods. The report identified fermentation technologies as a rising third pillar of foundational technologies on which new and established food brands are making products that swap out animal products for other protein sources.

Fermentation technologies, which use microbes like microalgae and mycoprotein, can produce biomass, improve plant proteins and create new functional ingredients, and companies developing and deploying these technologies have raised $435 million in funding through the end of July 2020. It’s an indication of how competitive the market is for food technologies, representing an increase of nearly 60 percent over the $274 million invested in all of 2019, according to GFI.

“Fermentation is powering a new wave of alternative protein products with huge potential for improving flavor, sustainability, and production efficiency. Investors and innovators are recognizing this market potential, leading to a surge of activity in fermentation as an enabling platform for the alternative protein industry as a whole,” said GFI Associate Director of Science and Technology Liz Specht, in a statement. “And this is just the beginning: The opportunity landscape for technology development is completely untapped in this area. Many alternative protein products of the future will harness the plethora of protein production methods now available, with the option of leveraging combinations of proteins derived from plants, animal cell culture, and microbial fermentation.”

Portait of the head of an adult black and white cow, gentle look, pink nose, in front of a blue sky. Image Credit: Getty Images

As the $1.5. billion figure indicates, big-time investors are taking notice. Funds like the Bill Gates -backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Temasek, Horizons Ventures, CPP Investment Board, Louis Dreyfus Co., Bunge Ventures, Kellogg, ADM Capital, Danone, Kraft Heinz, Mars, and Tyson Foods’ investment arm have all backed companies in the industry.

In all, fermentation-focused startup companies raised 3.5 times more capital than cultivated meat companies worldwide and almost 60 percent as much as U.S. plant-based meat, egg, and dairy companies, according to the GFI. 

As the industry has grown up, since Quorn became the first company to use fermentation-derived proteins back in 1985, big industrial companies have started to take notice.

While there are at least 44 startups focused on alternative proteins worldwide, according to the GFI report, large publicly traded companies like Novozymes, DuPont, and DSM are also developing product lines for the alternative protein business.

“Given the breadth of applications, we believe that fermentation could solve many current challenges faced by alternative proteins. On the one hand, biomass fermentation can create nutritious, clean protein in a highly efficient and low-cost way. On the other hand, the potential for precision fermentation to produce value-added, highly functional, and nutritious ingredients is very exciting and could revolutionize the plant-based category,” said Rosie Wardle, an investor with the CPT Capital, which specializes in backing startups developing novel protein production technologies. “From an investment perspective, we are very excited about the white space opportunities in this category, and we are actively looking to increase our investments in the space. This new report from GFI is the first comprehensive overview of fermentation for alternative protein applications and should be required reading for everyone who wants to create a more efficient and less harmful global food system.”

#articles, #bill-gates, #biotechnology, #breakthrough-energy-ventures, #cellular-agriculture, #chemicals, #cultured-meat, #danone, #dupont, #food, #food-and-drink, #head, #horizons-ventures, #impossible-foods, #mars, #meat, #meat-substitutes, #tc, #technology-development, #temasek, #tyson-foods, #united-states

0

LanzaTech is developing a small-scale waste biomass gasifier for ethanol production in India

As part of the continuing global rollout of LanzaTech’s technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions and turn those emissions into fuel and chemicals, the company is rolling out a new small-scale waste biomass gasifier in India.

The new gasifier, which was announced Tuesday on TechCrunch Disrupt’s virtual stage, will be hosted at Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemical, one of India’s largest refiners. The LanzaTech gasifier, which will be built in partnership with Indian project development firm Ankur Scientific, will use waste to make ethanol and chemicals rather than power.

While most of the industry uses large-scale, expensive oxygen-blown gasifiers to make liquids, the LanzaTech air blown technology is much cheaper and easier to operate and can still produce bacteria at a scale that produces a meaningful amount of ethanol.

Contamination also isn’t an issue with the gas feedstock for LanzaTech’s bacteria, according to Holmgren. The new process can produce biochar that ends up replacing fertilizer in soil and thereby reducing nitrogen oxide emissions, which are another greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change.

If the pilot project is successful and the gasifiers are rolled out at scale across India, it could mean an ability for the country to produce roughly 25 billion liters of ethanol per year and result in removing 60 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, according to LanzaTech’s estimates.

“Overall something that people said makes no sense, may well make sense and may well result in benefits beyond just the immediate reuse of waste agri carbon and production of a fuel that results in keeping some petroleum in the ground,” according to a statement from Holmgren. “Holistic systems thinking is the way.”

For Holmgren, the small pilot project in India is an example of how small-scale, low-cost distributed systems can compete with the big oil industry.

“There are two paths to scale, bigger which is cheaper per unit produced, or massively replicating a small scale unit (numbering up vs. scaling up),” Holmgren said. “Most people have always believed that numbering up is for toys and food, but I think it will also fit process technology. Certainly, larger fits petroleum, but it can’t fit biotechnology or biomass or waste gases which are distributed and difficult to move.”

Decarbonization, Holmgren believes, will require a reimagining of traditional systems if humanity is to break the carbon cycle that’s now causing global climate catastrophes that can be observed in the Western United States right now.

“We must not benchmark today’s innovation against the past; we must, instead, imagine and create a very different future, one where the production of energy, fuels and chemicals is based on distributed, rather than centralized principles,” said Holmgren. “Recent breakthroughs in miniaturization, automation, AI and 3D printing enable distributed production beyond anything that could have been previously imagined and of course, a simple gasifier will help that along.”

#biofuels, #biogas, #biomass, #carbon-dioxide, #chemicals, #disrupt-2020, #food, #india, #lanzatech, #renewable-energy, #tc

0

HowGood launches Latis, a sustainability assessment tool for consumer product ingredients

The New York-based startup HowGood, which provides a sustainability database for consumer product ingredients, is publicly launching its product Latis and has already signed an initial customer with Danone North America, the company said.

The company said that its Latis tool can be used to determine the impact of any ingredient or product against environmental and social metrics like biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, labor risk, and animal welfare.

“Consumers no longer just want the best product at the best price,” said Alexander Gillett, CEO and founder of HowGood, in a statement. “Today’s shoppers place value on protecting the environment and ensuring that the brands they support align with their personal values.”

Aggregating information from academic papers, industry findings, research from non-governmental organizations, and other sources, Latis can be used by product development groups inside corporations to assess the implications of using certain ingredients.

Since the information is only used by the company to inform product development, there are no guarantees that product developers won’t use toxic or environmentally damaging products — they’ll just have the opportunity to be aware of how those products effect biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, labor risk, and animal welfare.

The company currently has data on over 33,000 ingredients, chemicals and materials, according to a statement. HowGood is backed by investors including FirstMark, Great Oaks Venture Capital, High Line Venture Partners, Joanne Wilson and Contour Venture Partners.

“Having an impact assessment tool for our product portfolio is raising the sustainability awareness of our product developers and brand teams,” said Takoua Debeche, SVP of Research and Innovation at Danone, in a statement. “This holistic tool is critical to improving the sustainability impact of our brands.”

 

#chemicals, #contour-venture-partners, #firstmark, #food-and-drink, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #high-line-venture-partners, #howgood, #joanne-wilson, #new-york, #sustainability, #tc

0

Founded by an Impossible Foods, and Google data scientist, Climax Foods raises $7.5 million to tackle the cheesiest market

Oliver Zahn began his professional career studying the stars. The founder of Climax Foods, a startup that’s using data science to replace animal proteins with plant-based substitutes, spent years at the University of California at Berkeley with his eyes fixed firmly toward the heavens before taking up with Pat Brown and Impossible Foods as the company’s leading data scientist.

That experience focused Zahn on more terrestrial concerns and undoubtedly led the founder down the path to launching Climax Foods.

Now with $7.5 million in financing from investors including At One Ventures, founded by the GoogleX co-founder Tom Chi, along with Manta Ray Ventures, S2G Ventures, Valor Siren Ventures, Prelude Ventures, ARTIS Ventures, Index Ventures, Luminous Ventures, Canaccord Genuity Group, Carrot Capital and Global Founders Capital, Zahn is ready to take on the future of food.

The pitch to investors is similar to the one that Josh Tetrick made at Just Food (the company formerly known as Hampton Creek). It’s elegant in its simplicity — scan the natural world for proteins that have the same or better characteristics than those that are currently made by animals and make products with them.

By looking at what makes animal products so delicious, the company will find their plant-based analogs and start producing.

As with most things that depend on data science, the taxonomy is the key. So Climax Foods is building machine learning algorithms that will process and cross-reference molecular structures to find the best fit. It’s starting with cheese.

While, the replacing the humble wheel of cheese may not seem like a worthy adversary for an astrophysicist, companies have already raised hundreds of millions to defeat the big dairy industry.

“We are at a pivotal time where industrialization enabled explosive population growth and consumption of animal products. Today, more than 90% of all mammalian animals and more than 70% of all birds on the planet exist for the sole purpose of metabolizing plants and being turned into food,” said Zahn in a statement. “This industry is complex and wasteful, creating as much climate change as all modes of transportation combined, and using more than a third of the earth’s water and usable land. By speeding up food science innovation, Climax Foods is able to convert plants into equally craveable foods without the environmental impact.”

Joining Zahn on this quest to conquer the cheese industrial complex and its milk-made monstrousness are a few seasoned industry veterans including co-founder, Caroline Love, the company’s chief operating officer and former sales and operations executive from JUST foods, and Pavel Aronov, a Stanford-educated chemist who previously worked at the chemicals giant thermo-Fisher.

“Climax Foods is tackling the same opportunity to change the market and the food system, but they are doing it with an entirely novel technological approach. They are using data science to produce a new category of foods that will not merely compete with, but out-compete, animal products in terms of taste, nutritional density, and price,” said Sanjeev Krishnan, one of the largest investors in the plant protein space and Chief Investment Officer of S2G Ventures. “The machine intelligence approach Climax Foods is pioneering is critical for harnessing the vast number of ways raw ingredients and natural processes can be used to create the ultimate digital recipes.”

Krishnan would know. He’s an investor in Beyond Meat, the most successful public offering of a plant-based protein replacement company.

#beyond-meat, #california, #chemicals, #chief-operating-officer, #co-founder, #executive, #food, #food-and-drink, #founder, #global-founders-capital, #hampton-creek, #impossible-foods, #josh-tetrick, #just, #luminous-ventures, #manta-ray-ventures, #meat-substitutes, #prelude-ventures, #protein, #s2g-ventures, #stanford, #tc, #thermo-fisher, #university-of-california, #valor-siren-ventures

0

Big Oil Is in Trouble. Its Plan: Flood Africa With Plastic.

Faced with plunging profits and a climate crisis that threatens fossil fuels, the industry is demanding a trade deal that weakens Kenya’s rules on plastics and on imports of American trash.

#american-chemistry-council, #basel-action-network, #center-for-international-environmental-law, #chemicals, #environment, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #international-trade-and-world-market, #kenya, #plastic-bags, #plastics, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #united-states, #waste-materials-and-disposal

0

The 3 Scariest Chemicals to Watch Out For in Your Home

They’re everywhere and can impair fertility and interfere with child development.

#chemicals, #content-type-service, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #parenting

0

Synthetic biology startups are giving investors an appetite

There’s a growing wave of commercial activity from companies that are creating products using new biological engineering technologies.

Perhaps the most public (and tastiest) example of the promise biomanufacturing holds is Impossible Foods . The meat replacement company whose ground plants (and bioengineered additives) taste like ground beef just raised another $200 million earlier this month, giving the privately held company a $4 billion valuation.

But Impossible is only the most public face for what’s a growing trend in bioengineering — commercialization. Platform companies like Ginkgo Bioworks and Zymergen that have large libraries of metagenomic data that can be applied to products like industrial chemicals, coatings and films, pesticides and new ways to deliver nutrients to consumers.

The new products coming to market

In fact, by 2021 consumer products made with Zymergen’s bioengineered thin films should be appearing at the Consumer Electronics Show (if there is a Consumer Electronics Show). It’s one of several announcements this year from the billion dollar-valued startup.

In August, Zymergen announced that it was working with herbicide and pesticide manufacturer FMC in a partnership that will see the seven-year-old startup be an engine for product development at the nearly 130-year-old chemical company.

#arvind-gupta, #biotechnology, #bolt-threads, #chemicals, #consumer-products, #emerging-technologies, #food, #geltor, #ginkgo-bioworks, #greentech, #healthcare, #impossible-foods, #indiebio, #life-sciences, #lygos, #manufacturing, #mayfield-fund, #memphis-meats, #seth-bannon, #solazyme, #solugen, #startup-company, #startups, #synthetic-biology, #tc, #venture-capital, #zymergen

0

Citrus Flavoring Is Weaponized Against Insect-Borne Diseases

The E.P.A. has approved nootkatone, which is found in cedars and grapefruit. It repels ticks, mosquitoes and other dangerous bugs for hours, but is safe enough to eat.

#biomedical-advanced-research-and-development-authority, #centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention, #chemicals, #deet-insect-repellent, #environmental-protection-agency, #evolva-holding-sa, #foreign-aid, #grapefruit, #insects, #inventions-and-patents, #lyme-disease, #malaria, #mosquitoes, #pesticides, #ticks-insects

0

Roundup Maker to Pay $10 Billion to Settle Cancer Suits

Bayer faced tens of thousands of claims linking the weedkiller to cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Some of the money is set aside for future cases.

#agriculture-and-farming, #bayer-ag, #biotechnology-and-bioengineering, #cancer, #chemicals, #defoliants-and-herbicides, #feinberg-kenneth-r, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #monsanto-company, #suits-and-litigation-civil

0

Toxic Ghosts

My father and I worked for years at a factory that became a Superfund hazardous-waste site. We’re still feeling the repercussions.

#air-pollution, #chemicals, #colitis, #digestive-tract, #factories-and-manufacturing, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #pcb-polychlorinated-biphenyls, #prostate-gland, #superfund, #waste-materials-and-disposal, #water-pollution

0

Emerging from stealth, Octant is bringing the tools of synthetic biology to large scale drug discovery

Octant, a company backed by Andreessen Horowitz just now unveiling itself publicly to the world, is using the tools of synthetic biology to buck the latest trends in drug discovery.

As the pharmaceuticals industry turns its attention to precision medicine — the search for ever more tailored treatments for specific diseases using genetic engineering — Octant is using the same technologies to engage in drug discovery and diagnostics on a mass scale.

The company’s technology genetically engineers DNA to act as an identifier for the most common drug receptors inside the human genome. Basically, it’s creating QR codes that can flag and identify how different protein receptors in cells respond to chemicals. These are the biological sensors which help control everything from immune responses to the senses of sight and smell, the firing of neurons; even the release of hormones and communications between cells in the body are regulated.

“Our discovery platform was designed to map and measure the interconnected relationships between chemicals, multiple drug receptor pathways and diseases, enabling us to engineer multi-targeted drugs in a more rational way, across a wide spectrum of targets,” said Sri Kosuri, Octant’s co-founder and chief executive officer, in a statement.

Octant’s work is based on a technology first developed at the University of California Los Angeles by Kosuri and a team of researchers, which slashed the cost of making genetic sequences to $2 per gene from $50 to $100 per gene.

“Our method gives any lab that wants the power to build its own DNA sequences,” Kosuri said in a 2018 statement. “This is the first time that, without a million dollars, an average lab can make 10,000 genes from scratch.”

Joining Kosuri in launching Octant is Ramsey Homsany, a longtime friend of Kosuri’s, and a former executive at Google and Dropbox . Homsany happened to have a background in molecular biology from school, and when Kosuri would talk about the implications of the technology he developed, the two men knew they needed to for a company.

“We use these new tools to know which bar code is going with which construct or genetic variant or pathway that we’re working with [and] all of that fits into a single well,” said Kosuri. “What you can do on top of that is small molecule screening… we can do that with thousands of different wells at a time. So we can build these maps between chemicals and targets and pathways that are essential to drug development.”

Before coming to UCLA, Kosuri had a long history with companies developing products based on synthetic biology on both the coasts. Through some initial work that he’d done in the early days of the biofuel boom in 2007, Kosuri was connected with Flagship Ventures, and the imminent Harvard-based synthetic biologist George Church . He also served as a scientific advisor to Gen9, a company acquired by the multi-billion dollar synthetic biology powerhouse, Ginkgo Bioworks.

“Some of the most valuable drugs in history work on complex sets of drug targets, which is why Octant’s focus on polypharmacology is so compelling,” said Jason Kelly, the co-founder and CEO of Gingko Bioworks, and a member of the Octant board, in a statement. “Octant is engineering a lot of luck and cost out of the drug discovery equation with its novel platform and unique big data biology insights, which will drive the company’s internal development programs as well as potential partnerships.”

The new technology arrives at a unique moment in the industry where pharmaceutical companies are moving to target treatments for diseases that are tied to specific mutations, rather than look at treatments for more common disease problems, said Homsany.

“People are dropping common disease problems,” he said. “The biggest players are dropping these cases and it seems like that just didn’t make sense to us. So we thought about how would a company take these new technologies and apply them in a way that could solve some of this.”

One reason for the industry’s turn away from the big diseases that affect large swaths of the population is that new therapies are emerging to treat these conditions which don’t rely on drugs. While they wouldn’t get into specifics, Octant co-founders are pursuing treatments for what Kosuri said were conditions “in the metabolic space” and in the “neuropsychiatric space”.

Helping them pursue those targets, since Octant is very much a drug development company, is $20 million in financing from investors led by Andreessen Horowitz .

“Drug discovery remains a process of trial and error. Using its deep expertise in synthetic biology, the Octant team has engineered human cells that provide real-time, precise and complete readouts of the complex interactions and effects that drug molecules have within living cells,” said Jorge Conde, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, and member of the Octant board of directors. “By querying biology at this unprecedented scale, Octant has the potential to systematically create exhaustive maps of drug targets and corresponding, novel treatments for our most intractable diseases.”

#andreessen-horowitz, #articles, #biology, #biotechnology, #chemicals, #dna, #dna-sequencing, #dropbox, #drug-development, #drug-discovery, #emerging-technologies, #executive, #flagship-ventures, #general-partner, #genetic-engineering, #genetics, #george-church, #ginkgo-bioworks, #google, #harvard, #jason-kelly, #jorge-conde, #pharmaceutical, #synthetic-biology, #tc

0

Tesla said to be readying new long-lasting, low-cost batteries to put EVs at price parity with gas cars

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been touting forthcoming battery technology improvements, going so far as to dub a forthcoming company talk “battery day” in prior public comments. Now Reuters is reporting that the automaker plans to unveil new advanced battery technology it has developed that can produce power sources for its EVs which last for “millions of miles” and can be produced at low costs — allowing the automaker to sell cars at or below the market cost of equivalent gas-guzzling internal combustion cars.

This would be a watershed moment for Tesla, if true. Reuters reports that the development is the result of joint R&D work conducted with China-based Contemporary Amperex Technology, and that it is based on work done by a team of crack Tesla battery technology researchers coming from an academic background that were enlisted by Musk specifically to change the economics of electric power storage.

Battery capacity and production costs has long been a limiting factor in terms of the manufacturing costs of electric vehicles, and is one big reason EVs carry a price premium when sold to customers. Ordinarily, automakers, including Tesla, point to lifetime fuel savings and tax incentives provided by local, state and federal governments as mitigating factors that mean the lifetime cost of an EV is equal to or less than that of a gas car, but if Tesla’s new battery tech can change the dynamics so that the price on the sticker is also lower than a gas vehicle, that would be a significant driver of broader EV adoption.

Tesla will first launch the new battery in China, Reuters says, beginning with the Model 3. It then plans to roll it out to other vehicles and markets, and ultimately produce batteries with new manufacturing processes that are meant to bring down labor costs while raising output volume, at so-called “terafactories” that would span up to 30 times the space of the current Tesla Gigafactories, including the one in Nevada.

The battery tech that Tesla is working on will include low-cobalt and cobalt-free versions of chemicals used, as well as newly developed materials and internal coatings to reduce the stress upon the active components and prolong their useful life, per Reuters. Simultaneously, it’ll also introduce a new system developed by its partner Contemporary Amperex Technology that removes the step of having to bundle cells prior to their installation in final battery packs, which will bring down battery pack unit weight and costs. It’s also developing new recycling technologies for the components in its batteries so that its vehicle power sources can eventually be used across its other energy products to extend their useful life.

#automotive, #battery-technology, #chemicals, #china, #driver, #electric-cars, #electric-vehicle, #electric-vehicles, #elon-musk, #lithium-ion-battery, #nevada, #science, #tc, #tesla

0

E.P.A. Opts Against Limits on Water Contaminant Tied to Fetal Damage

A new E.P.A. policy on perchlorate, which is used in rocket fuel, would revoke a 2011 finding that the chemical should be regulated.

#chemicals, #environment, #environmental-protection-agency, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #regulation-and-deregulation-of-industry, #trump-donald-j, #united-states-politics-and-government, #water-pollution

0

Taika is building a better coffee through natural chemistry and adaptogens

So, an eight-year product veteran from Facebook and an internationally renowned barista walk into a coffee bar…

It’s not a joke. It’s the origin story for Taika, a new startup that’s aiming to bring natural stimulants to the masses through its juiced up coffee-beverages.

The two co-founders, Michael Sharon, an eight-year veteran of Facebook’s mobile product division, and Kalle Freese, a champion barista (it’s a thing) and the co-founder of Sudden Coffee are on a mission to bring consumers what Sharon calls “stealth health”.

 

Talk to any of Sharon’s friends and it’s plain to see that the man loves his coffee. While at Facebook he’d down pour overs in the morning and espresso shots throughout the day, but the side effects left him… “tweaky”.

So, like any good product designer and engineer, Sharon set out to try and make a better cuppa. The South African native developed a stack of different natural additives that he would add to his morning ‘joe in an effort to provide a steady source of stimulation — without any side-effects throughout the day.

The cornerstone of Sharon’s putatively potent potables is an ingredient commonly found in tea called L-theanine. “I had these compounds and these stacks that I was putting together for myself,” said Sharon. “[And] I realized they were super beneficial, but when i tried to get my friends interested and said ‘Here are the twenty things you need to buy,’ people would lose interest and walk away.”

It was in those moments that Sharon came up with the notion of “stealth health”, if his friends were rejecting his attempts to try out his curated stack of ingredients on their own, he’d just make a product that would package them into a handy beverage and foist them on an unwitting world.

Sharon stresses that his company is based on the latest science and that nothing that’s included in Taika’s coffee-based drinks is a novel compound or regulated substance. They’re all supplements that are known quantities in the wellness world.

We are, as a company, we’re very much science aware and science supported,” said Sharon. “We’re not science blocked… The compounds that I’ve experimented with.. I’ve experimented with them myself and experimented with them on my partner and started this larger beta program.”

Bringing software-style beta testing to the beverage business

Sharon met Freese in 2018 after a two-and-a-half year hiatus from Facebook that saw the veteran product designer try his hand at kite surfing, wind surfing, surfing, photographing polar bears in Svalbard, and visiting the world’s only desert with fresh water lagoons.

That summer the coffee snob met the world’s best barista and a friendship was formed that would blossom into the partnership at the heart of Taika. Sharon had already made an investment in the coffee world through a small stake in Blue Bottle and was ready to take the plunge into startup land.

“When i met Kalle we started riffing on a whole bunch of insane ideas,” said Sharon. “After two months we were like… Why don’t we try to take some of these compounds and put together a formula.”

Since none of the compounds that the company uses need to be approved by the FDA, because they’re classified as “Generally Recognized As Safe”, Taika was able to begin formulating.

The company started off as a direct sales business, giving away coffee to friends and friends-of-friends. Then they started delivering to what Sharon called micro-kitchens. From there, the business grew and continued growing. the two co-founders began dropping off their brews at corporate offices.

Their first big human beta test was at the offices of the now-defunct legal startup Atrium. “They were — like — 80 people at that stage,” said Sharon. And they were also providing legal services to Taika as a newly launched startup. “They went through the coffee in the first two weeks,” said Sharon.

From the initial run of a regular coffee, the company added an oat milk latte and that’s when Sharon and Freese knew they were off to the races.

“This coffee is like secretly healthy,” said Sharon. “We have no added sugar in the coffee. We know coffee is a healthy compound and we have a bunch of these compounds that are very healthy but not widely known. This stealth-health concept stuck around.”

Taika includes a phone number for customer feedback on the packaging and the company is constantly tweaking its formulations. It’s now up to version 0.8 on its three drinks, which include a black coffee, an oat milk latte and a macadamia nut latte. The drinks also include functional ingredients like L-theanine, ashwagandha, and functional mushrooms like cordyceps, reishi, and lion’s mane. The company uses allulose as a sweetener, which doesn’t impact blood sugar levels and is better than table sugar, Sharon said.

“We definitely think that it’s healthy, but we don’t think you have to compromise on the taste,” said Sharon. “We asked ourselves what are the right extracts that we can use that will have an effect.. Everybody is different and everybody psychoactive compound effects people differently.. The compounds we put in this coffee are going to affect people differently.. 

Repeatedly, Sharon returns to the concept of providing a stealth way to introduce healthy compounds and chemicals into a consumer’s day and diet.

“There are established supply chains for these things,” said Sharon. “One of the first things we worked on was the formulation. We ended up with this specific mix of five. They helped us dial in the right headspace and they’re all natural compounds. These are things that have been consumed by humans for thousands of years.”

It’s working with the coffees. So far the company has sold 50,000 cans and it’s now available at stores across San Francisco including Buy Rite, Epicurian Trader, Rainbow Grocery and has even managed to make its way through COVID-19 shelter in place orders to the five Erewhon locations in Los Angeles.

Taika takes its name for the Finnish word for magic and, according to Sharon, it’s a good corollary for how the beverage makes you feel.

The company has raised $2.7 million in seed funding to date to take its product to market from firms like Kindred Ventures (which has backed companies like Coinbase , Blue Bottle Coffee , Postmates , Zymergen) and individual investors like James Joaquin.

And coffee is just the beginning, according to Sharon.

“If we’re able to take sugar and milk out of their day… and we’re not beating them over the head with the health aspects… there are a ton of products out there that we could turn into stealth health products,” he said.

#atrium, #blue-bottle, #blue-bottle-coffee, #chemicals, #co-founder, #coffee, #coinbase, #drinks, #espresso, #facebook, #fda, #food-and-drink, #james-joaquin, #kindred-ventures, #legal-services, #los-angeles, #postmates, #san-francisco, #south-africa, #sudden-coffee, #tc, #zymergen

0

RWDC Industries is a new startup hoping to become a bioplastics giant in Athens, Ga.

Daniel Carraway spent his entire career working in paper and bioplastics.

The serial entrepreneur began his career at International Paper working in their research division before founding two previous companies which became cornerstones of the bioplastics industry. His latest venture, RWDC Industries, has raised $133 million in a recent financing to build a new sustainable manufacturing juggernaut in the small city of Athens, Ga.

With offices in Athens and Singapore, RWDC is the fruit of a partnership between Carraway and Roland Wee, an engineer with decades of experience in the chemicals and construction business across Asia.

The two men met through mutual connections as Carraway sought new opportunities to pursue his longtime vision of commercializing bioplastics.  The serial entrepreneur had just stepped away from his work with  Meredian Holdings Group and its subsidiary, Danimer Scientific — companies that sprung from work Carraway started at his kitchen table with his wife back in 2004, he said.

In 2019, bioplastics represented a $95 million opportunity according to a report in Market Data Forecast, but the small size of the current market belies how big the opportunity can be, according to Carraway.

RWDC, Danimer, and Kaneka are all pursuing an opportunity to replace plastic packaging, which was a $234.14 billion market, according to GrandViewResearch. It’s that potential market for plastics that has drawn countless companies over the years — including Carraway’s own — to raise hundreds of millions of dollars.

Several of those companies failed. Perhaps the most successful of the early high-flyers was Metabolix, which had a public offering before the financial crisis hit in 2008. That company sold its bioplastics division to CJ CheilJedang for roughly $10 million and pivoted to crop science.

Carraway insists that the market has changed over the last few decades and the time is finally right for biology to supplant chemistry in industrial manufacturing.

“If you look back at the history of new materials development… especially polymers.. There has never been a new polymer that had been invented that didn’t take twenty to thirty years for it to make wide scale adoption,” said Carraway. “When a polymer is first developed it takes a while to get the manufacturing right to get it at wide scale. [And] it takes time for polymer converters to understand how to use a new material… it’s not that technologically it’s not viable it’s about figuring out how to use the new material.”

Scale is important too, said Carraway. “You have to reach a certain critical availability in metric tons available in the global market to create a situation where people can use the new material,” he said.

RWDC can already make about 5,000 tons of PHA and expects to grow its capacity to make half a million tons of material, but that barely scratches the surface of available capacity for traditional plastics. “For the next decade we’re going to be in a mad scramble to grow production capacity because we’re going to be behind the demand curve,” said Carraway.

Industry observers have seen this story before. Because the new material Carraway is talking about isn’t actually all that new. For at least the past twenty years companies have been working on ways to cheaply manufacture polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). The material is produced by the fermentation of oil or sugars and serve as a replacement for the chemicals that are made from cracking ethane (a product of oil processing) to make plastic.

However, as concerns continue to mount over the environmental degradation caused by plastic pollutants and the contributions the plastics industry makes to emissions causing global climate change, the push for replacing plastics with more sustainable products has gained momentum.

Regulations in Europe will ban many single use plastic products next year forcing companies to build out their supply of bioplastic alternatives or abandon the use of plastics altogether.

Market moves like these have the potential to spur the bioplastics industry and shift production into high gear. Carraway said demand hasn’t been effected by the collapse of oil prices which has driven down the costs of chemicals and plastics.

“Even though our materials are initially more expensive… the amount that they cost over the commodities in normal circumstances isn’t that much,” Carraway said. “Every customer we’re working with has asked us to speed up and give them more. No one has said we want to slow down or scale back or change our plans.”

And propelling the industry forward could provide a lift to local economies that have been financially ravaged by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

At least, that’s what Carraway is hoping will happen in Athens, Ga.

The company is using some of the money it raised from international and US-based investors including the Singapore-based venture capital firm Vickers Venture Partners; IKEA’s investment company; a Swiss pension fund; a Northeastern energy provider; and an industrial chemical company owned by Koch Industries to revive an old factory in the city as its new production plant. 

RWDC said the new facility will bring in 200 jobs to northeastern Georgia.

“We are excited to see RWDC expand its operations in Athens and add a substantial number of new well-paying jobs,” said Athens-Clarke County Mayor, Kelly Girtz. “Athens is the home of the University of Georgia, and we have a long record of supporting innovation and industry. Like communities across America and the world, we want to see a reduction in plastic pollution, and we have high hopes that RWDC, with the help of the Athens community at their new facility, will be able to solve that problem.”

#america, #asia, #chemicals, #companies, #energy, #engineer, #europe, #georgia, #ikea, #koch-industries, #metabolix, #oil, #plastic, #plastics, #polymer, #serial-entrepreneur, #shutterstock, #singapore, #tc, #university-of-georgia, #venture-capital, #vickers-venture-partners

0

Knowde could make billions building the digital marketplace for the $5 trillion chemicals industry

Ali Amin-Javaheri grew up in the chemicals business.

His father had worked for Iran’s state-owned chemical company and when the family fled the country in the nineteen eighties during the Iran-Iraq war, they first settled in Houston where employers welcomed the senior Amin-Jahaveri’s experience.

Houston in the 80s was dominated by the petrochemicals industry and by the time the family later relocated to Washington State, Amin-Jahaveri was already deeply steeped in a world of covalent bonds, chemical cracking, and the molecular coupling and decoupling of matter.

For the former Texas chemical kid, moving to tech-heavy, rain-soaked Washington, dominated at the time by Microsoft, was a bit of a shock, the founder recalled. But it was the 2000s and everyone was in tech so Amin-Jahaveri figured that’d be his path too.

Those two worlds collided for the young University of Washington graduate in his very first job — his only job before launching his first startup — as a programmer and developer at Chempoint.

“Completely through happenstance I was walking around a certain part of Seattle and I walked by this building and it had all these logos outside the office. I saw this logo for a company called Chempoint and I was instantly intrigued,” Amin-Jahaveri said. “I walked up to the receptionist and asked what they were doing.”

In the summer of 2001, Amazon was an online bookseller a little over seven years old, the dot-com boom hadn’t gone completely bust quite yet and business-to-business marketplaces were a hot investment.

“It was a startup with just a handful of folks,” said Amin-Jahaveri. “There wasn’t a business model in place, but the intent was to build a marketplace for chemicals… The dot-com boom was happening and everything was moving on line and the chemicals industry likely will as well.”

Fifteen years later, Chempoint is one of the last remaining companies in a market that once boasted at least fifteen competitors — and the chemicals industry still doesn’t have a true online marketplace. Until (potentially) now, with the launch of Amin-Jahaveri’s first startup — Knowde.

A volumetric flask, used during the process of determining phosphorus content in crude edible oil, sits in a laboratory of the quality assurance department at the Ruchi Soya Industries Ltd. edible oil refinery plant in Patalganga, India, on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images

For the vast majority of Americans, the chemicals industry remains a ubiquitous abstraction. Consumers have a direct relationship with the energy business through the movements of prices at the pump, but the ways in which barrels of oil get converted into the plastics, coatings, films, flavors, fillings, soaps, toothpastes, enamels and unguents that touch everyone’s daily life are a little bit less obvious.

It’s a massive industry. The U.S. accounted for 17% of the global chemicals market in 2017 and that percentage amounted to a staggering $765 billion in sales. Worldwide there are thousands of chemicals companies selling hundreds of different specialty chemicals each and all contributing to a total market worth trillions of dollars.

“The market is $5 trillion,” said Amin-Jahaveri. “Just to be super clear about that.. It’s $5 trillion worth of transactions happening every year.”

It’s no secret that venture capitalists love marketplaces. Replacing physical middlemen with electronic ones offers efficiencies and economies of scale that have a cold logic and avoid the messiness of human contact. For the past twenty years, different entrepreneurs have cropped to tackle creating systems that could connect buyers on one side with sellers on another — and the chemicals industry has been investors’ holy grail since Chempoint made its pitch to the market in 2001.

“The chemicals industry is the most interesting of all of them. It’s the biggest. It’s also the most fragmented,” said Sequoia partner Shaun Maguire. “There were three companies in the world that all did about $90 billion in sales and none of those three companies did more than 1.6% of sales of the entire industry.” 

Those kinds of numbers would make any investor’s jaw drop. And several firms tried to make a pitch for the hotly contested financing round for Knowde. Maguire first heard that there looking for funds to pursue the creation of the first true marketplace business for the chemicals industry through a finance associate at Sequoia, Spencer Hemphill.

Hemphill knew an early Knowde investor named Ian Rountree at Cantos Ventures and had heard Rountree talk about the new company. He flagged the potential deal to Maguire and another Sequoia partner. It only took one hour for Maguire to be blown away by Amin-Jahaveri’s pedigree in the industry and his vision for Knowde.

From that initial meeting in September to the close of the company’s $14 million Series A round on March 11 (the day the markets suffered their worst COVID-19-related losses), Maguire was tracking the company’s progress. Other firms in the running for the Knowde deal included big names like General Catalyst, according to people with knowledge of the process.

Sequoia wound up leading the Series A deal for Knowde, which also included previous investors Refactor Capital, 8VC, and Cantos Ventures.

The tipping point for Maguire was the rapid adoption and buy-in from the industry when Knowde flipped the switch on sales in early January.

An employee of International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) picks up perfume components on December 8, 2016 at the company’s laboratory in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris. / AFP / PATRICK KOVARIK (Photo credit should read PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP via Getty Images)

For at least the past fifty years, the modern chemicals industry has been defined — and in some ways constrained — by its sales pitches. There are specialty manufacturers who have hundreds of chemicals that they’ve made, but the knowledge of what those chemicals can do is often locked inside research labs. The companies rely on distributors, middlemen, and internal sales teams to get the word out, according to Maguire and Amin-Jahaveri.

The way that things are done is still through field sales teams and product catalogs and brochures and face to face meetings and all that stuff,” said Amin-Jahaveri. “This industry has not evolved as quickly as the rest of the world… And we always knew that something has got to give.”

One selling point for Knowde is that it breaks that logjam, according to investors like Maguire.

“One of the references said that they had a bunch of legacy flavors from the seventies,” Maguire said. “It was a  Madagascar Vanilla that none of their sales people had tried to sell for 25 years… By putting them on Knowde the sales numbers had gone up over 1,000%… That company does over $5 billion a year in sales through flavors.”

The change happened as the old guard of executives began aging out of the business, according to Amin-Jahaveri. “Between 2002 and 2012 nothing happened.. There was no VC money thrown at any type chemical company and then it started changing a little bit,” he said. “The first domino was the changing age demographic… these consumer product companies kept getting younger.”

Amin-Jahaveri’s previous company grew to $400 million in revenue selling technology and services to the chemicals industry. It was back-end software and customer relationship tools that the industry had never had and needed if it were to begin the process of joining the digital world. Knowde, according to Amin-Jahaveri, is the next phase of that transition.

“Our plan is to connect the chemical producers directly with the buyers,” Amin-Jahaveri said. “And provide all the plumbing and storefronts necessary to manage these things themselves.”

All that Knowde needed to do was collate the disparate data about what chemicals small manufacturers were making and had in stock and begin listing that information online. That transparency of information used to be more difficult to capture, since companies viewed their product catalog as an extension of their intellectual property — almost a trade secret, according to Amin-Jahaveri.

Once companies began listing products online, Amin-Jahaveri and his team could go to work creating a single, searchable taxonomy that would allow outsiders to find the materials they needed without having to worry about differences in descriptions.

Knowde has broken down the chemicals industry into ten different verticals including: food, pharmaceuticals, personal care, houseware goods, industrial chemicals. The company currently operates in three different verticals and plans to extend into all ten within the year.

Amin-Jahaveri knows that he’s not going to get a meaningful chunk of business from the huge chemical manufacturers like BASF or Dow Chemical that pump out thousands of tons of commodity chemicals, those deals only represent $2 trillion of the total addressable market.

That means another $3 trillion in sales are up for grabs for the company Amin-Jahaveri founded with his partner Woyzeck Krupa.

While the opportunity is huge, the company — like every other new business launching in 2020 — is still trying to do business in the middle of the worst economic collapse in American history. However, Amin-Jahaveri thinks the new economic reality could actually work in Knowde’s favor.

“It’s going to be one more trigger event for these chemical companies that they have to go online,” he said. The personal relationships that drove much of the sales for the chemicals business before have dried up. No more conferences and events means no more opportunities to glad-hand, backslap, and chat over drinks at the hotel bar. So these companies need to find a new way to sell.

Maguire sees another benefit to the movement of chemical catalogs into an online marketplace, and that’s internal transparency within chemical companies.

“Even the biggest companies in the world do not have an internal search feature even for their own chemicals,” said Maguire. “I talked to two of the biggest companies in the world. In the case of one chemist who is a friend of mine. If you are trying to formulate some new concoction how do you find what chemicals you have in the company? If it’s in my division it’s pretty easy.. If I need chemicals from another division… there’s no way to search it right now.”

#8vc, #amazon, #articles, #basf, #cantos-ventures, #chemicals, #dow-chemical, #energy, #food, #general-catalyst, #getty, #getty-images, #houston, #india, #iran, #iraq, #microsoft, #nature, #oil, #online-marketplace, #paris, #pharmaceuticals, #photographer, #plastics, #programmer, #refactor-capital, #seattle, #tc, #texas, #united-states, #university-of-washington, #washington

0

The Types of Plastics Families Should Avoid

If it seems like plastic is everywhere, that’s because it is. But there are easy ways to limit your exposure.

#babies-and-infants, #baby-foods, #chemicals, #children-and-childhood, #containers-and-packaging, #food, #hazardous-and-toxic-substances, #parenting, #pregnancy-and-childbirth, #research, #toys

0