The best of times & the worst of times in synbio
Sell your bioproduct or die trying
The next couple of years will be a reckoning for synthetic biology. It is going to be a time of haves and have nots, a stark contrast between company failures and big wins for those that scale.
There has been a gold rush in synbio just like there was across tech in the last couple of years. But now funding is pulling back in both private and public markets. It’s time to get serious - indefinite timelines to profitability and “the market will solve it” answers to the scale question are not adequate. How many Seed and Series A synbio companies understand how to scale a product? Not many.
Coming soon: layoffs, consolidation, and failures. Does the world need 100 lab grown meat companies? Should there be dozens of precision fermentation companies making milk and egg proteins at one gram a piece? If you’re a tools company or a “platform” predicated on success of these startups, are you a real business?
The winners will be the ones selling product and producing at scale, and those with war-chests of cash to pick up the pieces. Amyris might just survive with their large scale plant at Barra Bonita online, and rising sales of products in beauty, food, and wellness. Ginkgo might too, with cash on the books and an aggressive M&A strategy… if at least some of their joint ventures start making money. Category leaders like Geltor (collagen) and Perfect Day (milk) will hoover up IP. Truly value-add consumer products like Spira and ZBiotics will become category leaders and re-invest in new product development.
How does an early stage synbio company survive?
Differentiate ASAP. If you are a “me too” bioproduct company, you’re done. Value add consumer products and cheaper petro/animal/ag alternatives will win. Being green is not enough.
Find your scale solution. Start building it or partner NOW. You can’t hand-wave scale away anymore. There are no fairy godmother CMOs here to save you.
Sell. Your. Product. Prove that people want your product and that you can sell it with positive gross margin.
Build your platform. No more one trick ponies - invest in rapid new product development and prove those products sell… or die.
As the world is roiled by conflict and volatility, we have the solution. Biomanufacturing can divorce food, ag, and chemical markets from land use, oil prices, and even water. This is a way for us to build a resilient system, in the face of global conflict and climate change: a system that can allow humanity to flourish for millennia to come.
This period will be painful for many, but the promise of synbio is clearer than ever. Those that build, scale, and sell, will survive and thrive.
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