SoftBank Leads $400 Million Investment in Zymergen

 

Yesterday it was announced SoftBank has invested $400 million from its Vision Fund to lead the latest round of Series-C funding for biomaterial startup Zymergen.

How Zymergen May Revolutionize Product Materials

Zymergen is a five-year old California-based company that uses AI to manufacture certain molecules which have a wide-range of uses across a variety of industries. The molecules are derived from yeast and bacteria and can be used in pharmaceuticals, foods, agriculture, chemical processes, and even electronics. Perhaps the greatest application for these products however are as product materials. The full utilization of Zymergen materials could potentially one day replace much of the petroleum-based products so ubiquitous in today’s society.

The Potential to Replace Petroleum-Based Materials

Today’s manufacturing materials are largely petroleum-based. This includes everything from plastics to more traditionally thought of petroleum-based products such as gasoline. Zymergen is looking to offer an alternative. In regard to Zymergen products in the OLED screen technology found in iPhones, company CEO Joshua Hoffman asserts, “current petrochemical-derived films don’t work as well as they should. They’re too blue, or they scratch, or they de-laminate and the screen comes apart. The problems are rooted in their core chemistry. But biology gives you the whole palette with which to create films, adhesives and coatings.” The possibilities of the new materials are endless.

A Very Secretive Company

In the five years since its founding Zymergen has remained extremely tight-lipped about its clients. The company will also not disclose exactly what products it has helped develop for these clients. Regardless, in a recent interview Hoffman stated, “Partners have sold half a billion dollars worth of products made with our bugs in the last couple of years.” When asked who the clients were, Hoffman would only offer that they ranged from Fortune 50 companies to Fortune 500 companies. Zymergen will also not disclose how many customers if currently serves.

Investors Are Excited

In regard to the latest round of funding, board member and early investor Rohit Sharma states, “This is easily one of the most promising companies I’ve worked with. This isn’t engineering eyeballs or daily active users or manipulating business models. This is innovation on the scale of the way the chemical industry came into existence and grew to a $3 trillion-plus industry. Zymergen will still be very relevant in 20 years.” To date, the company has raised over $575 million after four rounds of funding.

Whether or not AI bioengineering materials will become as large as the chemical industry remains to be seen, but what is certain is that big money is being poured into finding out.

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