Home Startups SoftBank Invests $400M into Zymergen a Synthetic Bio AI Startup

SoftBank Invests $400M into Zymergen a Synthetic Bio AI Startup

Zymergen is a five-year-old company that is involved in the manufacturing of molecules for a variety of industries and uses.

Aside from founding and leading Zymergen, Joshua Hoffman is known for carrying out numerous experiments at the company.

By creating an army of artificial intelligence (AI) robots to genetically make additional efficient microbes, Zymergen improved the existing industrial and agricultural products being sold by Fortune 500 entities and assisted them in increasing their profit margins.

In its recently closed Series C round led by SoftBank Vision Fund, the company managed to fundraise $400 million.

Aside from SoftBank, other earlier investors included Innovation Endeavors, DFJ, Two Sigma Ventures, True and DCVC, whereas new investors composed of Hanwha Asset Management and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Deep Nishar, a board member of Zymergen and senior managing partner of SoftBank, said: “They are coming up with brand new materials.”

He looked at products like catnip-inspired sunscreen and insect repellant that do not harm the coral reefs created by the startup that have already undergone testing on humans on a limited basis.

Nishar, who utilized the insect repellant in last year’s summer while on vacation in the Amazon rainforest, claimed that Zymergen boasts a “huge” opportunity that cuts across sectors.

Even though SoftBank’s first investing thesis comprised Zymergen’s potential to develop new materials, he anticipated it to take place in 2021, but not this fast.

“We didn’t expect them to achieve this so quickly,” Nishar said.

Similar to Impossible Foods, Bolt Threads, and Gingko BioWorks, Zymergen forms a section of a synthetic biology boom that is owed to overlapping progress in both computer science and biology.

Gingko BioWorks is one of Zymergen’s competitors, which is known for similarly designing, engineering, developing, testing and licensing organisms for use in a variety of products including pharmaceuticals, crop treatments, sweeteners, and cosmetic ingredients among others.

However, Hoffman said that he is aware that scientific innovations are accompanied by more responsibilities.

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He said “We won’t do weapons, and we’d never do bio-weapons,” and added that Zymergen is also moving away from re-engineering microbes that are utilized in making opioids among other drugs.

The Series C funding round, which propels Zymergen’s aggregate funding to a staggering $535 million, will enable the company in doubling its ability to serve global customers, start commercializing the products that it has invented as well as invest in the engineering of new materials.

Zymergen also plans to increase its workforce from the current 600 workers.

According to Joshua Hoffman, Zymergen’s CEO and co-founder, one of the company’s most significant opportunities includes the production of novel products that are not tied to conventional petroleum –related manufacturing.

Hoffman suggested that Zymergen, which had closed its Series B round with a staggering $130 million back in 2016, is now beginning to earn significant revenue.

He also said that the money fundraised in the recent exercise would be used to reach out to additional customers as well as invest some extra money into the company’s platform.

“It’s a boatload of money,” he volunteers. But he says the company was “able to raise it because we’re showing commercial traction and technology traction. This differentiated way of thinking about biology really works.”

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KC Cheung
KC Cheung
KC Cheung has over 18 years experience in the technology industry including media, payments, and software and has a keen interest in artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, neural networks and its applications in business. Over the years he has worked with some of the leading technology companies, building and growing dynamic teams in a fast moving international environment.
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