7. Ginkgo Bioworks

A rose from yeast

Founders: Tom Knight, Jason Kelly, Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton, Austin Che
Launched: 2008
Funding: $60.4 million
Valuation: $250 million
Disrupting: Fragrances, food ingredients, sweeteners
Rival: Zymergen

Imagine being able to get rose oil for perfume from something other than a flower petal. That's what the team of MIT scientists who started Ginkgo Bioworks is betting on. The Boston-based company has developed a technology that uses yeast as a base for all kinds of substances, including perfumes, cosmetics and even sweeteners. French fragrance company Robertet has partnered with the company to recreate the smell of a rose from single-cell organisms rather than expensive flower petals. The fragrance company is now selling the resulting rose oil as a perfume.


Investors, such as Viking Capital and Felicis Ventures, are bullish on the potential applications for this technology across a whole spectrum of consumer and industrial products and have poured more than $60 million into the eight-year-old company. And one day after CNBC revealed its 2016 Disruptor 50 list, the company announced an additional $100M Series C funding round.

Among the investors: Cascade Investment, Bill Gates' asset management firm.

The new funds will be used to help fuel the company's growth into new markets, such as commodity chemicals, industrial enzymes and human health markets, as well as to build its next-generation automated foundry Bioworks2.

"Ginkgo's mission is to design biology to transform industry." -Jason Kelly, co-founder and CEO

Ginkgo claims it has more than 20 contracts with customers, including Fortune 500 companies. Among the projects it's working on: an organic pesticide with a large agricultural company and sweeteners for a major beverage company. (It won't name the customers.) The company also has a contract with DARPA, the Defense Department's technology research arm, to develop a chemical to treat antibiotic-resistant germs.

The biggest threat to the company right now is potential pushback from consumers over concerns surrounding food or other products that are altered at the gene level. That hasn't affected the company to date, but it's something CEO and co-founder Jason Kelly is no doubt keeping an eye on.

Jason Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks
Source: Gingko Bioworks
Jason Kelly, co-founder and CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks

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