DNA technology company raises $44m from VCs

Zymergen, a Californian company, raised funding from Data Collective and AME Cloud Ventures, the early stage fund of Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo, among a range of other big VC players.

Zymergen, a microbial DNA-making tech company, has raised $44 million from a range of venture capital firms. Data Collective (DCVC), the big data and IT infrastructure firm, led the Series A round which included AME Cloud Ventures; the early-stage fund of Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo; Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), HVF; Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors; Obvious Venturesl True Ventures and Two Sigma Ventures.

Founded in 2013, this is the first time  Zynergen has revealed details of its business and growth, according to a press release. The company uses robots, big data and novel software algorithms to “unlock the potential of biology to engineer materials of the future”. It uses microbes to manufacture high-value chemicals and new materials.

The $44 million raised includes $2 million of seed capital just after the company was formed, Agri Investor learned.

“It’s amazing to know that we can harness activities at a cellular level to churn out the raw materials we use in our everyday lives. And yet the progress in this field has been slow and disappointing, because companies have been constrained, pursuing inefficient approaches,” Joshua Hoffman, Zymergen chief executive, said in a statement. Hoffman said it’s a problem of data and computation rather than one of scientific discovery alone.

“We have developed algorithms for efficiently discovering the best paths for programming microbial DNA. The potential long-term applications are virtually limitless,” he added.

The microbial DNA maker plans to use the funding to continue the mass production of microbes using robotics.

DCVC’s investment was made out of its Opportunity Fund, which makes follow-on investments to existing portfolio companies, Zach Bogue, co-managing partner of DCVC, told Agri Investor. Zymergen was an existing Fund II investment, Bogue said.

“With a seasoned leadership team made up of scientists with decades in the field, world-class AI and robotics technologists, and business people with long experience in dealing with demanding Fortune 100 customers, Zymergen is already solving critical real-world problems with the potential for massive impact in the years to come,” Matt Ocko, managing partner of the DCVC firm, said in a statement.

Bay Area-based True Ventures is keen on investing in seed and Series A round of funding. “With approximately $900 million under management, our four funds are small enough to invest at these levels, but big enough to support our companies throughout their entire life cycle,” says its website.