On May 31st, 2017 Pangaea Ventures hosted its third Advanced Materials Commercialization Summit. The summit was attended by entrepreneurs representing some of the world’s most innovative, leading edge start-ups along with senior thought leaders from dozens of the world’s largest chemical and materials companies. Discussions focused on mission critical topics around advanced materials commercialization.
In December 2015, Dow and DuPont set off the greatest wave of consolidation ever seen in the agricultural chemistry and agricultural biology sector. Two years later, the two have become DowDuPont: the largest chemical company in the world. But in-between, the entire ag-chem-bio industry has been mired in uncertainty with a focus on demonstrating synergy, at the expense of innovation.
What has been the fastest growing category within the asset management market over the last few years? Quantitative or AI-driven strategies would be a good guess but you can feel warm and cozy that, in fact, impact investing has actually led the way. Impact investments are made with the intention of generating social and environmental returns alongside financial returns. Compared to global debt and equity markets in the range of $200 trillion (BNY Mellon, 2016), the size of impact -related assets is probably three orders of magnitude smaller, depending on how and who is counting. Nevertheless, in the 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey prepared by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), surveyed managers expected to increase dollars invested by 17% in 2017 versus 2016.
A new process uses bacteria that eat methane gas to make food.
According to Fundable1, fewer than 1 in 100 startups are funded by angel investors. Funding from venture capitalists is even rarer at about 1 in 2,000 (0.05%) companies. For a firm that prides itself in proactively finding advanced materials investment opportunities (as described here by Pangaea GP Keith Gillard), that means we’re screening a lot of companies that we don’t end up investing in. By the numbers, many of these companies often don’t end up raising outside investment from other VCs or angels either...
There are few career paths I can think of that are more challenging than trying to launch a new venture whose success is centered around the development and subsequent roll-out of a new technology. We have countless success stories to point to, and entrepreneurs who are revered, almost worshipped, … but what is often left out is truly how long it took, and how much money (including academic research dollars, grants, and private capital) was required to get there.
Five years ago, Marc Andreessen famously wrote that “software is eating the world” in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal. It’s hard to argue with the observation as we’ve continued to see the proliferation of big software-driven disruptions in diverse industries ranging from transportation (e.g. Lyft, Uber, etc.) to media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to insurance (e.g. Epic Systems, Zenefits, etc.).
Autonomous driving is no exception. The two largest companies in the world today by market cap, Apple and Alphabet (Google), are both primarily software companies and both of them are working on ushering in a new era of self-driving mobility. Combined with Tesla, Uber, and many of the automotive OEMs, a whole lot of people are working hard to optimize the algorithms and control software to improve safety, widen the acceptable operating conditions, and make better/faster actionable observations from the plethora of data from autonomous vehicle’s suite of sensors. However, all of this relies on the information gathered from the sensors themselves. Therefore, there’s a fundamental limitation to what software innovation can do alone. Improvements to the hardware are crucial to the advancement of self-driving cars and advanced materials play a fundamental role in hardware innovation. It’s all built up from advanced materials (and, lest we forget, by advanced materials as Purnesh’s previous blog touches on).
A Minimal Viable Product (MVP), is a new product that can be rapidly developed in order to efficiently test the value proposition with real customers. The ultimate goal is to accelerate the innovation cycle towards creating the real home run. Eric Ries originally outlined this methodology in his book, “The Lean Startup”, and it has inspired the formation of countless software start-ups that can deliver that MVP with pizza-fueled coding marathons. But for companies looking to commercialize products based on advanced materials, there are typically a myriad of technical, commercial, and regulatory roadblocks that make executing on a MVP much more difficult and time consuming. But this concept is too valuable to be ignored by early stage advanced materials enabled companies.