What Is Bio Strategy?

TL;DR. Bio strategy is a framework to incorporate biology, biotechnology into your business.

“At the dawn of the 21st Century, strategy seems to have gone out of fashion.” – Chet Holmes, Certain to Win

The word “strategy” has become so overused that most people have forgotten what strategy really means.

John Cumbers and I were inspired to write What’s Your Bio Strategy? because it was clear that few businesses understood the impact that biology was having – even among those who could benefit from the technologies. After all, the phrase “knowledge is power,” is commonly attributed to Francis Bacon, the father of the scientific method and visionary for the first scientific institution, the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge.

So before we define bio strategy, let’s review the definitions of strategy.

Strategy defines your destination, not the road to get there.

Strategy is a guiding framework.

Strategy, according to Kenichi Ohmrae of McKinsey’s Toyko office, “isn’t about beating the competition. It’s serving customers’ real needs.

Harvard Business School professor Gary Pisano says,

“Strategy is nothing more than a commitment to a set of coherent, mutually reinforcing policies aimed at achieving a specific competitive goal. Good strategies promote alignment among diverse groups in an organization, clarify objectives and priorities, and help focus efforts around them.”

Martin Reeves, the managing director of Boston Consulting Group’s New York office and author of Your Strategy Needs a Strategy, suggests, all companies are identical to biological species in that both are complex adaptive systems. Therefore, the strategies that confer the ability to survive and thrive under rapidly changing conditions, whether natural or manmade, are directly applicable to business.

Bio strategy is a framework for incorporating biology into your business.

It is a plan to incorporate biology into your company’s existing mission, vision, and goals.

To find out more about What’s Your Bio Strategy? subscribe here.

My Futuretech Podcast Appearance

What’s Your Bio Strategy? First Review from Life Science Leader

Life Science Leader reviews What's Your Bio Strategy

Life Science Leader’s editor Rob Wright posted a very positive review of What’s Your Bio Strategy?

Says Rob:

Today we stand on the precipice overlooking a new frontier — the century of biology, and businesses of all kinds need to be prepared to not only embrace what is coming, but have a strategy for how to leverage biology for the betterment of their businesses and the good of the planet.

He continues:

When I finally had the opportunity to sit down and read it, my … mind … was … blown. Because though the authors interview 25 innovators about how biology is presently impacting a variety of industries, as well as what they think could happen in the very near future, it is even more telling to ponder what they haven’t thought of as being possible, which I found myself doing while reading. As I came across company names (pay attention to highlights) I pondered which might soon rival one of the three “As” of internet commerce (i.e., Alibaba, Alphabet [formerly Google], and Amazon) which have a combined value of about $1.6 trillion. The book discusses concepts such as using DNA for data storage or how the future of fashion may reside in garments being grown in vats (i.e., biofabrication) not woven on looms.

To read the full review, click here.

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It’s No Secret, Your Presentation Matters

If you can't see the image, you're missing a picture of a guy blowing a very long horn. He's dressed in lederhosen and calf socks. His presentation matters.
Sunday Morning Alpenhorn Presentation by John via Flickr

How you present your business, your story, your offer is no secret. In many cases, it’s the presentation that matters.

The voice you use, the magazines your content appears in, the social channels you engage in. Your presentation is the articles, blog posts, and white papers you publish. It’s the videos on your web site and on YouTube.

A consistent message presented regularly builds and engages your audience, and can increase trust.

In my humble opinion, presentation is also about reminding your audience that you are present and that your product or service can solve a very real problem they are having.

A few weeks ago, I asked my readers to take part in a project to help a product I’m working on creating. They asked me a number of questions, I provided answers.

Q. WHAT DO YOU DO TO ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE?

A. If you’re already blogging or sending emails, go back through your logs to figure out what your audience has been most engaged by. Look for patterns. They should be obvious. Create new content based on those patterns.

Maybe you don’t have a lot of content. In that case, survey your audience (like I did to create this post). Run surveys on social media targeted at your ideal audience. Pay for ads on Facebook. It’s the easiest, fastest, most inexpensive way to target very, very specific audiences.

Q. HOW DO YOU INCREASE INTEREST TO EXPAND YOUR AUDIENCE?

A. Use social channels to promote your content. If you must, pay to promote your content on those channels, they allow for very specific targeting.

Q. IS THERE A GREAT WAY TO RE-ENGAGE OLD CLIENTS?

A. Run a reactivation campaign. Remind the ex-clients of the successes you had together. Describe your new products or services, and how they can solve new problems. Also, remember that you can never stop marketing to old (or new) clients.

Let me know if you have any questions.

First Drafts: The Ugly, The Bad and The Good

Writing first drafts sucks.

For the past few months, I’ve been co-writing What’s Your Bio Strategy? with SynBioBeta founder John CumbersWe just completed the first draft. It feels monumental.

The process of writing a first draft is an epic like Sergio Leone’s classic spaghetti Western The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – one of my all-time favorite movies.

The Ugly

In the movie, Eli Wallach plays Tuco. A vicious criminal who will double-cross his partners at the drop of a hat. He’s eager for revenge and enjoys mocking and insulting his adversaries. He represents “The Ugly.”

Tuco made famous the phrase,

“There are two kinds of people in this world.”

And there are two kinds of people in this world: Those who have ideas for books and those who write the books.

Writing that first draft is Ugly.

John and I spent six months outlining What’s Your Bio Strategy? We formulated questions. We drafted lists of people to interview. We discussed and argued over business strategy books, articles, and methods. We got feedback from agents and publishers, friends and colleagues.

Once we started the interviews and the writing, I had a lot of doubts. There’s a little voice that loves to say, “Why are you writing this? It’s not very good.” I can usually avoid this with my business writing by delivering outlines, getting feedback, and keeping my clients involved in the process.

Eventually, I gave that voice to an ex-boss. Every time he appeared, I would say “Shut up. I’m writing the book and you’re not.” 

Also Ugly: I had a very unexpected health issue. I woke up one morning with double vision. I went to the emergency department, spent a night in the hospital. I underwent months of tests. The diagnosis? The auto-immune disease myasthenia gravis. I had to wear an eye patch for two months and am still on medication. 

The Bad 

In the movie, Lee Van Cleef plays “Angel Eyes” a ruthless, cold-blooded, sadistic psychopath. He takes pleasure in carrying out assasinations and “always gets the job done.”

Writing takes up all your time.

For us, the Bad took the form of schedules and travel. John and I were always on the road. In fact, John circled the globe during the writing. He traveled to Borneo, Germany, Denmark, London, San Diego and Singapore. My own travels to Basel, Boston, Los Angeles and Montreal look feeble compared to John’s. Without Skype and GoogleDocs, there would be no first draft.

That travel had an impact on interviews – we couldn’t schedule everyone. It required massive coordination. We couldn’t have done it without SynBioBeta’s Kristin Sorrentino, Claire Besino, and Marianna Limas.

Plus, both us of run our own business. For me that means business development and execution – often writing for clients. John joined the venture fund DCVC and launched a seed fund – that required a significant time commitment.

We both have families. During the writing, my son Alejandro went through the college application process, was accepted to Cornell, and graduated high school. My youngest graduated fifth grade.

I am a disciplined writer but to make word counts and deadlines, I got in the habit of waking at 4:30. Every time one of us missed a deadline, the other would call or send an email or text.

In the end, we got the job done and didn’t have to resort to being cold-blooded, sadistic psychopaths. There were a few times that we both had to be driven and ruthless.

The Good

In the movie, Clint Eastwood plays “Blondie, The Man With No Name.” He had made this character famous in A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More.

He is calm, calculating, merciless, and keeps his eye on the prize – a coffin full of gold.

The time we invested in our outline and the book planning paid off. It made a huge difference. It made it easier to stay focused.

As the first draft started to come together, we made significant changes to the structure and flow. Those made the draft stronger. Without the planning, the book would’ve been a bowl of (western) spaghetti.

The people we interviewed were the Good. Every time we would end an interview, we would call each other to high-five virtually. We now share deeper insights into the field of synthetic biology and are happy to share them with you.

Having a co-writer was excellent. Writing is lonely business. It can be isolating. Having someone to speak with, someone to crack the whip on deadlines, accelerated the writing. Plus, we came up with a novel idea that we think is going to be big – Biology as a Service – and James Hallihan of Cambridge Consultants spoke to us about the concept of the Chief Biology Officer.

Finally, the best of the Good is completing the epic first draft. By time you read this, we’ll probably be on the twelfth or twentieth draft. But there is nothing more satisfying than sharing a drink – even if it’s via Skype – when you finally know the first draft is finished.

Tim Gardner: “There Is Almost No Physical Problem That Can’t Be Solved With Biology”​

I’m co-author of a book called What’s Your Biostrategy? With SynBioBeta’s John Cumbers, we’re writing about the impact of biotechnology on ALL business. Over the next few months, I’m going to publish interview summaries from the book. For more information, scroll to the bottom of the post.

In 2000, Tim Gardner wrote one of synthetic biology’s seminal papers: Construction of a Genetic Toggle Switch in Escherchia Coli. At Amyris he led the engineering of yeast strains and pioneered process technologies for the large-scale bio-manufacturing of renewable chemicals. He founded Riffyn to create tools to accelerate innovation in research and development. My co-author John Cumbers and I interviewed Tim for What’s Your Bio Strategy? Here’s a few excerpts from the interview:

“To increase the size of the bio-based economy, we need to reduce the cost of developing bio-based products that would have been made from petroleum and chemistry. If we can do that, then developing more specialized products will be acceptable. We’ll stop searching for billion dollar blockbusters. We’ll have more entrepreneurial successes and investors will be happy because we’re delivering on the promises of the bio-based economy.”

[“At Riffyn, our] thesis is that the solution to faster, better, cheaper drugs, and faster, better, cheaper bio-based products is the predictability of information. It’s about integrating information to make better, informed decisions. It’s not necessarily about fancy robots or magical tools.”

“Engineering has more science in it than people realize.”

“The idea that scientists are being paid more or are delivering more value or are in greater demand is not entirely true. It’s hard to hire engineers.”

“Value tends to accrue to people and organizations that can reduce uncertainty.”

“There are organisms that can detect light or transform electricity into energy for survival. Muscles are incredibly efficient compared to the hydraulics or batteries that you might put into a robot. If we want to use those properties to make the world a more efficient, higher performing, more enjoyable place, then we need to learn how to learn from nature.”

Want to read the full interview? Visit What’s Your Bio Strategy?