Dive into the microscopic world where Ginkgo Bioworks is redefining the boundaries of biotechnology, transforming cells into high-performance solutions for the water industry and beyond. In this episode, we unravel the revolutionary tech that’s turning biological cells into the next-generation toolkit for environmental sustainability.
with 🎙️ Kimberly Kupiecki – Senior Director at Gingko Bioworks
💧 Ginkgo Bioworks is the software company for biology, coding DNA to create custom cells that solve real-world problems.
What we covered:
🔬 Why Ginkgo Bioworks is like programming life itself – Kimberly Kupiecki unveils the art of coding cells, not just computers.
💧 How the water sector intersects with synthetic biology – Ginkgo Bioworks eyes growth in the biosensor space.
🏭 What’s beyond water – Kupiecki’s role spans from industrial applications to dabbling in pharmaceuticals.
🧪 How Ginkgo’s foundry’s ‘secret sauce’ lies in high-throughput screening, turning outliers into discoveries.
🌱 Why the synthesis of nature and science at Ginkgo could revolutionize materials, starting with the very building blocks.
🚀 How agility in assimilating feedback and implementing rapid changes marks the cultural shift from DuPont to a scale-up.
🌱 What aggressive 2025 goals balance the scale-up’s growth with the necessity of becoming earnings positive.
💡 Why building intellectual property (IP) adds layers of downstream value without expanding physical footprints.
🎢 How embracing risk leads to personal expansion, a sentiment echoed in Kimberly Kupiecki’s mentoring approach.
🌟 Why “The Beautiful Mess” captures the essence of juggling motherhood and a career in male-dominated industries.
🌱 What innovative approaches to carbon reduction excite industry leaders? Kimberly Kupiecki reveals a game-changing negative carbon mechanism.
🤝 How stakeholder insight forms the backbone of success; Kimberly Kupiecki emphasizes learning from stakeholder dynamics.
📘 Why endorsements and marketing strategies are crucial for launching your book; Kimberly Kupiecki shares her pre-launch jitters.
🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥
🔗 Have a look at Gingko Biowork‘s website
🔗 Come say hi to Kimberly on Linkedin
is on Linkedin ➡️
Table of contents
Editorial: Coding with Nature
What is the world’s largest “company”? Can you guess? Let me help you. It generates an estimated 125 trillion dollars annually, so no, it’s not Amazon with its tiny 500 billion revenue, Saudi Aramco and its little 600 billion, or Walmart and its teeny 610 billion. Indeed, that giant company is ten times larger than the 50 next largest ones combined.
So what does it do? Well, it specializes in ecosystem services. It supports carbon sequestration, biodiversity, clean water, and so much more. And that company is called nature. It’s not me putting this 125 trillion dollar mark on natural assets’ services; it’s the Rockefeller Foundation, not exactly a hippie punk or natural activist, right? But if it proves one thing, it’s that nature isn’t just a treasure trove of biodiversity; it’s a goldmine of business opportunities.
But a 125 trillion dollar cake is a bit too large to grasp, so let’s zoom in on enzymes, nicknamed the workhorses of the biological world. Enzymes are catalysts that accelerate chemical reactions, making them indispensable in a range of industries. As I speak, Enzymes are breaking down complex sugars in biofuels, decomposing pollutants in water treatment, or removing stubborn stains while processing your laundry.
They’re the unsung heroes, making processes faster, more efficient, and often more sustainable. But here’s where it gets truly fascinating: at the edge of nature’s treasure and human ingenuity, we’re entering the age of enzyme services and cell design, often simplified as biotech. In that age, we can imagine seeing custom-crafted enzymes performing specific tasks, like tiny biological robots. It’s like coding, except that your programming language is DNA, and your output is a living organism designed to solve real-world problems.
Get ready to take off, in a minute, Kimberly will take us to the world of synthetic biology, exploring Ginkgo Bioworks’ high-throughput screening, surprizing business models like success-based payments, how biotech is revolutionizing industries, including water treatment, and why agility and risk-taking are key to making waves in this space.
These are computer-generated, so expect some typos 🙂
Antoine Walter: Hi Kimberly, welcome to the show. Thank you. I’m excited for many reasons to have you. First, because we spoke last year. A lot has changed since last year. I remember. And you’re in a field where I have to confess from the beginning on, I’m a total layman, total muggle.
So I’m really looking forward to discover a bit what you’re doing there. But I have traditions which start with the postcard, so what can you tell me about the place you’re usually at when you’re not in Edinburgh to the Bluetick Forum, which I would ignore by now.
Kimberly Kupiecki: I’m usually in Minneapolis, St. Paul, working out of my home office.
Yeah, either that or on a plane to Boston.
Antoine Walter: To break a bit this, this ice to this field, I don’t know. I’ve seen you pitching twice, so I have a better idea now. Good. What is your best elevator pitch to Ginkgo Bioworks and do I pronounce it Ginkgo right?
Kimberly Kupiecki: Ginkgo Bioworks, like the Ginkgo tree. Ginkgo Bioworks is a synthetic biology technology platform.
Our expertise is we can program the ACGT of cells similar to how you would program the Ones and zeros of a computer to program those cells to make molecules or to do certain functions. The difference between the computer coding and genetic coding is you’re actually coding for atoms versus knowledge.
Antoine Walter: I’ve seen how you have different fields where you’re coding. And most of the fields today are not water, but we are also doing something in water. So how big is the water part? Is it a growing section? How do you define it?
Kimberly Kupiecki: We would like for it to be a growing section. Certainly we’ve had some traction in the biosensor space, working with Alonia, working with a company called FredSense.
This is to develop some very specialized enzymes that will react in a certain way when they’re exposed to a particular. contaminant, if you will, selenium or whatever else you’re looking for, PFAS. But there’s just a myriad of applications that we see out in the world that can be applied to all sorts of different applications in the water space that the water industry could really take advantage of.
Antoine Walter: You’re looking after all applications or do you focus on the water yourself?
Kimberly Kupiecki: Myself, I would be broader than water, but, um, probably more still in that industrial space, energy materials. Um, although I am dabbling in pharma these days. It is a platform.
Antoine Walter: You have this foundry. How could you define it for the layman like me?
Kimberly Kupiecki: The scale of this place is stunning. The scale and capabilities are incredibly advanced, which is important because it allows for many, many, many, I guess, tests to be done to understand when you’re looking for the right type of biological response, if you will, you need to test a very broad swath. of different types of constructs of that code.
If you will, you can start it in Silico, you can get pretty good at starting points and Ginkgo has an incredible, what we call code base to build from. But once you have that, the interesting thing I’ve noticed about Ginkgo is because it has this capability to do massively, it’s called high throughput screening, which means you could do massive amounts of tests in a short period of time.
They can discover things that are outliers that sometimes are exactly the thing you’re looking for. And that is, to me, part of the secret sauce.
Antoine Walter: I’m trying to connect the dots. So you’ll tell me if it’s totally stupid. I was discussing with Kamira yesterday and we discussed about bio based… Polymers and the explanation was that they are not cooking the monomers.
They are taking the monomers and transforming them into polymers. Would you be a potential suppliers of the monomers?
Kimberly Kupiecki: We could provide the biology that can code for those monomers.
Antoine Walter: Okay. So it’s one step before.
Kimberly Kupiecki: Just to have separate. Now we can scale up to a certain level, but it’s usually to prove out the process.
And then we would transfer that process to a commercial type provider.
Antoine Walter: Are you creating stuff or are you emulating? What exists in nature?
Kimberly Kupiecki: A bit of both, I think, you know, usually there’s something based in literature that we can start with. So say you want to generate a particular, I don’t know, some sort of molecule, maybe a small molecule for a material.
There’s usually somewhere, either in literature or something that we’ve done in the past, that’s similar to build off of, but does that mean you can make it in commercial quantities? No. Does that mean it’s actually effective in what you want it to do? No. Just means it’s possible. It’s possible. So you sort of start with what’s possible and you say, okay, what do we need to do?
We need to optimize it. We need to optimize the code, but also the process to, you know, manufacture that material.
Antoine Walter: Can we take an example so that I grasp a bit your process? Let’s take, for instance, ThreadSense. Okay. How does it start? We can take that one. What’s the first inquiry? Who contacts who, how does that work?
Kimberly Kupiecki: Because Ginkgo is still, I think, just like really expanding into different industries. It’s a lot of us doing the outreach, but I don’t know specifically if FredSense came to us or we went to them. I, I don’t have that history, but it’s really starts with those targets. It’s like, okay, we really want to create a biosensor for selenium for an example.
Then Ginkgo will say, okay, yes, there is a bug that can make an enzyme that will bind to selenium. Great. Let’s start there. And then you say, okay, there, that’s where you start from. You look at that code base. Then you say, okay, what do I actually need it to do? I need it to do X, Y, and Z. And I need to be able to, you know, manufacture that enzyme at a certain concentration.
We call that titer, et cetera. You sort of like take this thing that’s not commercialized or it’s just very sort of like academic and then you can like build it up. And then of course there’s an iteration of testing, right? Cause what Fred said says it needs to do is take that enzyme, put it into their system, run their process on their end.
to make sure it works.
Antoine Walter: If you take now that enzyme, which is developed for ThreadSense, who owns the IP? Is it still you? Or do you share the IP? Can someone else come and say, Hey, I want the same than FredSense.
Kimberly Kupiecki: That’s a good question. And it’s sort of a case by case basis. But typically what we, the way we approach IP is we have all of our background IP that we bring to bear.
And the reason that You know, we can be successful with customers as we have all that background IP. So we have a very rich, you know, place to start and really great starting points. But of course the customer wants that competitive advantage in the market. We also want our customer to have a competitive advantage in the market because the way our business model works is we get value from like a downstream value situation.
That means the IP. It’s important to kind of define the field of use. So there’s a lot of, you know, usually negotiations around IP. What’s the field of use? Where are those boundaries? Et cetera.
Antoine Walter: Can you explain that, that business model where you get the value from the downstream value? Yeah.
Kimberly Kupiecki: And actually we’ve, we’ve doubled down even more on that.
Our CEO, Jason Kelly recently announced at our customer conference called Ferment, um, that we’re going to do success based payments for some of our services, such as enzyme services, which we’re very good at. So what that means is we are. Almost completely de risking programs for customers, especially at the front end and that discovery end, um, and even, even beyond that at times.
So we will work out a technical success milestone, if you will. And if we can meet that, then customer pays us. If we cannot meet that, customer doesn’t pay us, but they also don’t, they wouldn’t get the IP as well. You know what I mean? So they would, they might also continue the project possibly, right? But it really kind of makes it very easy for customers to try new things.
And to get on board and get on the platform, especially if it’s something that they haven’t done before in terms of even outsourcing R& D, but then, of course, outsourcing R& D in synthetic biology.
Antoine Walter: So you take kind of a picture of a status quo, you define what could be becoming better, and then take a share of that.
Kimberly Kupiecki: so that’s the first part. That’s just to cover, that’s sort of more the technical milestone and the success based payments is where the R& D investment, the time, the space in the platform, et cetera, then that is sort of just like a cost coverage model, even with success based payments, then really what’s most interesting to us is really get these new innovations out in the market.
So we look at what’s the downstream value, whether that’s small percent of earnings or, or revenue, or sometimes it’s up. per volume. So it depends on what the product’s going to be. And there’s different ways to kind of structure those, but the downstream value is really where we see the growth in the company and the growth in these applications and the bioeconomy itself.
Antoine Walter: You mentioned the applications. I gave you this example of FretSense. I mean, I was interested to understand a bit better what you did with them. It was one of the five or six different application fields, which you listed in Waters. So what would be the other ones? And if you have to pick your favorite child, if that’s possible.
Kimberly Kupiecki: What’s the one? Well, my favorite is whatever the customer’s favorite is, um, but I think there’s a lot of opportunity in bioaugmentation products that, you know, you might add like a cellular colony to do a certain job in a wastewater for an example, like denitrification or something like that. And, you know, can you make that organism work harder?
Can you make it work in a higher pH, lower pH, higher temperature, lower temperature, kind of taking what biology already exists. and making it better. And I feel like that might feel a little less risky, right, for some of those providers. But also I think there’s a lot of opportunity, you know, kind of transferring the knowledge from the work we’ve been doing in the materials space.
So taking fossil fuel based polymer for an example, you gave the chimera example. Can we make that monomer from a biological source? And can we do that economically enough that it makes sense? Can we even do it Uh, with a waste feedstock, can you genetically engineer a bug to kind of preferentially use a compost waste feedstock, for an example, versus like a pure sugar and make the same molecule at enough of a concentration that the economics work.
So those are the sorts of things, certainly some of the others, a lot of applications in anaerobic digesters, whether it’s improving biogas production, halting the process and taking the volatile fatty acids and making those into monomers that can go into. Sustainable aviation fuel, or there’s things you can do on the front end with a hydrolysis.
And there’s so much opportunity, I think, in terms of just improving the processes that already exist.
Antoine Walter: I would see a red thread, you know, the example you just gave, it’s really about having a positive impact was a pretty easy one to put together all the ones you shared. What’s your definition of innovation with impact?
Kimberly Kupiecki: I mean, I think it is that commercialization, right? We want to see these innovations get all the way to market and we want to see those changes. So it is exciting to start seeing companies like Asolvay who are like getting into biopolymers, right? And that’s a big, bold move that they’re making. And they chose us to be their partner in that.
So we really are looking for partnerships, not like really a transaction or a vendor relationship. And the reason for that is because we do want to see that impact and we want to see those innovations. Get out to the commercial market and make a difference.
Antoine Walter: Do you have to do education on a business level?
Because you’re coming with something which is arguably pretty new and you’re coming with this pretty clever approach of the value based business model. So do you have to convince your customers they have to change multiple parameters at the same time?
Kimberly Kupiecki: Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of education because Gecko is somewhat of a unique company, which is a little bit difficult because you can’t say, Oh, we’re like.
This thing, and we are in a sense, but I mean, I, you know,
Antoine Walter: the Uber of, um, yeah,
Kimberly Kupiecki: that’s why like, maybe you can think of other platform companies, but like operating systems is when I go to, but I think because of the way the business model is structured is a little different than like, what we would say a CRO or a contract research organization that would say, okay, give me your specs.
I’ll run the test. I’ll give you back the data and it’s a transaction. I see you later. And the data is the data and you go do with it, whatever. It’s much more of an engagement, I would say. So, so it was a little different. So we’re different than a CRO. And I think because also we’re different from like an Amaryst or like a, you know, a company or Novozymes that will make an end product that they will sell to a customer, we don’t make the end product either.
So that makes us a little hard to. compare and describe. So yes, education is definitely important,
Antoine Walter: different and challenging or different and pretty easygoing,
Kimberly Kupiecki: different, challenging for sure. Yeah. But I mean, I think because now we have so much momentum, you know, in the pharma space, biopharma, you know, materials, egg, you know, you’re starting to see these hundreds of companies, hundred plus customers, they get it.
So it helps give confidence to other companies.
Antoine Walter: If you’re not a water freak. Watch is not a cool sector. I mean, you don’t go out there in the street and brag, look, I’m doing watch, so what? When you’re in biotech, it’s a, it’s a different story. You’re now a cool kid. So does that change something?
Kimberly Kupiecki: Maybe? Yeah.
I mean, I think my reason for making the switch is just that bigger impact. It’s, uh, you know, I don’t mean to be silly, but I feel like what we’re doing in biotech has. Such an incredible potential for impact and not that innovation in the water space doesn’t, but it does feel sort of incremental. It’s a risk averse.
sector. I understand why it’s really important to have our water be safe. So I understand that, but I think there are pockets and there are places where the water sector and the biotech sector can work together. And so I’m sort of bringing my two worlds together here in a way.
Antoine Walter: In your pitch today, you mentioned trillions of dollars of potential markets.
We sometimes speak in the water sector of we shall be investing one day one trillion if we want to bring an infrastructure at scale. And then everybody’s looking like that’s ever going to happen. You put a slide where it was 35 trillion of
Kimberly Kupiecki: 30 trillion. I know that’s a very big range, but yeah, based on a McKinsey study.
It’s also the one Eric Schmidt from Google, you know, will quote as well. Pretty good. Yeah, it’s the potential. It’s like the full potential of the bioeconomy. Which means that
Antoine Walter: You jumped from a very well established water company with, with DuPont to a scale up and one would expect that that’s a big difference.
But when you look at the valuation of the two companies, they’re pretty similar. You gave the number earlier today, it’s 1. 6 billion, which were raised in the IPO. And the valuation, I think at the highest was in the range of the 50 billion, which is. Um, I guess from the inside, working for a 15 year old company compared to the century established, DuPont must be pretty different.
Yes. Is that the case?
Kimberly Kupiecki: Culturally, yes, it is very different. And I can give some examples of those differences. So one is just, I think the speed of. Um, it’s like taking external market data, whether that’s customer feedback, whether that’s investor feedback, employee feedback, and then just like making changes, even if they’re not perfect, just that flywheel is so quick.
It’s like taking that information in a digesting it quickly, making a change, implementing the change and. I like that kind of metabolism, that agility and also like agility with customers, flexibility. And I just feel like everyone’s on the same page. You know, you don’t have kind of this, my agenda is X and your agenda is Y.
We all have the same agenda, which is grow.
Antoine Walter: Talking of growth, I guess you must have. pretty aggressive in a positive way, ways to, to, to grow. If you raise 1. 6 billion, I guess you have some money to burn. Do you have an objective to be profitable anytime soon? Or is it’s like really about growing the market share?
Kimberly Kupiecki: That’s the balance, right? I mean, you, you need to make sure that you start become earnings positive. Before you need to go to the public markets or, you know, have a plan to, you know, get additional funding. So, I mean, I wouldn’t say I can speak to the details of that. That’s for the, the C suite of the company, but certainly there has been a lot of growth and expansion, but there is certainly an eye towards, I think, a pretty aggressive 2025 goal.
Antoine Walter: But I guess you’re also building the IP. So it’s not just about. today, but also what you’re building for the future. If you’re creating value, you still get the value down below.
Kimberly Kupiecki: Right, exactly. And if you think about the more programs we have, the more of that downstream value we get. That downstream value doesn’t require us to open up the foundry space, right?
So then you can start seeing how that can build.
Antoine Walter: When we had this roundtables yesterday about how do we speed up the innovation? How do we get faster to commercialization? One of the things which was coming quite regularly as a pattern was we need to be more risk taking, reward risk taking and really have that shift of mentality.
Would you say looking at now your very personal case that you took a risk by embracing that that new horizon with Ginkgo, is it a risk? Sure.
Kimberly Kupiecki: I mean, you’re giving up something, you know, a job, you know, a sector, you know, technology, you know, people, you know, a company, you understand how it works to something completely different.
Yes, it’s a risk.
Antoine Walter: You’re mentoring people as well. Would you advise them to take the same kind of plunge than you took?
Kimberly Kupiecki: I would. I mean, it depends on somebody’s risk appetite. But, I’ve never taken a risk that I’ve regretted or that hasn’t expanded me as a human.
Antoine Walter: Last year, not in our conversation, but when you were on scene, you recommended two books which I actually read on your recommendation chart, too.
Thank you for that. I hope they were good. Yeah, they were good. What You Always Win and, uh, Flourish. I think Flourish is the one you recommended on the, uh, one of the co authors. So that was your external eye and recommendation on a book. In between, you’re in the process of writing a book yourself. Or are you done?
It’s done. Is it published? It will be published in the fall. By the time this interview airs, it won’t be published yet. What’s your final title? I’ve seen two, The Beautiful Mess and… It’s The Beautiful Mess. Okay. Why did you choose that one over Leave, Love and, uh… Uh, Let It Go.
Kimberly Kupiecki: I think because… The Beautiful Mess just better depicted the topic.
What’s the Beautiful Mess? Uh, it’s kind of the mess of life and this idea that we don’t have to be perfect and we can embrace that. And it’s sort of, you know, looking through the, probably a lot of my eyes and my own stories about being a. a parent, particularly a mother, and in a male dominated industry and like how to build your career and also sort of build a family and how that can be a big mess but it can be really great and beautiful too.
Antoine Walter: In water, we have this infamous 83 to 17 ratio between male and female. Yeah. Which means that there are more female Priests and taxi drivers than water professionals. Do what you want with that comparison. Is it, uh, anywhere different in biotech?
Kimberly Kupiecki: I’m still new to this space. I know Ginkgo. And I’m trying to think of like, I am starting to go to more bio based type events.
But yeah, it feels much more diverse. I mean, Ginkgo as a company is young. It does have all different, probably, generations in it. Lots of people who have had lots of experience, whether it’s in different industries or in the bio industry, to the founders, to a lot of like, even the new. engineers. So yeah, there’s definitely a broad range, I’d say, in terms of the company itself.
We’re not as maybe globally represented as like a DuPont yet. But I feel like it’s a little more balanced. But I know it’s better than the water industry. I don’t have to be worse. I don’t. But yeah, it’s hard to be worse. I don’t know if it’s all the way to a 5050. Yeah.
Antoine Walter: Why did you want to share that experience with a book?
Kimberly Kupiecki: Yes, no, there’s actually an answer to this. I just wanted other Especially women who were like trying to do what I was doing just to not feel alone and Just to be able to just have a laugh at some of the insane crazy stuff We do just be able to share that and not like I have to hide to hide the fact that I have a toddler on my lap and I have the mute button and my camera off and you know, I think it’s COVID helped us be better at that in general, but it’s sort of just trying to, like, relax some of the stigma around that and then just provide hopefully some humorous stories that people can relate to and maybe some ideas.
It’s not explicitly a self help or advice book, but it kind of, kind of fits in that genre, I suppose.
Antoine Walter: You mentioned the laugh and the humorous aspects. I think that’s something which really comes out of the copy of your website where you share kind of more personal blog posts. How important is the laughing aspect in your daily life?
You know, this is idea of if you are in the corporate world, you have to be serious. You have to be almost sad.
Kimberly Kupiecki: That’s Yeah, I mean, I think that’s That’s what I’m trying to share is that there is so much like just humor and just craziness of life. And just things just happen, you know, like things that are unexpected, especially when you’re trying to do a whole bunch of things at once.
And I think sometimes it’s nice to be able to sit back and just have a bit of a laugh instead of like a cry.
Antoine Walter: You write and you talk about this sometimes dichotomy between raising a family, growing a career. Enjoying the two, assuming that you enjoy the two. I totally get why that is still also a gender issue.
Kimberly Kupiecki: There’s so many men and dads that are dealing with the same thing 100%. And in some cases, it’s harder for dads because they don’t get welcomed into the little networks that moms do automatically. So in some cases, it’s a huge challenge. So maybe my second book should be with dads.
Antoine Walter: I can give you my very humble, very limited example.
And I really appreciate being at the Bluetooth Forum and having the opportunity to meet with a lot of water professionals. But my third kid is one. And when I left home, he was standing and on the verge of walking, but not walking. And yesterday my wife sent me a video and he was walking. And I was like, I missed it.
And I have three children. I missed it the three times. So it makes me a terrible person.
Kimberly Kupiecki: Makes you just unlucky and bad timing.
Antoine Walter: I reflected on it when. My first CEO when I started at Suez retired in his retirement speech he said what I’m hoping for my retirement is that I will discover my wife and I thought if it had been reversed if his wife had been retiring and she would have said that It wouldn’t have been taken like a joke.
It was big like something like really something’s really wrong. Yeah, something’s really 2023
Kimberly Kupiecki: It’s still there. Yeah. I mean, I was recently in a workshop with a number of senior women in, in water, in the water industry. And part of the reason for that workshop was to help figure out like succession planning and how do we help the next generation? And we even had like a cohort of young professionals and they did a panel after they had their kind of parallel sessions and shared with us, I think there was tears because it felt like they were having.
So much the same experience that the older generation did, and we really thought it wouldn’t be as bad for them. I mean, hopefully it’s not, but it was just like, Oh boy, we thought we’d come a little farther, but maybe not. So I see, I have to have a reality check on some of those. I
Antoine Walter: can tell you, I’m looking forward to, to, to read your detailed opinion and sharing about that in your book.
So I’m looking forward to that. We have one more hat, which I’d like to cover. You are part of the Brave Blue Words Foundation board. Are you still a member of the board? Um, yep. Brave Bluebird has the stake to say, let’s stop with the doom and gloom. Let’s share the positive stories. So what is the most positive story which you can share with us today, which sends the message you’d like to, I mean, what’s the first message you’d like to share with a cool story right now?
Tricky question. Sorry.
Kimberly Kupiecki: There’s something happening right now with someone who I mentor, who I’ve not only mentored, but sponsor. And those are two different things. So the mentor action is. Let me help you prepare for this interview. The sponsor action is let me introduce you to this hiring manager and you’re perfect for this job.
And let me make you a recommendation. I was able to play a sponsor role in this case, which was actually really quite satisfying. And I think she is going to get a new amazing job, which is going to make her very happy. So that makes me happy. So there is your positive story.
Antoine Walter: That’s an awesome story.
Thanks for sharing. How do you put all of that into a week? You’re writing a book you’re working in. Super cool biotech, you’re a board member, you’re mentoring, you’re a mom.
Kimberly Kupiecki: Uh, I probably have more downtime than anyone would ever believe, but I would say part of it is having such a great network, a great partner.
My husband does all the cooking, does a lot of shopping. So it’s like that. How do you truly share the household stuff? So that’s been a huge, huge reason outsourcing where I can get someone to clean the house or. babysitter here and there as needed. As you get older, you sort of figure out what’s important and what to delegate.
So there’s that whole bucket of stuff, what to ignore. I had a business president when I first joined Dow in 2012, and I was too new to know to be scared of this person, but he was coming in and there was a big board meeting and there was a big giant table and we’re all sitting in a big square. And everybody was all nervous because this was a new business president.
What’s he going to do? Is he going to fire people? Is he going to change the metrics? Whatever. And I’m just sitting there going, what is going on? And he walked in, I don’t know why he said this, but somebody got on about emails or volume of work or something like that. And he’s like, you would be shocked at the stuff I ignore.
And I’m like, I never forgot that. I’m like, he knows if he can say that. I could figure it out too. So what to ignore. Um, and then, yeah, I think to just the reality of like your kids getting a little older, like you young ones, kids getting older opens up a little more space.
Antoine Walter: There’s a lot of wisdom in that from all the various areas, which you’re What’s your metric for impact?
What will tell you when you look in retrospect and I don’t know five years, I had a positive impact.
Kimberly Kupiecki: Sometimes you don’t know. So it’s interesting even being here, it’s like those echoes, you know, like, uh, talking to some customers that I had at DuPont and I was trying new things and trying a new approach new go to market approach.
And then that customer from a very large CPG company coming to me and saying, we are. installing this technology everywhere and we’ve qualified it and I’m like, Oh my God, that’s so cool. Cause that’s what I was trying to make happen. Usually it takes a while to know what the impact is and it’s usually backwards looking.
So you just have to kind of do your best guess. I think looking forward, I would say if there’s even, even like one synthetic biology program that I’m working on now, if I can lock that in, even just that one, it’s a game changer just for the world. And part of me says, maybe I joined Ginkgo, like, not that I would only want to do one thing.
Obviously, I don’t, I want to do a lot of things. But if I could just do that one thing even, like, that would be success. So it’s like, kind of like, where do we, where do we set our bar? Try and set it as low as possible. But this isn’t necessarily a low bar. It’s just something that I think has tremendous impact for the world in terms of the application.
And what it can do in terms of our carbon balance,
Antoine Walter: which are really pretty incredible because you don’t have every day and you work something where you can say, Hey, you can have an impact on the words. I would be happy if everything I do has an impact on my tone. You know, can you give us a hint at what that is or is it fully embargoed top secrets?
Kimberly Kupiecki: It’s a little bit top secret, but it has to do with a way to use CO2 as a, as a feedstock. So very cool, but yeah, but in a way that could potentially be a different type of cost profile then. Current methods, because it’s hard to do that. It’s hard to make. Carbon carbon bonds from CO2.
Antoine Walter: So not that we have to meet only at Bluetech Forum, but maybe by next year’s Bluetech Forum, you might have more developments to that story.
Kimberly Kupiecki: I hope before that, but why don’t you come to Ferment in Boston in next April.
Antoine Walter: I’ll look at my calendar. Well, it’s been a pleasure to have that deep dive with you across all these various topics. To round out these interviews, I have a set of rapid fire questions. Okay. Some of them, I guess, you had last year.
Some are new. One will go into your delegation format.
Rapid fire questions:
Antoine Walter: What is the most exciting project you’ve been working on and why?
Kimberly Kupiecki: It’s probably this example. It has to do with really creating a mechanism for negative carbon in a way that we haven’t seen because some of the current methodologies, like carbon sequestration, I think are pretty limited.
So it’s kind of like a, a very different way of looking at the problem. So that’s exciting.
Antoine Walter: Can you name one thing that you’ve learned the hard way? There’s so many things. If you need a joker card, there’s a joker card always.
Kimberly Kupiecki: No, no, no. When I fail or when I don’t do well, it’s when I don’t have a good enough understanding of the stakeholders and their positions or the dynamics.
It’s important to understand the audience and know what’s going on on the other side, especially if you’re trying to do something new. So. Sometimes I learn that the hard way over and over again, because sometimes it’s just hard to get perfect information on that. But I think you have to remember to try.
Antoine Walter: Is there something you’re doing in your job today that you won’t be doing it in 10 years?
Kimberly Kupiecki: I would think I would have a probably different role within 10 years. I’d love to be the, you know, Chief Sustainability Officer of Ginkgo Bioworks someday. So… But I want to cut my teeth on the current business development role, really understand how that works, how the company works.
Antoine Walter: You want to be the cool kids among the cool kids. That’s, that’s. Is that what that is? That’s what, how it sounds at least. Okay, great. But I’m sure you would be. I’ll take it. It would be awesome. What is the trend to watch out for in the water sector? Now you have maybe a more of an external eye, so I’d be curious.
Kimberly Kupiecki: I
mean, a lot of them are showing up here, right? I mean, certainly decarbonization, climate adaption is a really big one. Too much water, too little water.
Antoine Walter: So adaptation. We’re no longer at mitigation, we’re at adaptation. Yes. Okay. That’s my delegation question. If I instantly became your assistant. You can ask me and delegate whatever you want.
I don’t guarantee I do it, but what would be the first thing you would delegate to me?
Kimberly Kupiecki: I mean, I would say, uh, help getting my book out into the world. Just from a marketing standpoint would be…
Antoine Walter: Well, that is something I would be very interested in doing. I’m going to read it first, but,
Kimberly Kupiecki: um… Oh, help me get endorsements for it.
Yeah, I’ve still got to do that.
Antoine Walter: That’s definitely something I can pledge to you. You gave me a good book recommendation, so I’m going to take for granted. That’s your book is going to be good. So it’s, it’s out next month, roughly when we’re publishing that you should probably pre order. You’re going to open pre orders, right?
Kimberly Kupiecki: I don’t know. I, I don’t, I see. I need to work with marketing group to figure out what I am working with a marketing group, but I don’t have all those details nailed down yet.
Antoine Walter: If pre orders are open. Check the show notes. Check the show notes anyways. Oh, absolutely.
Kimberly Kupiecki: Of course. I’ll put that on my LinkedIn.
I’m sure pre order is available.
Antoine Walter: And last question. We have someone to recommend me that should definitely invite on that podcast as soon as possible.
Kimberly Kupiecki: The first person that came to my mind was Nicole Richards, who’s the CEO of Alonia. That’s very good. I worked with her at DuPont. She’s super cool. Great perspective.
Great mind for, you know, business and technology and yeah, she’s cool.
Antoine Walter: Well, thanks a lot for the recommendation. Thanks a lot for everything you shared over that full discussion. If people want to follow up with you, where shall I redirect them the best?
Kimberly Kupiecki: I think LinkedIn. I’m pretty up to speed. Like send me a message on LinkedIn.
I do. I do
Antoine Walter: check those. So as always, check the show notes. You’ll have the direct link to Kimberly’s LinkedIn. And thanks a lot. Maybe talk to you next year. Maybe talk to you
Kimberly Kupiecki: sooner. Maybe sooner. That’d be great. Thank you. It’s really fun. Thank you. It’s fun.