Jeff Kim - Slingshot Biosciences - Part 2

Working Toward One Goal In Industry | How Great Loss Prompted Professional Growth | Transitioning From a Basement Lab to a Thriving Company | A 6-Month Startup Idea Exceeding 12 Years of Operation

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Show Notes

Part 2 of 3. My guest for this week’s episode is Jeff Kim, co-founder and CEO of Slingshot Biosciences. Slingshot designs and manufactures synthetic cells for R&D, clinical diagnostics, and engineered cell therapies, aiming to overcome supply chain and cost barriers that restrict access to advanced diagnostics and therapeutics. Jeff is a serial entrepreneur, having co-founded and run multiple successful companies, including Radiant Genomics, which was eventually acquired by Zymergen, and Pattern Ag, a company mapping soil microbes to help farmers grow their bottom line. Before Radiant, Jeff was a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and was the project lead for jet fuel development at Amyris Biotechnologies. 

Join us as we sit down with Jeff as he discusses his transition to the West Coast to work for Amyris and his pivot from academia to industry. Jeff brings up how a personal loss pushed him to start not one, but two startups from his basement, including Radiant Genomics. He speaks to the acquisition discussions he had with Zymergen about merging Radiant Genomics into their portfolio. Jeff also discusses the slow growth and learning curve with his current company, Slingshot Biosciences.

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Jeff Kim

Jeff Kim is the co-founder and CEO of Slingshot Biosciences, a biotech that designs and manufactures synthetic cells for R&D, clinical diagnostics, and engineered cell therapies. Slingshot Biosciences' mission is to overcome supply chain and cost barriers that restrict access to advanced diagnostics and therapeutics.Jeff is also a serial entrepreneur, having co-founded and run multiple successful companies, including Radiant Genomics, which was eventually acquired by Zymergen, and Pattern Ag, a company mapping soil microbes to help farmers grow their bottom line. Before Radiant, Jeff was a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and was the project lead for jet fuel development at Amyris Biotechnologies.

Episode Transcript

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Intro - 00:00:01: Welcome to the Biotech Startups Podcast by Excedr. Join us as we speak with first-time founders, serial entrepreneurs, and experienced investors about the challenges and triumphs of running a biotech startup from pre-seed to IPO with your host, Jon Chee. In our last episode, we spoke with Jeff Kim about his early years, his time at Rockefeller University, and how his love of the arts balances his research. If you missed it, be sure to go back and give Part 1 a listen. We continue our conversation in Part 2, talking about Jeff's transition to the West Coast, his experience starting Radiant in his basement, and the eventual acquisition discussions he had with Zymergen.

Jon - 00:00:52: And so as you're wrapping up your time in grad school, obviously you're on the West Coast now. What was the impetus to come to the West Coast? And did you know you wanted to go into industry versus stay in academia? 

Jeff - 00:01:03: Yeah. Like most things in my life, I didn't plan for that at all. So I came out to the West Coast, actually, a friend of mine. Was working at a company called Amyris at the time. And I met him because we invited him to talk about his work. And they had just published a body of work where they engineered brewer's yeast to consume sugar and produce artemisinin with antimalarial medication. It was this beautiful tour de force, kind of seminal paper out of Jake Neaslin's lab. That they've done in concert with Amyris. And as soon as I read that, I was like, this is what I want to do. Because I've been working on natural product enzyme systems and kind of doing academic work, POC, to see if we could structurally characterize the molecules. Maybe test activity, but what Amyris was doing was producing that at massive scale to solve supply chain issues for malaria, which is a global disease burden. And I was like, this is an applied thing that I can do with my experience that can save millions. People. So it was like really really inspirational body of work, I think not just for me, but for a lot of people. And I came out because my friend asked, hey, why don't you come out here and do an internship? You have a little bit of time between wrapping up your experimental work and then actually defending your thesis and writing it. I said, sure, come out there. So I checked with Rockefeller administration. I was like, I'm going to go out there, do a short internship. Come back to my thesis and then be done. And they gave me the thumbs up. So we went out there. And it was an amazing experience. It was even better than I could have imagined. For one, they were working on that amazing program. And it was so inspirational that they ended up basically moving entire floors from UCSF into the company. Like tons of grad students had come out of these really amazing labs. Like the entire floor, every resident had moved over to the company at the time. And what it created was this amazing kind of once in a lifetime potentially. Everyone was making it work. Because the mission was so clear. And then. The company pivoted toward biofuels as well. So they kept both programs going, but biofuels also was. Really interesting kind of global challenge to work Java content. It had been recently funded and just IPO'd when I took the job, actually. Let me rewind. So I was just doing an internship. I was like, oh, it'll be three months. I got out there and in three months I finished. Probably 10 times the amount of work than I'd done in my entire grad career. Because there's this unlimited infrastructure for automation and scale. So anything that you wanted to do, you could do, you know, 10 to 100 times faster and at a greater scale and answer questions faster. So it was like being a kid in a candy shop. So the internship, I think it was paid, but very, very low paid. But anyway, it was not about the money at the time. And I would stay there all day and all night because it was just a fascinating opportunity. Side by side and with all of this construction. And it was different for a couple of reasons. Like in academia. One, I think something that they can do is probably give new PIs management training and training them on the importance of healthy atmosphere, culture, and working in a team. And two, collaboration is not inherent in the science. Yes, there are bigger collaborative projects now, but ultimately, you want to be the one who's last , author corresponding author. So there's competition to be one. In a company, you're working with a thousand people who are all working together, and there's no... I want to be the one on the paper. You're all trying to solve supply chain for malaria. It's not a one person thing. That was a fantastic experience to be in. And I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. And that's sort of what switched my brain on. Like, hey, if I want to make a really big impact in science immediately, working on a team in this type of environment is probably the way to do it. So I still was vacillating between academia and industry. I still always planned on going to academia. So the plan was this three-month internship, come back to my thesis. I was talking to some PIs about doing a postdoc in some work that was semi-related to what I was doing in grad school. And that's when Amyris actually made me a job offer unexpectedly. And I said, yeah, I'd love to do it. I'll come out there and try it for maybe six months or a year and then go do a postdoc. But as soon as I got there, it just became even more fun. It started to grow in scale and scope intensity. I started to get exposed to business development, corporate development and strategy. Again, they gave me a ton of autonomy to run massive programs, even though I probably had no business doing it. But as a startup, that's what you have to do. We had this really large JB with total energy at the time. I was leading that project, which was very unexpected, but a great opportunity. And it showed me that industrial science, applied science is not just technical, which I had been exposed to at that point, which was really fun. It's a combination of that plus the strategic value and enterprise value and everything else. So it got me interested in finance and corporate strategy and business development and so forth. But at the end of that, the other thing I should also state, the reason I stayed in industry and there is I ended up meeting my wife at Amyris. She was also a scientist in the department. And that's why I'm in California today instead of three months. But at the end of that, the biofuels boom turned into kind of a bust as the price of oil started to drop precipitously and it became really hard to compete. The industry started to get a little squeezed. An even higher hurdle from a price perspective. So it started to get a little bit shaky overall as a sector. And I decided, hey, I've always wanted to start a company by myself. One of the other reasons, my best friend and I always wanted to start a business together. And I've known him since high school. And we had been talking about ideas off in college. And when I was out here during that time, right before I decided to start my own company, he actually passed away. And that was sort of an eye opener. Like life is extremely short. If you're going to try something, try it. If the opportunity strikes you. And that was a large activation energy hump. I think I would have just stayed kind of comfortable and amorous, having fun. But that sort of pushed me past the point where I was like, I need to try this, if not just for myself, to honor my best friend and respect what we had planned on doing. So that was one of the very first dipping toe into entrepreneurship. And I went head first. I didn't just start one. I started two companies when I left Amyris. And the thought was to hedge, but it just became really hard to scale two startups, obviously. One of them, Radiant, was based off of my PhD work, and that ended up scaling. Agreed. And we had a bunch of great partnerships signed with Corteva Agriscience and some other biopharma companies. That was a really great experience. In my naivete as a young kid, I thought... Why don't I focus on the hardest thing because it'll be defensible, but in reality, it's the hardest thing. So it's hard to scale and it's hard to translate. So it ended up being a great experience in learning how to build a business from scratch and finding ways to monetize and find value in it. We ended up deciding to merge after getting a bunch of M&A offers with Zymergen/Ginkgo at the time. We actually knew the founders from Zymergen, ex-Amyris folks, and there's a lot of synergies where we saw them taking advantage of our platform in a number of ways instead of just using your product discovery. So we ended up doing that. I spent about eight months at Zymergen integrating the team, detecting the IP. And then realized that, you know, they were taking a little bit. That didn't really align with me. Terms at the same time, I got an offer to be a managing partner. And a director at a venture fund slash studio that started up here in the Bay Area. So I ended up deciding to take that offer after making sure my team was settled. That was an interesting role. It exposed me to venture capital, where we were largely a studio, but we made some minority investments as well. I would go in as the operating CTO, CEO, and Chair. Stand up the company from an infrastructure perspective, set the strategy, and then hire in the senior exec team to basically take it series A and beyond. And we would do that in rinse and repeat. Really, again, formative experience. I feel very fortunate to be exposed to that. It taught me a lot about what happens on the other side of the table and the incentives from that side, which aren't necessarily aligned with entrepreneurs all the time, but at least you know, and you know what their set of constraints is, right? They have customers to please, they have LPs, and they have other things. Also exposed me to things to watch out for potentially when you're engaging in a venture fund. So I would say I've had many challenging experiences in my life that have also been formative, but the best thing that's come out of them is learning sometimes what not to do or what things to avoid and watch out for. So they've all been learning experience, even if I haven't necessarily enjoyed them at the time. So that was a great time. And during this time, Slingshot was kind of self-financed. Growing slowly, we had found a really healthy segment, really small segment of customers that were buying product. We were profitable pretty much from month six after starting the company in 2012. But we had to overcome some pretty big manufacturing challenges in order to really service the market. And that's what we worked on kind of slowly and steadily through that time period. We overcame them around 2018. And that's when customers really started to come out of the woodwork. They realized that, hey, we can actually replace all the cell lines they're using, all these consumables that they're sourcing from donors, and really changed the industry in a lot of ways, depending on what sector you're looking at. So that's when the volume request went way up, and we realized I couldn't run this in my basement anymore. I was running it in a woodwork warehouse. I got a funny story to share about that later. But it was operating out of my basement, and we needed a real company at that point. They're asking us for GMP manufacturing and all this crazy stuff at massive scale. That's when we capitalized the business and been growing since. So we're very fortunate. We found Arch, obviously a really renowned venture fund that's responsible for Illumina and some other huge wins. And then Northpond, also a really well-known at this point tools and life science investor. So thrilled to have them on board, and they've been really helping us do the company since. It's been tumultuous from a market perspective, I'm not going to lie, as you've probably seen, the XBI. Most companies are really struggling right now, but we're fortunate to be in a segment. We're selling a product that everybody needs. Regardless of stage or chemicalization and it's a consumable. So there's not a huge hurdle in terms of selling capital equipment, something that's much more expensive. So we're fortunate to keep the business growing in that perspective, but it's going to be an important year to navigate carefully.

Jon - 00:11:00: Absolutely. And something you said really struck me and resonated with me is about like, these experiences that are like painful, and you look back and you would still do it again, even if it was painful, because it shapes who you are. And if you weren't to experience it, you would probably be a very different person. Like in the moment, of course, no one wants to go through it. No one wants to go through that pain. But once you're past it, and then it's in the rear view mirror, you know, I oftentimes reflect with my wife, I'm just like, if that didn't happen, you know, I may not even be here, I might be somewhere else doing a different thing, my whole trajectory would have changed. And so that completely resonated with me. And one props for doing two companies at once. 

Jeff - 00:11:39: But no, I would not do that again. 

Jon - 00:11:42: Yeah, yeah. So everybody, just know. And I guess simultaneously, while you're starting the two companies, I know you are also at Lawrence Berkeley. Was that like a trifecta? 

Jeff - 00:11:52: Yeah, it was sort of a trifecta. Lawrence Berkeley appointment was not super. Full time, I would say or not like a huge commitment. It was largely advising and working on the collaboration that I had as a representative of Radiant. So I've been working there as an affiliate scientist and helping them get some technologies on board and exposing them to the whole natural product discovery technology we were doing. That was also a really fun experience, super talented folks, much longer timescale, obviously, which is great. And you can work on different types of science. So I was very fortunate to have interface with them. And then also, I think reinforced my interest in industry, I think you can move things. Much more quickly in a focused manner in industry than a government institution. But at the flip side, like the government institution can work on some initiatives that are super long timescale without too much financing pressures. It's, it's really important things.

Jon - 00:12:41: Super long and very expensive. It's a special environment, very different than an industry. My wife works with government clients and it's just like a different world. So that kind of galvanized your industry itch. And can you talk a little bit about like the early days of Radiant one? I guess, like where your co-founders, your former Amyris team and like, what were those early days like? I mean, you had your design company, which was like startup one, and this is kind of like startup two, but more kind of coming from your experience in the lab. Can you talk a little bit about your early days founding team? How did you conceptualize this business model? 

Jeff - 00:13:15: Yeah, great question. So the co-founder was someone actually I hired in to Amyris on my team. It was one of my first hires. Coincidentally, it's a very small world. He happened to be good friends with my wife in grad school, and they also went to undergrad together. So they had known each other for a long time. And I pretty much decided, again, there was that acute event with my best friend who had passed. And I decided, hey, I need to do a startup now. I've always been planning this with him. I had some ideas that have been incubating, and now is the time to do it. So I left before my co-founder had left and sort of started things. And the stars kind of aligned in a lot of ways. The field in general, in terms of pharma, had been looking for new classes of antibiotics. I knew the technology that I had worked on in graduate school. Was potentially a great way to identify new classes of antibiotics, bioactive sperm molecules, but it had been purely an academic endeavor when I was at Rockefeller. My exposure at Amyris showed me the K. If you actually apply industrial systems and scaling. That's you found and really kind of kickstart again this golden age of antibiotic skin ray for example So the timing was right from that perspective. There's a big DoD, a government initiative. NIH was interested, and NIAID, and also private financing was interested around there too. So I started the company in my basement, as I mentioned. I happened to live in a live-work loft with my wife. We had not gotten married at that time. So she had very fortunate that she was supportive of me taking the salary. And then also converting our basement into a lab, which was- 

Jon - 00:14:45: But it's so funny because likewise, my wife was like, you got to be kidding me. Like, but yes, I will split the rent with you. We will do this. I prayed to the lucky stars. Like, thank you. Thank you. Because I needed to split that rent because you can't pay rent with zero. So same experience.

Jeff - 00:15:01: Yeah. Yeah. So I was very fortunate. We had to run a business out of there to live there. So I was like, why don't I run the startup? So it started Radiant in the basement. And it sounds a little bit less glamorous than it actually was. It was not crammed underground subterranean basement. It was a California basement, which is above ground, concrete slab, just bare shell. But it was pretty easy to set up a pretty decent lab in there, actually. So we set up shop there and started doing some early POC experiments, applied for some early grants and actually landed several from the NIH and NIAID because it was well aligned with the technology. So we actually never needed to go raise venture, which is very different. So we never raised a dollar into that business. There's an interesting perception out there that we wanted to, but we actually never needed to. So we were profitable for quite some time. We had a really good alignment strategically with the NIH. In terms of anti-infective classes and their technology. And then we had these partnerships with our other sciences and some of the subjects that helped me not know what the capital is. It was a really good position to be in, but a very atypical founding experience, I would say. One of the funny stories that I wanted to reference before, my wife, again, amazingly understanding that I couldn't have done any of this without her. At one point, it was right before a wedding, she was trying on wedding dress with my mother-in-law and my cousin. And they were upstairs and I was not there at the time. I was out running errands. And the doorbell rang and she thought it was another family member or someone. She's wearing a wedding dress and came downstairs, kind of hugged the person at the door. And they're very excited. Hello. And it turned out to be the Sigma-Aldrich chemical delivery guy who was bringing solvents. And he stopped in the right place. And she said, yeah, it's the right place. And I grabbed the solvents, brought them inside. But she was wearing a full wedding dress, which was very funny. 

Jon - 00:16:43: That's hilarious. 

Jeff - 00:16:44: Yeah. So we had a lot of funny events there. We DIY'd everything. We built a lot of our own equipment or sourced it. Again, being in the Bay area was fantastic because the ecosystem of companies is very strong. There's also a strong support network in terms of starting companies, strong founder networks, all that stuff, which seems daunting. How do I figure out how to start a company? What filings do I need to do? There's a lot of infrastructure to support you on that path. So it was like a playbook that was nice. So that was really the original early stories when we were there. And then we slowly expanded into bigger and bigger space. As we got more of these initiatives, just being able to hire a team and build up Quorum, we ended up in Memoryville in the lab that we ended up settling in before the acquisition. That was a great experience. And it was very roll up the sleeves, kind of do everything ourselves. As I mentioned, we either built or bought, used everything that was in that lab. At one point, I was mistaken by this trucking company as a professional mover because I'd gone there so many times to pick up free equipment that was being thrown out by Amgen in the South Bay. I walked in one day and he gave me a discount. He's like, you must be doing good business. And I was like, actually, we're still trying to figure out some grants. And he's like, wait, you own a moving company, right? I'm like, no, no. We started to become known at the moving truck company, then down at Amgen. A lot of the shipping and loading dock workers also thought we were a moving company. So we started going down there and they started tipping us to help them move some stuff at one point, which was pretty funny. But yeah, I mean, we were able to build out this incredible high throughput next gen sequencing lab basically for nothing. Because there's so much ecosystem support and used equipment and infrastructure. A lot of the big pharma restructurings, they will throw out stuff because they don't want to bother going through an asset sale.

Jon - 00:18:26: Which is incredible. Like the time it takes to just set this up is like too much. I've seen it too. I'm just like, yeah, we just like stick it in storage and just like turn a blind eye to it.

Jeff - 00:18:37: And it reaches its amortization age. And then the finances are like, we can just deal with this out and throw it out. I don't want to bother spending money selling it. And then we'd walk out with a fully functioning MySeq or something like that that was literally in a dumpster. So it's pretty crazy. But anyway, that's really what helped us get there. We were able to bootstrap that company from day one all the way through at Sag State, which was a fantastic experience and really led to a lot of other things. And with Slingshot, ironically, it was supposed to be a quick sale. So within, I would say, a week of starting the company, we had a big strategic offer. We were able to make some prototypes for them and they loved it. And then we had some high level, chunky partnership discussions. And like, why don't we just buy it? So I was like, ah, this is great. Slingshot will be great. First win, you know, six months into the business, we'll sell it off and move on right off into the night. Lo and behold, 12 years later, it's still here. What ended up happening is that deal fell apart for various reasons unrelated to Slingshot or the company. There's a different asset they acquired went sideways, a different business. And what made me step back and say, why did they want to buy this company that I was operating out of my basement for so much money? And we started to do some more VOC, talk to customers, and I realized there's this huge opportunity that if we could get to a level of manufacturing consistency and scale, we could basically replace all sound lines used. Control application, manufacturing application, et cetera, with some limitations. It's not a live cell. It's a synthetic polymer cell. But that world of just control cells and cell lines is enormous. And that's a lot of people are aimed at now. So we came across that journey. And again, I mentioned deciding to capitalize the business. So it's very different from Radiant. The pace is obviously faster. We need to make faster decisions. The team is bigger. So that rodeo, again, I've been through as an observer when I was at Amyris and Zymergen/Ginkgo. And running the show, it's been very helpful, I think, to have had that venture experience because it aligns me with what our investors need to see ultimately. And sometimes there can be a different set of objectives. But I understand the cause and I understand what. Good day, cops. I think that helps with overall company growth strategy.

Jon - 00:20:39: Totally. And coming to the Bay area and they're just being like, equipment, there's people, there's know-how. Hiring is easier when you're surrounded by these storied companies and institutions, UC Berkeley, UCSF. And especially now, being in the Bay, you have access to the knowledge and information earlier than most other cities, markets, areas. But even now in the age of information just being everywhere and things like podcasts and everyone, knowing that that knowledge used to be behind closed doors. So you're in your garage and you're having these conversations and partnerships with NIH, Dow. How did you do that from your garage? Sigma Aldrin coming over to your house. It's kind of a thing where are they just like, yeah, good enough. Let's go. How did that happen? 

Jeff - 00:21:23: That's a really good question. So looking in retrospect, BD probably should have done some more diligence with the first companies before buying that much volume from... This nondescript condo work warehouse in West Berkeley. But we had everything in line. We had quality systems. We had the product work great and all the paperwork and so forth. So from their perspective, it's just another supplier, I guess. But really funny stories about what you just brought up. So at one point, we were about to sign a really large deal with the biggest pharma company in the world. And we were still in our basement, but we had just signed a lease on a new lab space. And the day we were supposed to meet the director of business development for this massive pharma company. Peace to the lab space. And so I told my co-founders that we cannot meet him in the basement. This is not going to go well. So we went over to the new lab space and we're walking with him because we met him outside. And I was thinking in my head, like, please let this key work. Please let this key work. And so I was turning the lock and it worked and it opened up. And then at the same time, there's like this door and it looked like a conference room. And I was like, why don't we go to our conference room? And I was like, please let this be a conference room. It opened up the door. It was this beautiful, magnificent, fully furnished conference room. And his first comment was like, wow, you guys really have your stuff together. And my co-founder and I looked at each other. We were kind of smiling because we were just walking from the basement. That was the first realization that, hey, we need to invest a little bit in infrastructure if we're going to start to take on some of these big clients. And then something similar happened with Corteva Agriscience. They visited us in our next lab and it was packed. We had 2,000 square feet, maybe, of total space, most of which was a lab. And we had like 16 people in there. So we had four offices that were designed to be phone booths. But we fit four Ikea desks. And each of those phone booths, we were packed in like sardines. And I remember the Dow executive team came over and they were like, wow, you guys really cram it in. We were packed. But that was fun. We happened to have some friends from Amyris who were right across the street. We were very close with them, obviously. And my wife is still there and is still there to this day. But they happened to be visiting for like a lunch break. So it looked much busier and like lively. And we had all these people in there. So it made a good impression on them. But it was very entertaining. And to your point, these things still happen today. We are working in Slingshot with the biggest pharma companies in the world. And our infrastructure requirements aren't very big. We have this very small, compact printer where we make ourselves. So our manufacturing footprint is extremely small. The overall team is required. It's not very big. We have sales, which is almost entirely remote. And then internally for general administrative team, it's not that big. So a lot of times when some of these customers come over, they love the quality systems we have in place and everything else. But they're shocked. They go, yeah, I was expecting this huge facility and it's this small team. Why we don't need a big facility? 

Jon - 00:24:12: Yeah. I have a funny story. So started Excedr, had to move back home and start on my parents' dining room table. And when we got our first client, I was like, I couldn't afford like ACH payments. And even though ACH payments are like in the grand scheme of things, not that expensive, but I was like, you just send checks to my parents' house. So checks were just coming to my parents' house. And our client was like, what's your mailing address? I was like, oh, if they Google Maps this, they might see my parents on the driveway. 

Jeff - 00:24:42: Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Jon - 00:24:42: Honestly, I think back on that experience and it was a little embarrassed. I was like, I can't even pretend to pretend that I have the niceties. And equipment leasing tends to fall in the bucket of financial services. And financial services, people are like skyscrapers, you're at the top of the nicest building in downtown in FIDE. And I was like, yeah, here's my parents' address. Just put the company name and we'll figure it out. So I had a very similar experience with that. I love hearing this. Because I think a lot of founders who are contemplating this journey might not know there are this kind of DIY ways to start your business and run your business. Hyper growth and venture is one way to do it. But I love hearing these stories where it's like, no, we can do this efficiently, really, really efficiently. And let's think creative about it. And honestly, it all makes sense now. Your passion for music and creativity translates into the business aspect too. So as you're wrapping up with Radiant, and I guess, how did the Zymergen/Ginkgo acquisition percolate and come about? And what was your experience in your first major sale? What was your experience there? 

Jeff - 00:25:47: For sure. As I mentioned, Radiant. We bootstrapped and DIY'd the entire thing. And again, going back to my childhood experience, I think it was important for me to understand what does it actually take to build these things? What's the actual area of difficulty instead of just paying for stuff? And that always kind of drove me crazy. In general, just to share a little bit more information, I built largely this ADU or house in the back of our house built largely by myself. Again, not because it's cost-saving things, but to understand what does it actually take. And then you can learn that process and decide, hey, I don't want to do this. This is going to take too long or it's too difficult, whatever. But at least you know, right? So at Radiant, it was really important for us to do that and say, okay, what does it actually take to build what our end-state goal is? And we reached a point where we didn't need to take any capital to build our end-state goal. And it was this really amazing technical platform that provided data that to this day is extremely unique. And it's largely the reason why people acquire it. And so Imagen was the data that we created. So I realized that, yes, we have created this amazing infrastructure and created this incredible data. Downstream from there, we needed to build it. And there are two ways to do that. Kind of traditional synthetic biology product development, which is long, arduous, and expensive, as evidenced by Zymergen's demise, or it would have to be biopharma, right? And we'd have to become a drug company, which is also expensive and challenging. So we were either going to get acquired by a drug company or by a company. Of the enzymes. Targeting companies since the first report last night. Take advantage of the proteins themselves for industrial applications or the natural products. So all of that actually fit. SIMON, you were saying? The reason I'm doing this is just understand us and knew that we are competent. So the diligence path went very, very fast. And the decision to sell and even talk to them was that point I realized, okay, at this point, there's no way we're going to DIY a drug company. We're going to have to go out to the street. Is this a good environment to raise capital? Endeavor and what is going on. And the likely outcome was going to be. Challenging and very binary. We're either going to end up with zero or end up with a billion dollar company, but it's going to be a way. So I figured. Let's work with a company that's well capitalized, that can actually leverage this in multiple ways. That's high growth that happens to be local, that was also good friends of ours. So it was kind of an easy decision there. At that point, we had been approached for about a year by five, six, seven other companies, and several of them were public, large entities, just didn't really see the growth opportunity there. They were a large entity, so it wasn't like their stock was going to fly over 10x, for example, or they're really going to take advantage of all of it. They really wanted it from one aspect. I didn't want the tech to die in the mine. Ultimately, we built something really beautiful. So we went to Design Origin Path Acquisition. You know, it was their first M&A as well. Again, going back to my analogy, I think. I've learned the most in my life by learning from maybe bad examples of what you shouldn't do. And it was not intentional by any means. It was their first rodeo. It was also our first rodeo. So there's a lot of things that could have been done differently. But it was a pretty challenging M&A, let's put it that way. And at this point, I've been exposed to several different types of M&A and IPO. I think the lack of experience was a little bit painful, but it was okay in the end. That's sort of how we came to that decision was there was a clear path where we absolutely capitalized extremely heavily and it would have been a binary outcome so we have the same route.

Jon - 00:29:09: That's a really fascinating experience. It was hard. You both didn't know what you didn't know. And typically that will result in a more difficult process. But in my opinion, when you go through those experiences, it's those experiences that you never forget. It's like seared into you. And then you just come out better, stronger for the next time. And you've been there, done that. And it's something that I think when you live through those experiences, and then as a leader of your company at Slingshot, it's like something that you can then impart onto your team. So you don't have to experience it yourself. Hopefully via osmosis, we can kind of impart those learnings and kind of shortcut the pain, which is really invaluable.

Outro - 00:29:51: That's all for this episode of The Biotech Startups Podcast. We hope you enjoyed our discussion with Jeff Kim. To learn more about his journey, tune in to part three of our conversation. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, leave us a review and share it with your friends. Thanks for listening. And we look forward to having you join us again on the Biotech Startups Podcast for part three of Jeff's story. The Biotech Startups Podcast is produced by Excedr. Don't want to miss an episode? Search for The Biotech Startups Podcast wherever you get your podcasts and click subscribe. Excedr provides research labs with equipment leases on founder-friendly terms to support paths to exceptional outcomes. To learn more, visit our website, On behalf of the team here at Excedr, thanks for listening. The Biotech Startups Podcast provides general insights into the life science sector through the experiences of its guests. The use of information on this podcast or materials linked from the podcast is at the user's own risk. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not the views of Excedr or sponsors. No reference to any product, service or company in the podcast is an endorsement by Excedr or its guests