Jurassic Park for Perfume: Ginkgo Bioworks Reconstructs Scents From Extinct Plants

Synthetic biologists resurrect fragrance-producing genes from bygone plant species Move aside, Chanel No. 5. Scientists have now created a scent that’s even older than the iconic perfume, even if it has only just wafted into human nostrils for the first time in more than 100 years. That’s because the piney, earthy perfume derives its fragrance compounds from a Hawaiian hibiscus flower that vanished from the dry-land forests of Maui in the early 1910s.  Researchers at Ginkgo Bioworks, one of the largest synthetic-biology companies in world, succeeded in resurrecting the smell by expressing the genes needed for making the defunct flower’s pungent aroma molecules in microbes. Ginkgo unveiled—and demoed—the new perfume at the company’s inaugural annual meeting in Boston last week. It’s like “Jurassic Park, but for perfume,” says Ginkgo’s creative director, Christina Agapakis. In the ’90s-era book-turned-film franchise, scientists at the fictional biotech company InGen revived dinosaurs by first extracting DNA Continue reading Jurassic Park for Perfume: Ginkgo Bioworks Reconstructs Scents From Extinct Plants

Marissa Mayer’s New Startup Gets Lucky (a Lucky Building, That Is)

The tech incubator Lumi Labs starts out with a bit of Silicon Valley magic on its side Photo: Tekla Perry Just about everyone in Silicon Valley acknowledges that running a successful startup takes more than a great technology and the right people—it takes a little bit of luck. And Marissa Mayer, former Yahoo CEO and Google employee number 20, doesn’t deny the power a little luck has had on her career. She once told me that she wouldn’t have landed the Google gig that sent her career trajectory shooting skyward without “a long-distance relationship and a really bad bowl of pasta” that kept her up late in her Stanford dorm room, randomly opening the recruiter emails she had previously decided to ignore. When Mayer started that job at Google in 1999, the company had just moved into offices on the second floor of 165 University Avenue in Palo Alto, recently Continue reading Marissa Mayer’s New Startup Gets Lucky (a Lucky Building, That Is)

Starting a Robotics Company? Sell a Service, Not a Robot

Robot company founders and investors make a case for “Robots as a Service” at HAX demo day Image: BeetlThe Beetl robot will start out as an automated poop scooper, but may add lawn mowing to the services it provides. If you want to start a robot company, plan to kick off by selling a service performed by robots, not the robots themselves. That was the message of robot startup founders and investors speaking at HAX demo day this week. HAX is a five-year-old hardware accelerator based in Shenzhen, China, and San Francisco. “I’m a big fan of going out and doing a service with a robot, competing with other businesses that provide that service, rather than trying to sell a $100,000 robot,” said Nathan Harding, co-founder of Ekso Bionics and now co-founder and CEO of Wink Robotics, a still-mostly-stealthy company intending to bring robotics technology into the beauty salon industry. Continue reading Starting a Robotics Company? Sell a Service, Not a Robot