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Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards

Genomatica

Christophe Schilling

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Christophe Schilling considers himself a “design guy,” even though he doesn't work in software, accessories, or another industry typically associated with that term. Schilling is the CEO of Genomatica, which licenses “green” chemical technology to large international chemical companies. He says that good design leaves a resonating impression with customers, and so he ensures that his products and processes are designed to be the very best.

The company has focused on the environmentally sustainable creation of the chemical BDO, which is used in many plastic products. Genomatica creates its product without using harmful oils, which until recently, was the only way to create BDO. In addition, the company creates its product entirely from renewable sources.

Schilling, who co-founded the firm in 2000, faced a crucial problem early in the company’s history. He realized that building his own manufacturing plants was not feasible. So he decided to license the company’s technology and let others manufacture it. This strategy has worked for Genomatica, which partners with industry leaders that are well-positioned to build and operate large production facilities, market new technologies, or use chemicals in their processes.

Because the company’s revenue stream depends on forming new partnerships, Schilling must balance running the company with the nonstop need to network with industry leaders. He says that an effective leader must unearth the company’s culture -- rather than mandate that culture -- and he strives to lead by example and help others reach their potential in order for the organization to achieve greater success.

Schilling says that the key to the company’s success is the strength of its technology. If the technology to produce BDO from renewable sources failed or could not scale, Genomatica may not have survived. However, the company has thrived. Schilling says that the organization has identified Brazil has an especially promising market for expansion in the near future.

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