January 31, 2023

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The end of a year involves a burnt-out shell with no time or energy, too busy thinking about the future to focus on the past.

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But it’s worth a quick look. What did I learn and what am I going to do this year because of it?

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thoughts on 2022

Going into 2022, I didn’t anticipate how determined I was to rebuild the momentum post Covid. This manifested as positive habit changes at the beginning of the year driving new levels of progress. It felt like everyone around me was of a like mind, and life exploded in the world. The 9-5 quickly stretched to 5-7, with every other week away from home and back-to-back Zoom meetings resisting the shortfall even as the return to face-to-face.

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I was exhausted by the end of the year. But I knew about it, and I saw it coming. My first lesson from 2022 is to pay attention to my energy balance and act quickly.

Some things are out of date.

I started 2022 with a mission to re-establish the habit of writing. Why think and write in private when I can write aloud, and we can all learn together? Ship30for30 forced me to write one nuclear essay per day for 30 days. I continued for 100 days and then posted most weeks for the rest of the year. I found it surprisingly valuable.

Some great conversations started. It was common to meet someone new and have the feeling that they were reading my essays. Our new relationship started with an ongoing conversation. This discipline forces me to think clearly about something which has helped me develop some of my ideas. Each day forced me into the habit of thinking about what I needed to think about and then figuring out how to communicate it clearly. Creativity, ideas and discussion freed my Twitter feed of toxic junk. It was interesting to see that my LinkedIn network was far more open to debate than Twitter, where it seems everyone except a few are afraid to voice an opinion. Nobody told me I was an idiot. Impostor syndrome anticipates this and stands at the gate, preventing most of us from sharing our thoughts. I left, and it was fine.

Here’s a link to everything I’ve published.

This year, I intend to build on the habit. I wouldn’t publish every day because that was intense, but I would try to do it a couple times per week and fold in some longer writing like this. I will share longer content here on Subtrack.

I will also collaborate on the main sequence with a few other people who will support me in thinking out loud. Follow us here.

I started practicing infinite game in 2022 apparently. No more winning or losing – just keeping the game going. Of course, I’m not done yet. It’s a process, and part of the game is to acknowledge (and insist) that it never ends. ,

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conceived by midjourney

Here’s what happened in 2022.

I became less petty. Competition has become something that can be aspired to and even co-operation. Just another player in the game who is bigger than both of us. I became more patient. If something takes longer, that’s okay. The market trough we are in has caused many to slow down and develop plans to overcome it with eyes on the horizon. Infinite Sports calls this ‘existential flexibility’. I became more ambitious. Any known target is now just a way off before the rules of the game change and the horizon is taken out.

It is a process. Some days I’m still petty, impatient, and small-minded, but at least I have a role model to challenge.

Most of the projects I’m working on are impossible to deliver without other people. Lots of other people.

The ‘radical’ part means that a collaboration option is sometimes surprising, and some people have an allergic reaction to it. A belief that ‘winning’ happens in a world of scarce power and opportunity, collecting those things for the purpose of the game.

I think it leads to a smaller opportunity canvas.

Being a part of something big can have an unimaginable impact.

Here are some 2022 activities where I tried it out.

We did more collaborations across the portfolio. At Main Sequence our portfolio traded with each other and shared clients, insights and resources. This has only benefited. A fun session at the end of the year that we called ‘CORE Sampling’ looked at a subset of companies ranging from pre-investment to multi-million dollar revenue to find out how they were collaborating through CORE were. For example, the pre-investment company is coming together because of some work in the mature company. We got clear in making the market. A new food system is emerging in which the food we love will be made with a different production method. For example, brewing milk the same way we make beer instead of using animals. It needs a whole new value chain to grow in tandem. We started the year with a conclave in Melbourne that brought together different parts of the new system, including competitors, to find out who would do what while keeping the competition apart. There is no market to compete with yet. In this project, we have been inspired by work in Queensland, and in particular the Greater Whitsunday region, to activate a new biotech industry in Far North Queensland. See ‘Moonshot Country’ below. We worked more on how to start new companies. Deep tech companies are difficult to start and in most cases require more than a single individual or organization. Many companies fail at the very first step, and we have started partnering with accelerator programs to de-risk this. Look down

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As someone who has designed several current accelerator programs, I asked myself what does 2022 mean for accelerators. My hypothesis became that accelerators were not for discovery (demo days, etc) but for creation. They work best when they are a deliberate act of building momentum with as many forces as possible in the innovation system coming together immediately to start the engine.

We worked with UNSW on the Synbio10x program and with CSIRO on their ON Accelerate programme.

An active role for investors envisioned by Midjourney compels the necessary focus for company creation. We were building companies while juggling our other jobs. It created distraction, stretched the timeline and reduced the concentration of attention. Accelerators enabled us to launch multiple companies in a single 3 months and give due attention to their growth. Investing in the beginning gives positive results. Historically, accelerators have initially involved zero or very low investment amounts, focusing on using the program to raise capital. For UNSW Synbio 10x, we experimented with an investment of $120k at the start of the program. It gave the teams enough capital to do the job properly and gave us skin in the game to make changes to their value. The difference in results was spectacular. We can’t fund everything, and as many companies as possible should have a shot. We’ve experimented with onboarding other investors for ON Accelerate in the beginning. This was a new experience because it meant we were competing and collaborating for ventures that were not yet formed as companies. We needed to find who could best help us bootstrap the company into a seed round. That way, we were creating deal flow for each other and giving more companies an opportunity to get off the accelerator. This experiment will continue till 2023. #radicalcollaboration

As we enter 2023, some themes will intensify and build.

I believe in the need and opportunity to make the food we love in more sustainable ways.

This new category of plant-based meats, food grown directly from cells and foods fermented with organisms such as yeast, is approaching the equivalent of products made in small quantities from animals or other parts of nature (such as vanilla).

It’s also making its way dramatically through the Gartner Hype Cycle.

It is in a complete ‘trough of disillusionment’, currently following the ‘peak of inflated expectations’, which has coupled a booming capital market with an increase in demand to invest in ESG companies. All of this is crystallizing into valuation surges in companies like Beyond Meat. Now crashed.

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The mission is the same. I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the problem of feeding 10B people has subsided. I haven’t seen any evidence that these products won’t be equal in value, nutrition, and feel for years to come.

This year the focus is on:

Maturing the category in retail. How will the category tell its story? What will cause the change in product mix? What has been the journey from altprotein as a vegetarian niche to a new mainstream category? Building Out Manufacturing. Today there are over 1,000 companies on Earth working on innovative new ways of producing food. Many of these are well funded with venture capital. Few of these have any means to mass produce and hit the price points needed for mass consumer adoption. In 2023, there will be a huge jump in activity around it.

I can imagine that the majority of my investment activity in the coming years will be around biologics-based products. Our work in food has expanded into organic ways to infinitely recycle plastics and create materials with biology that were traditionally made from oil.

conceived by midjourney

This will be my focus for 2023:

Constantly focused on how to start these companies. We will build more companies from the research as we continue our work with UNSW’s Synbio 10x programme. Speeding up tools for discovery and development. These products are traditionally discovered through trial and error, but computational methods are revealing ways to build with biology just as we build with code. Building Out Manufacturing. Focus on making these products on a large scale.

Manufactured with biology, there is still a need for a feedstock that produces the agricultural sector. For example, sugarcane is a great source of carbon to feed the yeast that make dairy proteins.

The skilled workers needed to produce these products today are employed in agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

The global bio-revolution is going to rise not in the cities, but in the country.

I like the idea that the country is the logical place for the new Silicon Valley to emerge.

Here’s my new t-shirt for 2023 and some ‘call to arms’ to focus on the infinite game.

2023 mission gets a t-shirt

My biggest weakness is my tendency to do things myself.

I will be working hard this year on building the systems and skills of others to ‘build the machines’ that can enhance what we do.

What is playbook? How do we best share systems that work? Is the right person working on this project or mission? What am I working on that I shouldn’t be working on? I would try to support others to lead projects rather than lead projects myself.

let’s see how it goes!

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