This Japanese Startup Beat Out NASA to Create Affordable Bio Jet Fuel
By Tim Romero: Serial startup founder in Japan and indomitable innovator
There is far more to startups in Japan than SaaS software and IoT hardware companies. Biotech startups are beginning to make a mark here. Today we sit down and talk with biotech pioneer Mitsuru Izumo and talk about his ground-breaking work at Euglena. In many ways, the team at Euglena succeeded where even NASA failed. They have developed a process to cultivate this microorganism, also called Euglena, affordably and at industrial scale. And Mitsuru and his team use using Euglena to create everything from inexpensive nutritional supplements to biological jet-fuel. Mitsuru tells an amazing story of how he took his startup from inspiration to proof of concept, to IPO, and how the real innovation is just getting started. I think you’ll really enjoy this one Show Notes Why the same organism can produce both food and fuel Why Euglena has been impossible to cultivate at industrial scale The world does not have a hunger problem; it has a nutrition problem How to move forward when no one believes in your vision How small companies can get to scale in Japan Why Japanese startups must IPO sooner than those in the West Why NASA gave up on Euglena, and why they were wrong Links from the Founder Learn about Euglena, the company Learn about the Euglena, the organism Follow Euglena on Facebook [shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="7994466"] Leave a comment Transcript Welcome to Disrupting Japan. Straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero, and thanks for joining me. Today, we’re going to talk about slime. Well, actually no, not slime exactly we’ll be talking about algae. Well, actually, the biology nerds out there and I think it’s awesome if you are one, will point out that technically, we aren’t actually talking about algae but a unique organism called euglena, that has both animal and plant characteristics. And we’ll also be talking about a unique company, also called Euglena, that is cultivating this organism at scale and turning it into everything from nutritional supplements to jet fuel. In fact, in this episode, we drink our opening toast not with our usual Anchor Steam beer but with a glass of euglena. Now, I know what some of you are thinking and yes, university research labs and crowdfunding sites are packed with companies claiming that their pet organism is the key to solving a wide variety of mankind’s problems. But Euglena is not operating in a lab but commercially and at massive scale. And today, we sit down with the founder and CEO, Mitsuru Izumo, who explains how he overcame initial market skepticism to get financial backing. How he was able to achieve what NASA could not. And how and why he decided to take his company public. But you know, Mitsuru tells that story much better than I can. So let’s hear from our sponsor and get right to the interview. [pro_ad_display_adzone id="1411" info_text="Sponsored by" font_color="grey" ] [Interview] Tim: Cheers. Mitsuru: Yes. For starting. Cheers. Tim: That’s pretty good. So, I’m sitting here with Mitsuru Izumo, the founder of Euglena. Thanks for sitting down with us today. Mitsuru: Thank you for coming today. Tim: I think most of our listeners are not familiar with Euglena, either the company or the organism. First, what is the organism? Mitsuru: Euglena is a kind of tiny microorganism. You can’t see it directly. You have to see through microscope because the length is only 0.1 mm. Tim: So that’s about the diameter of human hair? Mitsuru: Yes. Exactly. Very similar to the human hair. Little bit smaller than the hair. Euglena is green colored microorganisms and euglena have a lot of chlorophyll. Euglena can do photosynthesis by capturing carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and carbohydrate. Tim: Euglena, it’s a single cell organism. Is it a type of algae or is it its own unique type of organism? Mitsuru: It’s difficult to answer.