Apr 21, 2021

Zymergen’s values and the making of tomorrow

By Josh Hoffman

Only by pushing the boundaries of how we work together can we make better products in a better way.

Image showing Zymergen Values

Zymergen partners with nature to create bio-based breakthrough products. We rethink biology and reimagine the world to create the building blocks of the future. We make tomorrow. 

But what does that really mean?

We are about more than just making great chemicals or materials. Achieving our goal will require excellence in everything we do, and excellence is measured by results — commercial, technical, and human. 

And because of the nature of our business and our technology, success can only come through the efforts of many talented and diverse teams, working together to achieve tomorrow what may seem impossible today. No one can deliver those kinds of results alone.

With that in mind, together, we have articulated ten shared values to work by. These values provide guidelines for how we behave in our never-ending quest for excellence. Excellence is how we achieve our mission: to make better products, provide people with healthier lives, and create a cleaner planet.

Here, we humbly share our values with you.


Our goal is to deliver products that solve meaningful customer and market needs. We are working on developing these products with real science and technology. Our technical staff must be interested in market dynamics and customer needs, and our business people must be curious and knowledgeable about our technology. 


Markets and competitors move fast. We need to move much faster. Speed often comes from making decisions with imperfect information. We’re comfortable with this, but we will never trade speed for physical safety. We must think differently, plan better, and work harder than others. 


We’re always looking to challenge our thinking and to find a better way. We re-conceptualize problems and borrow from disparate contexts to discover practical solutions to seemingly impossible problems. As innovators, we can move from the big picture to the details and back again. 


We are committed to a life-long journey of learning. We are insatiably curious about the world, about our customers, about our technology, and how these three interact. We constantly look for opportunities to apply ideas from one context to another. We will make mistakes. That’s okay, as long as we don’t make the same mistake twice.


We communicate to provide context for achieving individual goals, ensure alignment across diverse teams, and engage external stakeholders. We focus on what’s most important, separating the forest from the trees. Our communications meet our audiences where they are, not where we are. Our communications speak to both hearts and minds. 


We are one team; we can’t succeed individually. We trust our teammates to play their roles, just as they trust we’ll play ours. We leave our ego at the door; winning as a company is more important than any individual performance. We assume goodwill in our teammates.


We are committed to building a community with people from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. We believe that our work depends on building a diverse, inclusive community where people feel a strong sense of belonging; we can’t think differently if we’re all the same. We are mindful of the impact of our words and action on our community. 


Disagreement is healthy; commitment is how we win. We often disagree. We do so with goodwill. We take the time to understand why and how we differ. When a decision is made, we collectively commit to it, putting all our energy into making it successful. We make fact-based decisions, so when the facts change, we expect to change our mind.


We have the courage to make hard choices in a timely fashion. We are committed to our strategy and our technology. We dare to recognize and admit our mistakes and take action to change. We hold ourselves to a high-performance standard that increases over time as we learn and grow. 


We have high-performance expectations, first for ourselves and then for others. We recognize that multiple personal styles can and should thrive at Zymergen while living these values. We give and receive feedback frequently in a spirit of radical candor.  This feedback helps us ensure that our community operates at a very high standard. We give people freedom and expect them to use it wisely.

These values make us who we are, both individually and collectively. As our company evolves, these values will serve as our unwavering guide toward achieving our goals, improving ourselves, and making positive change in the world. 

Building a first-of-its-kind company to change how the world makes things is no easy challenge, but I can’t imagine a more important calling or a more rewarding pursuit. Only by pushing the boundaries of how we work together can we create the building blocks of tomorrow, inspired by nature and built with biology.