Ending The Year
See you in 2023
There are a bunch of new people here and I’m not 100% sure where you all are coming from (I think Darius sent a lot of you). I’m happy to have you here. I’ve been working on a longer post that I was hoping would be ready to be published today, but its proving to be quite lengthy and more complex than I had initially considered, at least to make it accessible to a lot of people.
Here are a few things I wrote this year that were particularly meaningful to me and I hope to you too
When Crisis Mitigation Becomes Your Job
Looking back on these three posts I noticed that I was telegraphing my eventual pivot to something that wasn’t the chemical industry. A job that I had thought was primarily focused on innovation I realized was mostly just technical service and fixing problems. I eventually articulated this in this next post:
Modern R&D is Technical Service
If you want to do something really innovative and world changing, then I’d bet that your best chance of doing this would be not in the top 100 chemical companies in the world. You should probably be at a start-up, and I got to talk to a few founders this year which was pretty cool.
I was interviewing quite a few founders late last year and early this year, but a combination of me being busy and maybe just people didn’t want to talk to me about their companies happened. The conversations I did have were pretty interesting though.
Solving The Enzyme Immobilization Problem
Moving Bubbles Around More Efficiently Is The Future Of Composites
Using Biology To Downstream Process Biology
I think we are to some extent certain parts of the industry are in an enzyme catalysis race with respect to developing new enzymes with enhanced reactivity, better selectivity, thermal stability, and allowing new feedstocks. There are also companies out there trying to capitalize on better ways to immobilize them (hint: polymer chemistry is important here) so that they are more useful.
Synthetic biology I think has a lot of promise, but I think that promise needs to restrict both in scope, timeline, and expectations. There are probably a bunch of flops out there, but perhaps there are a few that will make it through and perhaps those few will change the game in small ways initially for all of us and maybe big ways a few decades away. I think a bunch of money is going to burned to get us that future state though.
I think perhaps people tend to zero in on these terms that become shorthand for “the next thing,” and I think synthetic biology is becoming that right now the way that additive manufacturing was 5-8 years ago with the thought they would be synonymous with “the internet” or “software.” In reality it’s really a concert of different instruments playing in harmony together that really moves things forward. A new chemical from a synthetic biology company might enable a specialty diamine that allows for snap curing of epoxy resins that takes composite curing from hours to minutes. Or something to that effect.
I’ve written a lot about the chemical industry and how important it is to society at large and hopefully about how we have some problems that need to get fixed. There are a few different balancing acts that need to be performed to be in the industry well as a company and here are a few:
In order to do these two things above I think we are also starting to see some seismic shifts in how companies organize themselves. It’s been happening for a while, but the gist of it is that more focused companies are better and a thoughtful restriction to a few end markets is critical to driving shareholder value.
DuPont Changing Their Core Business
Activist Wants To Change Huntsman
These are forces mostly outside of your control. Will your life be influenced by these things moving forward as an employee? Yeah, probably. Should you allow yourself to devolve into a constant state of anxiety to the point of paralysis and only being able to gossip with your coworkers at lunch? Definitely not. This shit is always happening. Different shareholders have different agendas for different companies. Shareholders are usually professionals, and they know what they are doing. Start thinking like one and maybe you’ll be able to predict your company’s future.
On Making Products
While most companies are at the whims of their shareholders the concept of developing products is the same no matter where you are in my experience. Here are some best practices that I tried to explain:
Some Thoughts On Project Management
Developing Products With Trust
Team Work Makes The Dream Product
Don’t underestimate the value in getting a bunch of different people in the room and not letting them leave till they all agree on a product vision, roles and responsibilities, and who is in charge of managing the project and the individual contributors.
I’ll probably spend the next few weeks trying to relax. It’s not always that easy but having a few weeks off from writing this newsletter is restorative much in the way it is invigorating to write it. Maybe I’ll even finish "The Art of Gig" that's Venkatesh Rao published on being self-employed. I'll also probably try and stay off Twitter too.
Any topics you want me to think/write about let me know in the comments.
If you have any good reading recommendations also let me know in the comments.
My soundtrack for the next few weeks:
Write to you next year,
I always look forward to your posts, Tony - even if it takes me some time to get to them. Best wishes for the holidays, and I hope that you enjoy your break.