The chief executive and co-founder of Bolt Threads is pioneering the bio-manufacturing movement of materials. The company, founded in 2009, is transforming the textiles market by harnessing natural proteins and renewable raw materials to create sustainable high-performance fibres and fabrics. From its initial team of three founders, Widmaier has led Bolt Threads to work on a commercial manufacturing scale and aided its procurement of over $200 million worth of venture funding.
Widmaier graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Chemistry, after which he received a PhD in Chemistry and Chemical Biology at the University of California in 2010. His work at the University of California, which involved reprogramming the natural functionality in living organisms, led to the formation of Bolt Threads. Widmaier and his colleagues set out to recreate the chemical properties of spider silk, for which they extracted the DNA sequence from their webs to produce Microsilk. He estimates that the process took around 4,000 formulations before they found the right one.
Bolt Threads has produced its own Microsilk products, including a limited-edition necktie and beanies. British fashion designer Stella McCartney has used Bolt Threads’ Microsilk within her designs and showcased it at her Paris Fashion Week show in 2017. Bolt Threads also signed a deal with Patagonia in 2016.
Since the success of Microsilk, Widmaier led the creation of the next product, Mylo — a leather-like material made from mycelium, found in the roots of mushrooms. The properties of mycelium mean it doesn’t rot like animal skin and therefore does not require the polluting treatment real leather needs to stop it from disintegrating. Bolt Threads launched Mylo on the market as a luxury handbag in June 2018. McCartney has also created a sample bag from Mylo, which is currently on display in the “Fashioned from Nature” exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
In 2017, Widmaier spoke at the Hello Tomorrow Global Summit on achieving sustainable future. Outside of his work at Bolt Threads, Widmaier is working on perfecting the conditions to grow other things like broccoli and yeast.