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Dan Widmaier

Chief Executive, Bolt Threads

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The chief executive and of Bolt Threads is pioneering the bio-manufacturing movement of materials. The company, founded in 2009, is creating the next generation of materials that raise the bar for sustainability through an intentional design for reduced environmental impact. From its initial team of three founders, Widmaier has scaled Bolt Threads to a biomaterials platform with over 100 employees and secured over $200 million worth of investor capital.

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.

Since the success of Microsilk, Widmaier led the creation of the next product, Mylo — a leather-like material made from mycelium, the branching underground structure of mushrooms. It is made in a less resource-intensive way and with fewer environmental impacts than traditional or synthetic leather. Unlike synthetic leather alternatives, Myo is not petroleum-based.

In April 2018, Stella McCartney created a prototype version of her Falabella bag using Mylo, unveiled at the “Fashioned from Nature” exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. In September 2018, Bolt Threads collaborated with Portland-based brand Chester Wallace to launch the first-ever commercially available product made from Mylo, the Bolt Projects Mylo Driver Bag, sold via Kickstarter.

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