April 2014 Feature: Interview with Cameron Strachan co-founder and CEO of MetaMixis

About Cameron

Cameron is passionate about synthetic biology. After graduating top student in microbiology at UBC, he worked to develop technologies for high-throughput genetic engineering. He then co-founded MetaMixis Inc., which engineers bacteria for the production of renewable specialty chemicals. Cameron is now working to grow MetaMixis and hopes the company will one day have a dramatic impact on sustainable manufacturing. Cam participated in The Lean Launch Pad (LLP) program offered by genomics.entrepreneurship@ubc. LLP is designed to engage you in moving potential products out of the lab and into the market through talking to customers, partners and competitors, and encountering the challenges and uncertainty of creating successful innovations.

Four Fun Facts About Cam

    1. He is great at networking
    2. But during his down-time, he prefers to spend time with friends
    3. He once started a fire in the lab
    4. He hopes that Vancouver will be the bio-silicon valley

We heard that you found a way to grow your own mobile phone, and that you have been busy sharing your knowledge across the world. Are tablets next? (Watch Cam’s 6 Minutes of Passion for Science Video)

We are moving to tablets, but growing things that work on the cloud has been a challenge.

Has your participation in the Lean Launch Pad (LLP) helped you in this endeavor?

The Lean Launch Pad was essential to getting MetaMixis off the ground. Through intensive networking, customer discovery, and professional support we gained invaluable insight into starting a viable company.  As our team was from a technical background, this was incredible valuable. We now have new members of the company entering the next cohort!

What are some of the key aspects of the Lean Launch Pad that you remember the most, and how have you applied them to your work at MetaMixis?

One key aspect was the importance of validating business models using interview-based data.  If MetaMixis had pursued the original business model, based off literature data, we would have developed a product for a non-existing customer.

During your presentation at the UBC Life Sciences Institute Start-Up 101, you mentioned that before you participated in the LLP, you (and your colleagues) “were a solution looking for a problem”. Do you think that many researchers in your field come across the same challenge?

I think so and it seems to dramatically increase your time to market. Depending on what resources are available to the company, the added time can be very dangerous. The LLP program is directly mitigating this. By informing your technical development with customer data, the time to market becomes much shorter (I will have to confirm when MetaMixis get’s a product to market!)

You also said that you can’t be too young to start your own life sciences company. What is your advice to young researchers out there inspired to begin their own companies?

You can’t be too young, but experience is invaluable. Get yourself networked and supported by the best, most experienced people you can. LLP is a great first opportunity to do this.

MetaMix has been selected to participate in the Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, managed by the Canadian Trade Commissioner Services, congratulations. This is a great opportunity for collaboration and knowledge transfer across borders. What are you looking forward to the most?

The Bay area is the epicenter of Synthetic Biology. We want to use this opportunity to engage companies in this area, and potentially bring some of the collaborations back to Canada.


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