Spider Silk:

How We Cracked One of Nature’s Toughest Puzzles

Five years ago, fresh off our graduate work, my co-founders and I set out to make spider’s silk without the spiders. We started a company, despite not knowing where this would lead us as a business.

David Breslauer, Ethan Mirsky and I shared a clear understanding of the immense potential if we were successful. We also knew that many people had tried to do this before, failing both quietly and spectacularly. The dream of making this amazing material from nature has been around for decades. It’s the stuff of comic books and popular science shows.

Five years later, our journey brings us to a cool and unexpected milestone:

one that has very little to do with spiders and a lot to do with the future of textiles. That brings us to today, where I’m honored to be speaking amongst such reputable industry players at the 2015 Bloomberg Technology Conference: Code and the Corner Office to discuss how computation plays such a critical role in the potential impact of our technology.

I’m thrilled to unveil Bolt Threads,

the result of long years of working days, nights and weekends. (Why is it that big breakthroughs always happen in the middle of the night? David and I saw our first protein expression show up on a gel at 1AM on a Friday, and it was at 2AM — on the night of David’s 30th birthday! — when we ran our fiber spin line for the very first time.)

For five years, we’ve relentlessly pursued something truly unique, something we think can improve the world we live in. We followed the science and applied obnoxiously rational thought at each step, in search of practical and meaningful applications of our technology. In the end, this led us far from our comfort zone as technically minded founders.

Instincts and data brought us to this:

Introducing the world to a whole new material — a textile invented by scientists, one that has the potential to change many things in our daily lives, and also to change the textile industry.
Engineered Silk fibers being extruded into a liquid bath

Our technology was inspired by the spider, but it has broadened into a platform of programmable polymers: a protein material that can be tuned to create a nearly limitless array of properties. Think of our technology as a way to replicate natural silks (there are thousands of them) and tweak them with engineered changes to add new and useful properties (trillions of trillions of them).

We’ve combined this fundamental science with a healthy dose of engineering work to develop a scalable manufacturing process for our proteins. We are now deploying this manufacturing solution to deliver Engineered Silk to the world.

Innovation at this scale can only be done by a special group of dedicated people.

The world-class team at Bolt Threads has dedicated countless hours of blood, sweat and tears (literally all of these things) to bring us to where we are today. We’ve grown from three to over forty, with a one-of-a-kind mix of gifted scientists, engineers and product people. Our diverse mix of fresh graduates and industry veterans makes for a vibrant culture, and I’m excited to watch it grow. (Oh yeah, we’re hiring!)

Thanks for checking us out.

To learn more, read about Bolt Threads in Businessweek and Wired or watch our introductory video. We can’t wait to deliver our technology to you in the form of mind-blowing new high-performance fibers and fabrics — it’s just around the corner.

Toby Sanderson adjusts a Bolt Threads fermentor