Genoa Ventures’ Jenny Rooke

From our Women's PE Briefs - week commencing April 26, 2021

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When Jenny Rooke invested in Zymergen, Inc.’s seed round in April 2014, she tells Women’s PE Briefs that she saw a company that “had the vision and potential to be a large publicly traded company given their potential to transform the chemicals industry.” Jenny’s belief proved well founded as the Emeryville, Calif. company has gone public, raising $500 million by pricing 16.1 million shares at $31 a share. Now traded on Nasdaq under the symbol ZY, Zymergen becomes Jenny’s first portfolio company to go public. The company is developing biomanufacturing technologies for materials and chemicals.

Jenny, who now leads Genoa Ventures, invested in Zymergen while running 5 Prime Ventures. She subsequently invested in the company’s $42 million Series A round in 2015. In 2018, Jenny founded Genoa to build on her prior track record. Earlier this year, another of Jenny’s portfolio companies, Intabio, Inc., whose co-founder and CEO is Lena Wu, was acquired by SCIEX, which is led by Inese Lowenstein.

“Historically the kinds of companies that I’m passionate about, that make real products by innovating at the convergence of biology and technology, have exited primarily through acquisition by industry giants looking to acquire specific technology or products. But as the industry grows and markets increasingly recognize the scale and value capture potential of these companies, not just in ‘biotech’ but also in other enormous bio-based industries, the IPO path will increasingly be a viable option for visionary, transformative ‘biology beyond biotech’ startups.”

Zymergen raised some $875 million from a group that also included SoftBank Vision Fund, Goldman Sachs, DCVC, True Ventures, Two Sigma Ventures and Threshold Ventures. The SoftBank Vision Fund was listed as the largest shareholder with a 32.8 percent pre-IPO stake. True Ventures owned 10.4 percent while DCVC held 9.1 percent.

Zymergen’s board includes Christine Gorjanc, who last year retired as CFO of Arlo Technologies, Inc., and Sandi Peterson, who was previously group worldwide chairman for Johnson & Johnson and is now an operating partner with private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice. She will speak at the upcoming Women’s Leadership Unbound Summit. CD&R is not an investor in Zymergen.

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