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Bolt Threads raises $50 million to brew spider silk, inks deal with Patagonia

TechCrunch TechCrunch 11/05/2016 Lora Kolodny

If the idea of wearing spider silk intrigues, the idea of managing a farm full of spiders isn’t all that appealing. A startup called Bolt Threads has developed a means of brewing spider silk and other insect fibers, and spinning then into yarn, making them accessible to makers of apparel, upholstery and more.

Co-founded in 2009 by CEO Dan Widmaier, Chief Scientific Officer David Breslauer, and Vice President of Operations Ethan Mirsky, Bolt Threads has raised $50 million in a Series C round of venture funding, the company announced today on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY.

“Two new big pieces of information today. One we’ve closed a $50 million Series C round,” Widmaier said on stage.

The second announcement is that the company has also inked a deal with Patagonia to begin developing and designing products with these science fiction-esque new threads. “We’re not disclosing what we’re doing yet, we’re disclosing that we’re working with them,” Widmaier said.

Bolt already manufactures its Engineered Silk protein at scale, with outsourced manufacturing partners, says CEO Dan Widmaier, and will be moving into yarn manufacturing this summer.

Formation8 led the investment joined by Hong Kong-based Nan Fung, and Innovation Endeavors. Earlier backers of Bolt, including Alafi Capital, East West Capital, Foundation Capital and Founders Fund also participated.

A founder and General Partner with Formation 8, Jim Kim, said his firm invested in Bolt because its silks have amazing properties. Spider silks could be used to make materials that are stronger than Kevlar, and more durable but at least as flexible as Lycra, he said.

But the processes that Bolt Threads has come up with are far easier than natural silk manufacturing, which traditionally requires silkworms and plenty of mulberry leaves, which are plants threatened by climate change and the silk industry.

Kim said, “Lots of people are investing in the next Uber for something, but not a lot of people understand the technology around textiles. What Bolt is doing impacts a trillion dollar market.”

Given the funding, Kim said he expects Bolt Threads to make its bio-fabricated silks available in mainstream products by 2018.

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