Interview with LanzaTech, 2015 Innovation Open Winner

Our annual competition showcasing startups that craft sustainable and profitable change, the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO), is quickly approaching. In our excitement, we wanted to share progress from some of our past finalists and winners. This week’s update is from our 2015 overall winner, LanzaTech.

Introducing a novel approach to capturing and reusing carbon waste, LanzaTech impressed their SBIO audience and judges last year. To hear more about what they’ve accomplished and what to expect next, we recently spoke with CEO Jennifer Holmgren.

What has happened at LanzaTech since last year’s SBIO?

Jennifer Holmgren: To me, the key thing is that we’ve increased messaging around the circular economy. It’s really important for the future, that we try to use every last bit in production. The second big thing is we’ve made a lot of progress on chemicals and our ability to make precursors that end up being used for things like rubber, nylon and foam, which is really huge. Lastly, our technology has really advanced. When we were at SBIO last year, our commercial projects were in the engineering stage. Now, we’re really progressing – for example, our steel plant project in Belgium started construction.

Wow, things are really developing! What else is LanzaTech working on?

JH: We would love to partner with people who need the products we create. Carbon capture is sustainable and socially conscious – which is really important to us – so there is a lot of possibilities for different partnerships for delivering these kinds of technologies for use in consumer goods production. We’re definitely making progress, but more than anything we’re looking for support. Having people tell us, “Wow, this is great” or “This is how you can make it better” is really beneficial.

How do you see the circular economy model progressing over time on a global scale?

JH: I really believe carbon reduction is a social change, just like putting on your seatbelt or not throwing your trash out of the window. When I think of a circular economy, it really is the same thing. I think about Mother Nature; nature doesn’t waste anything. Everything is being used, and that’s how we need to look at it. I look at my entire supply chain and I know that there is no waste, and I think consumers have the power to demand that. At every level, everyone should be asking “Can I recycle or reuse this? Is there another way? Consumers have a right to ask these questions.

What was your SBIO experience like?

JH: The experience was awesome, we really enjoyed being there. It was a lot of fun to meet people that we don’t normally work with. We had the ability to talk to them and get their input, which was really great. We don’t get those kinds of opportunities very often.

Do you have any advice for this year’s entrants?

JH: I would say go learn from it. Learn from talking to people you wouldn’t normally talk to. They can help you improve your company in a lot of different ways. And of course, enjoy!

Work for or know an innovative startup creating positive impact for people, planet and profit? Sustainable Brands® recently opened submissions for our internationally recognized startup business competition Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO). Presented and sponsored for a fifth year by Target, the competition culminates at SB’16 San Diego, June 6-9, with venture finalists presenting their early operational plans to business leaders and investors in the Sustainable Brands community. Apply by March 25 for a chance to win cash prizes, free consultation with business experts, and opportunities to network with top-level executives from today’s most influential companies. To submit an entry and learn about past finalists, visit the SB Innovation Open 2016 web page at or contact for more information.

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