Fans of 80s/90s jangle pop might recall Harriet Wheeler and her band The Sundays singing about “that little souvenir of a terrible year”, fans of Silicon Valley corporate shenanigans should take note of this little souvenir,
as it plays a key role in the strange story of high flying Silicon Valley company Twist Biosciences (TWST).
Twist, which was founded in November 2011, or perhaps February 2012, or maybe February 2013, or possibly April 2013 (the corporate history is fluid at best), was an October 2018 IPO and currently sports a nearly $900mm valuation. The shares have been marching steadily higher over the last month, heading into the lockup expiration on the 29th of April. Investors must not have read the prospectus closely, or at all.
Much like bioturd Organovo (ONVO), Twist uses all sorts of biotech buzzwords (“oligonucleotides”, “synbio”, “synthetic DNA”, “NGS” and our favorite here at BuyersStrike! HQ “leverage e-commerce to scale the genomics business“) to hide what is really just an inkjet printer business. Yes, that is what Twist actually does. Fancy inkjets that print DNA. Instead of CMYK colored ink, the Twist machines spit out adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T) inks.
It is true that selling fancy ink for fancy inkjet printers can be a good business. Just ask Hewlett Packard (HPQ) and its spinout Agilent (A). Asking Agilent in particular about Twist, its founders, and its employees, would be very wise.
Let’s examine the history of Twist, some of its officers and learn about that little souvenir from an angry former employer…