Unreasonable Impact | Solving the World’s Biggest Challenges: LanzaTech

Unreasonable Impact | Solving the World’s Biggest Challenges: LanzaTech


Last week, Barclays and the Unreasonable Group hosted the first Unreasonable Impact World Forum, bringing together 27 innovative companies from Asia, the US and Europe working to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. In the first of three profiles of those taking part, we hear from Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of LanzaTech, about thinking the impossible, carbon-monoxide eating bugs – and doing what you think is right.

Monday, October 2, 2017 - 8:50am

CAMPAIGN: Entrepreneurs


How did you end up at LanzaTech?

At the time biotech was really hot, so recruiters would always call and ask if I wanted to be CEO of this or that company, and I always said no. I wanted to retire when I was 50. That was something my husband and I had decided to do. One day, a recruiter called about this company, LanzaTech. It was really bizarre because I’d never heard of it, even though I knew every company in the sector at that point. I said: ‘I’m not looking for a job’, but I dug into it and saw that it was a really cool platform. The more I learned about the company, the more excited I got. I could understand it the minute I saw it because I knew the power of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. When somebody said: ‘We have a bug that can eat carbon monoxide’, I said: ‘You’re kidding me, right? And it doesn’t need hydrogen? And it’s contaminant resistant?’. I thought: ‘Oh man, if we can make this work, this is super cool.’

Why is working on this problem so important to you?

I think the greenhouse gas issue is a crisis. Every year, we see it get worse, and it’s going to get worse fast. I have a problem not trying to do something about that. And I’m very fortunate because I get to work on a technology to solve that problem and show the world that you can take carbon and turn it from a liability into an opportunity. But the other reason is because, as much as I hate public speaking and being with people, I can get up and give presentations in a lot of venues. Even if I impact five people in a room, they can start thinking about greenhouse gasses and maybe remember to turn out the lights that day. Then, I’ll have done something.

What’s been the biggest triumph along this journey?

I don’t know that there’s been some big thing. Every week, we think there’s something that is a good achievement, and we have a lot of fun. I always write notes to the team, and I remember once I wrote: ‘We’re on the road to awesome. It’s not paved, but I can assure you the view will be really great at the top.’ So we’re just all looking forward to seeing the view.

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