Scott Uknes is one of the co-founders of AgBiome, a biotech company that focuses upon crop protection. He plays an important role in the latter's operations, seeing as how he is one of the co-CEOs as well.
1. Went to Two Schools
Education-wise, Uknes went to two schools. First, he studied at the University of Illinois. Second, he went to Washington University in St. Louis. Chances are good that interested individuals can guess that Uknes received a undergraduate degree from the first institution and then a postgraduate degree from the second institution.
2. Studied Biology
Uknes studied biology. To be exact, he studied biology for his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois. After which, Uknes focused on plant molecular biology when he went his Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis. Considering AgBiome's focus on products derived from microbial communities, his subjects of study are perhaps unsurprising.
3. The Other Co-Founder Is Eric Ward
Speaking of which, it should be mentioned that the other co-founder is Eric Ward. The two are very similar in a lot of respects. To name an example, both of them are old hands in agbiosciences. Furthermore, both Uknes and Ward are experts in plant biology who has managed to pick up a lot of leadership skills through their extensive experience.
4. The Two Co-Founders Are Best Friends
Some people find their best friends in early life. In contrast, other people take some extra time in that regard. Uknes and Ward can be considered excellent examples of the latter, seeing as how they met each other when both of them went for the Ph.D. program at Washington University in St. Louis. Having said that, it presumably helped that the two had the same interest in mind, which was the transformation of plants. Given that, it is no coincidence that Uknes and Ward wound up in the same Ph.D. program.
5. Fond of Road Cycling
Uknes' friendship with Ward is founded on a number of other things as well. For example, the two have spent a lot of time working with one another, which includes positions before their co-founding of AgBiome. Similarly, the two have shared interests, with an excellent example being their shared fondness for road cycling. In fact, Uknes was the one who mentioned that he was thinking about starting up a company before asking Ward if the latter was interested in helping out while the two were out road cycling during the summer.
6. Wants to Show that Biologicals Can Compete with Synthetics in Crop Protection
AgBiome's ambition is simple and straightforward. The two co-founders believe that biologicals can be just as good as synthetics when it comes to crop protection. As such, they intend to show this through their work, particularly since they believe that now is the time when biologicals will prove their worth in this regard. Something that can be compared to how biologicals proved their worth in the pharmaceutical industry in the 1980s. In any case, while Uknes and Ward want to show that their biologicals can compete with synthetics when it comes to crop protection, they aren't intent on eliminating the latter's use altogether even in an aspirational sense. Instead, they see the two as being potentially complementary to one another.
7. Involved in an Age-Old Effort
One could say that this means that Uknes and Ward are involved in an age-old effort. After all, pests have been a serious problem ever since people started making a living as farmers rather than hunter-gatherers. As a result, pest control has been practiced since prehistoric times. For example, people have tamed everything from cats to mongooses for the purpose of killing herbivores. Similarly, chemical pesticides are not a modern invention because we know that the Sumerians used sulphur compounds to kill insects as early as 2500 BC. Of course, modern crop protection is much more sophisticated than its pre-modern counterpart. Unfortunately, it remains as important an issue as ever, not least because we are now striving to feed a bigger population while working with climate change looming overhead. Something that has unpleasant implications for food security to say the least.
8. Believes in Commitment Culture
One of the things that stand out about AgBiome is its treatment of its employees. This can be traced to Uknes and Ward's shared belief in commitment culture, which means a simultaneous commitment from the company to its employees and from the employees to their company. As for why they believe in it, well, suffice to say that it has been shown to produce the best results on a number of important metrics. Interestingly, Uknes believes that they have managed to create a commitment culture for the most part. However, he acknowledges that new behaviors will always emerge because people are people, which he sees as something that makes life interesting rather than something negative in nature.
9. His Company Stresses Teamwork
Uknes' company stresses a number of things. In particular, it puts a huge emphasis on teamwork, so much so that it believes that its employees should compete with other companies rather than between themselves. This is interesting because there are a lot of companies that believe in friendly competition between employees, which is believed to spur them on to greater heights. Besides this, AgBiome runs by a number of other predictable principles. For example, it believes in trust-building between employees, which should be made possible by open communication. Similarly, it believes in letting employees take initiative when coming together to solve problems.
10. Has Had Numerous Mentors
As far as Uknes is concerned, he was mentored by a single individual so much as a succession of individuals over the course of his career. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he considers Ward to be the most important of these, similar to how Ward considers him to be the most important of Ward's mentors. Uknes is still being influenced in a positive way by the people he interacts with in the present time, which include those working with him in his current company.
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee