Synthace CEO on Scaling Innovative Companies and Accelerating Life Sciences
In May 2021, Synthace appointed Guy Levy-Yurista as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and a member of the Board of Directors. Guy will be leading Synthace through its next stage of growth, aiming to establish the company as a true leader within life sciences.
We sat down with Guy to chat about his journey into the world of biotech, his plans and vision for Synthace in the coming years, and the steps he’s already taken in the first few weeks of his appointment to strengthen and broaden the company culture.
When I got an opportunity to join and lead Synthace, I was buzzing with excitement! The more I looked into the company and the more I reviewed what the company was doing, the more enticed I became. I was fascinated with Synthace’s vision of revolutionizing life sciences R&D and its mission to usher in a quantum leap in the way science is done."Guy Levy-Yurista CEO, Synthace
To start, would you be able to give our readers an overview of your background?
That’s a great question. On one hand I’m a classic veteran of the Israeli high-tech industry with all the usual major stops checked, but I’ve also been living, studying, and working in the US for 19 years now. The best way to describe me is an Israeli-American, embracing both cultures. I'm also an uber-techie with a PhD in Physics. I truly love technology and have a very curious mind. If I’m interested in something, I’ll learn all about it.
Along the way I also got my MBA degree, and the reason was rather prosaic. Essentially, I grew tired of people telling me what to do and me not agreeing with their decisions but lacking the appropriate framework to back up my reasoning. Now I have this kind of knowledge, and I am grateful for having made the decision to go back to school. It was such an outstanding, mind-expanding experience.
Synthace is the seventh start-up I’ve been a part of, and each one has been in a completely different sector. By now I've done medical devices, e-commerce, B2C, B2B, B2B2C, and B2G (business to government). I’ve developed hardware, firmware, and software. I've done cyber, wireless communications, optical networks, worked with big data and big data analytics. And now with Synthace, I am embarking on a new and exciting journey into life sciences and biotechnology.
As long as it's new and interesting, I’m down – it’s always a fun adventure that I see ahead of me, and I view challenges as amazing opportunities to learn and grow.
You started your career in physics and moved on to many different sectors - what attracted you to switch to life sciences?
In 2010, I read a book called “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology” by Ray Kurzweil. This book completely opened my eyes about the direction that humanity is taking. It talks about the convergence of three technological revolutions – in robotics (including AI and machine learning), nanotechnology, and biology (especially genetics) – and how this convergence is going to change the way humanity will look in the future. Kurzweil claims that with genetic technology, we should be able to maintain the body indefinitely, reversing ageing while curing cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. And so for me, as a techie and a nerd, it became super critical to understand as much as I could about biotechnology and genetics and where these fields are headed.
Ever since then, for the past 11 years, I’ve been tracking these topics, reading about them. I've been looking really hard at biotechnology, including genetics and genomics, and learning about all the advancements in the market. I kept telling myself, “Guy, the next thing for you, the next role you’re going to take will be in biotech. It needs to be in that field.”
So when I got an opportunity to join and lead Synthace, I was buzzing with excitement! The more I looked into the company and the more I reviewed what the company was doing, the more enticed I became. I was fascinated with Synthace’s vision of revolutionizing life sciences R&D and its mission to usher in a quantum leap in the way science is done.
This decade, the 20s, is going to be the decade of biotechnology, genetics, genomics, and all the adjacent areas. And Synthace is going to sit at the heart of it all, helping advance it at an ever accelerating pace."Guy Levy-Yurista CEO, Synthace
Do you have any initial hunches as to how Synthace’s technology will transform life sciences in the next few years?
My vision for Synthace is that we will become the major force of innovation for life sciences R&D and manufacturing. And it won’t take long for us to achieve that. We will help guide the industry towards its next step.
My goal is that every new researcher, when they get into the lab, will receive a chair, a desk, a laptop, and access to the Synthace cloud platform in order to design and execute their research and help drive scientific innovation. My commitment to the team is that we will become the best product out there – the most cutting-edge, the one that allows life sciences to progress significantly for the benefit of humankind.
It's not just about putting another filter on a picture of kittens that people can send to their social network. It's about a significant breakthrough that enables the delivery of new kinds of vaccinations and drugs in record time to eliminate disease and help all of humanity.
This decade, the 20s, is going to be the decade of biotechnology, genetics, genomics, and all the adjacent areas. And Synthace is going to sit at the heart of it all, helping advance it at an ever accelerating pace.
As our new CEO, what drives you to be an exceptional leader and how do you see yourself making an impact at Synthace?
As cartoonist Allen Saunders famously said and John Lennon then sang in "Beautiful Boy", “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans”. So to a great degree, I look at my journey through life as an amazing adventure. I'm a huge believer in making the right decisions for the wrong reasons. “Right reasons” would be what society says you should be doing. “Wrong reasons” are the ones that get to the heart of who you are and speak to what's important to you.
The decisions I make always come straight from my heart: what is it that I feel would resonate with my own values and my own interests and would provide the most growth opportunity? My life goal – my life's purpose – is growth to me and my ever-expanding life circles. How can I learn more? Where can I grow? How can I positively impact my immediate surroundings and then beyond them?
At Synthace, I ask myself this: how can I deliver as much positive impact to all of us as possible? How can we grow as individuals, as teams, and as a company? Growth means learning new skills, gaining new insights about ourselves and the world, and being able to deliver against this amazing mission and vision that Synthace has.
Synthace’s mission is absolutely one I can get behind. When I’m much older, retired, sitting with my grandkids, I want to feel that I’ve spent my time well, I did something that was worth doing. I have made the world a better place.
I am fierce in the pursuit of excellence within my team, making sure that everyone at Synthace is indeed an A player, a top-notch team player. We already have an amazing team, a very smart group of people in place. And it’s critical for us to maintain that and continue driving towards ongoing excellence."Guy Levy-Yurista CEO, Synthace
What’s the most common challenge you see in companies, especially smaller companies that are scaling?
The biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for every company, no matter the scale, is people. It's always about making sure that you have the best people in your team and that you create the best environment possible for them. It's a nature and nurture exercise: you need to nurture your people and you also need to hire those that by nature are A and A-plus players.
The worst thing that can happen to an organization is the bozo explosion, a term used by Steve Jobs. It’s a situation where you make the mistake of hiring a B player, who then very rapidly hires a C player because they don't want to be replaced. The C player then hires a D player, and so on. You then end up with a branch of bozos at your company.
So I am fierce in the pursuit of excellence within my team, making sure that everyone at Synthace is indeed an A player, a top-notch team player. There should also be no toxicity in the workplace - keeping a positive company culture is critical for us.
We already have an amazing team, a very smart group of people in place. And it’s critical for us to maintain that and continue driving towards ongoing excellence. This is on us, the management, and specifically on me to create, enable, and promote this kind of environment.
What are your plans for increasing representation and diversity at Synthace?
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is one of the most important goals that a company can pursue. And I'm not just saying it – I mean it with all my heart, it's really something that is near and dear to me. It goes all the way back to how I’ve been raising my own kids since they were born. My wife and I have been instilling in them the importance of diversity, inclusiveness, and how everyone should have an equitable chance in life.
What it means for Synthace is that we're going to place a lot of attention on DEI. This comes from the top – the DNA of an organization always flows from the top. The first steps have already been taken: for example, we have decided to expand the Leadership team, which now contains 50% women and represents more key functions of the business. This is such an important thing and unfortunately rare too, especially in technology companies. We made this change instantly, and it was absolutely the right thing to do.
As we’re also recruiting now, I’ve let the management know that I expect to see us doubling down on ensuring an even more diverse roster of candidates. As we scale, we will focus our efforts on building processes that encourage and support diversity. We aim to achieve this by continuing to build partnerships with companies and groups that connect us with underrepresented communities, ensuring that we have even more diverse candidate rosters for each open position, identifying and removing blockers in our hiring processes, and continuing to listen and learn at all times.
When I'm looking at our managers, I want to see a real effort to hire from backgrounds as diverse as possible. I'm going to be extremely interested in that, and I will measure us against it. We will measure our success in becoming even more diverse and inclusive and will make these numbers public.
Even in a diverse team, a lot of training is still needed. One issue with stereotypes is that they're biologically wired within us, which we need to recognize. The minute we recognize it, we can apply self-scrutiny to fix that. Here’s a very simple example of something that most would not consider to be an inclusiveness issue, but it absolutely is one: calling the company’s winter party a “Christmas party”. I'm Jewish, and we have Muslims and Hindus in the company and possibly members of other faiths. And so we need to make sure everyone feels this party is also their party and that they are welcomed to it no matter what their background is.
One of the first things I do when I set up my company calendar is adding all the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu holidays (I haven't found a Chinese calendar yet but I’ll add that when I find it). I need to know what's going on outside of my own background. I am doing my best to be aware of other people’s holidays and important dates, plus have you ever seen a more colourful holiday than Holi?
Earth Day 2022: We Need Biology in the Fight Against Climate Change. But Are We Ready To Use It?
Biology could be one of the most powerful technologies available to help arrest the devastation of climate change - so what's stopping us?
How to Make High Throughput Design of Experiments the Norm in Assay Development
High throughput design of experiments: rapid discovery powered by Design of Experiments on SPT Labtech’s dragonfly dispenser