Kickin’ it with Sidekick: Samir Hamadache
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Meet Samir Hamadache – Co-Founder and CEO of Forest City SynBio – a home for groundbreaking startups to develop new ways of making the world more sustainable through breakthrough applications of synthetic biology.
A PhD candidate in synthetic biology, Samir co-founded Forest City SynBio in 2018, leading the foundation of the organization and securing partnerships with key stakeholders in public, private, and academic spaces. We admire the mission ofForest City SynBioto empower entrepreneurs to use synthetic biology to solve the world’s biggest problems. To do this, the company provides early-stage founders with access to lab space, mentorship, and investments with the vision of creating a world-class hub for synthetic biology startups.
Samir’s achievements as an early-career scientist and leader have earned him the most prestigious award in Canada for doctoral students, the Vanier Scholarship, and a spot on Business London's "Twenty in their 20s" list in 2020. His conviction in the power of synthetic biology to improve the health of our planet and life on it motivates his devotion to advancing this important new technology.
Samir is a true innovator who shares with us the most influential book he’s read, his personal ethos and a life-changing moment for him. We are inspired by his optimistic outlook, and we know you will be too! Keep reading to learn more:
1. What book/podcast/documentary/piece of content do you recommend the most and why? Or what books/podcasts/documentaries/pieces of content has greatly influenced your life?
One book that stands out for me is The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch. It’s about epistemology and science, but I found it deeply inspiring for my early career as a founder. It left me with a profound optimism that “problems are inevitable, but they are solvable.” Both times that I read it I was left with renewed conviction in the power of knowledge and good explanations. It’s a great book for anyone to read but I would especially recommend it for entrepreneurs and scientists. For those staring into the abyss, as Elon Musk puts it, this book is a persuasive reminder that there is a path to success, and it begins with the pursuit of knowledge.
2. Do you have a personal ethos that helps guide your decisions and choices? What is it and where did it come from?
We can’t just look at nature and deduce morals from it. That said, I enjoy reflecting on life at the molecular scale and drawing inspiration for my decision-making from “how nature does things”. Here are three examples of values I draw from biology:
1) Self-discovery: The cells in your body all have the same DNA but look and behave very differently if they’re brain or bone cells. Genes are switched on and off based on a cell’s environment, making some 200 different cell types. Minds and bodies can also explore a huge range of possible situations and respond to them in countless different ways. We never know what we’re capable of until we step into the unknown, or as Adam Braun put it, “self-discovery begins where your comfort zone ends.”
2) Lifelong learning: Gaining knowledge is the only way to adapt to new situations. We gather knowledge from other people and our environments much like bacteria get genes from each other and their surroundings - except we can do it as much or as little as we want. Losses and failures sometimes hold the most important knowledge, so you really can’t lose with an attitude of lifelong learning.
3) Being a connector: Proteins work in groups, interacting with each other in big networks. “Hub” proteins work with lots of others, while most only interact with a few. The hubs turn out to be critically important just by interacting with a wider variety of peers. I always look for ways to be a connector by bringing people together. Some of my most fulfilling experiences have come from simply introducing people to each other and finding ways to be a channel for useful information. Fun fact: hub proteins tend to be very physically flexible, what biochemists call “intrinsically disordered”.
3. Was there an exact moment or experience that pushed you to start your organization? Tell us about it!
At a conference in summer 2018, I gave an impromptu pitch advocating for a Canadian synthetic biology startup accelerator. I had the idea a few days before the meeting and prepared slides on the bus to Montreal. A speaker was running late for their talk, so I jumped at the opportunity. The response was a mix of agreement and skepticism based on past failed projects. Getting off stage, it occurred to me that there was no reason I couldn’t take on the initiative myself and explore what I could do to bring the vision to reality. I knew that this was an effort I could devote myself to long-term and had already taken the reputational risk, so I figured, why not? I was certainly daunted, aware that accelerators aren’t typically built by first-time entrepreneurs for obvious reasons, but I was so compelled by the necessity of the vision that I was able to choose it over fear. Two years and dozens of passionate volunteers and selfless mentors later, the project evolved into the company that is Forest City SynBio today.
From his optimism to decision-making practices, Samir is a trailblazer in sustainability. Stay up to date with Samir and his many initiatives by following him on LinkedIn and by following Forest City SynBio on LinkedIn!
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(Photo description: Headshot of Samir in suit and tie.)