Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Greenfuel: IP for sale

Wade Roush at XConomy notes that Greenfuel, which ceased operation on May 13, is selling off assets, including IP:

In a post on its website June 2, 2009, the company said it’s entertaining offers for its basic algae production technology—big tanks designed to be installed next to facilities such as cement plants that emit lots of carbon dioxide, which can be captured and converted into plant matter through photosynthesis.

The company also said it’s selling intellectual property related to “downstream processing” of the algae, thin film technology, algae selection and optimization techniques, and “Generation 1 and 2 bioreactors (tubular).” The company is planning a sealed bid auction for the assets, and says a detailed description and bid sheet is available to interested parties.

According to an e-mail tip received from “Anon GreenFueler”—presumably, a former employee of the startup—there are “several interested parties currently vying to bid for the trade secrets, know-how, and equipment held by GreenFuel.”

IPBiz notes that intellectual property assets must be valued against a business model to use the assets. Ask Xerox,

Recall that GreenFuel came out of MIT and Harvard. CleanTech wrote on 15 May 09:

GreenFuel Technologies, the Harvard-MIT algae company, is ending operations.

“We are closing doors. We are a victim of the economy,” Duncan McIntyre at Polaris Venture Partners, which invested in Greenfuel, told Greentech Media.

The closing comes despite millions of dollars raised – over $70 million in venture funding since its inception in 2001, from investors, including Polaris, Access Private Equity and Draper Fisher Jurvetson – and a deal with Auranta to build test facilities in Spain. GreenFuel says it could not get the funding to complete the project. In January, it laid off half its staff – 19 people.

GreenFuel’s technology involves pumping carbon dioxide from smokestacks into “bioreactors” – sealed bags filled with algae and water. The algae would feed on the carbon dioxide, then be turned into oil for biodiesel. Protein and other matter from the algae would be sold to pet food manufacturers.

The company has faced numerous delays and technical glitches, including difficulties with a test project in Arizona in 2007 that “over produced” algae, leading to layoffs, restructuring and a search for additional funding.

Note also a Dow Chemical connection to GreenFuel; from GreenTechMedia:

Simon Upfill-Brown, a former Dow Chemical executive, took the top spot at GreenFuel Technology Corp. in July after a yearlong stint by interim CEO Bob Metcalfe, Ethernet inventor and chairman of the GreenFuel board, who replaced founder Cary Bullock, now vice president of business development.

IPBiz: Ethernet? Recall Xerox and see above.

**Scott Kirsner wrote in Globe:

Venture capitalist Rob Day, a principal at Wilmington-based @ventures, noted the shutdown of GreenFuel Technologies Corp. and said "there is a lot of bad news yet to be seen in clean-tech venture capital." Cambridge-based GreenFuel had raised more than $70 million to try to commercialize a process that used specially bred algae to turn carbon dioxide into biofuels.

A lot of high-profile [clean tech] start-ups have high cash burn and unclear follow-on financing prospects, because they raised big money at big valuations in the past and since then the world has changed and fewer big money/big valuation deals are getting done. Many of those companies have over the past few months been put into a slowdown mode and maybe have received bridge financings and the like. All of which helps them stick around, but also doesn't completely address their growth needs - in fact, it might hinder their ability to grow . . .

Scott also had some things to say about PowerPoint:

Simplify - Most presentations try to do too much. The best thing to do is pick a few points and make them. Adding more detail often creates confusion. Yes, the presentation may be your one and only chance to share your views, so the temptation is to throw in the kitchen sink. But an empty kitchen sink works better than one clogged with dishes.

Hand-outs are a beautiful thing - A presentation should help you tell a story or communicate an idea. Nothing can bring that to a screeching halt like three columns with 20 rows in 12-point font on a single slide. Even if someone is presenting business cases or budget proposals, leave-behinds and hand-outs help communicate the key elements and answer likely questions without detracting from the presentation.

If you read your slides, you have lost already - Your back is to the audience, passion is leached from your voice, and you end [up] not connecting. This also means you don't need complete sentences on every slide.

IPBiz adds that short videoclips can be effective at making a given point.


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