GreenFuel Powers Through First Steps of Recovery Plan; Algae Thriving

GreenFuel Technologies “completed, and in cases blew away” the first five steps of its seven-part recovery plan, interim CEO Bob Metcalfe reports. After successfully raising revenues while simultaneously lowering expenses, the Cambridge, MA-based renewable energy firm has pushed the end date for its so-called interim period, by which it needs to complete a new round of funding, “from December to March to now June,” Metcalfe reports. The two remaining, uncompleted steps are finding a permanent chief executive to replace Metcalfe and scale the company’s growth, and closing that new, Series C, financing round.

GreenFuel develops algae bioreactor systems that convert carbon dioxide emissions into renewable, clean-burning biofuels. As we reported at the end of June, just days after Xconomy’s launch, the company had been forced to shut down its third-generation algae greenhouse in Arizona, which had produced too much algae to handle properly. GreenFuel had also learned that its algae-harvesting system would cost twice as much as anticipated. The setbacks led to the layoffs of roughly half the company’s 50-person staff and the appointment of Metcalfe, the Ethernet inventor and Polaris Venture Partners general partner, as interim CEO. (Polaris and Draper Fisher Jurvetson are leading GreenFuel investors).

A few days after our initial report, we published a letter from Metcalfe, apparently aimed chiefly at investors and GreenFuel employees, outlining his plan for recovery. Its seven steps were:

— conserve cash and cut expenses
— raise interim cash in the next 30 days
— scale back, then restart, the firm’s third-generation algae greenhouse in Arizona and complete a long-planned algae growth demonstration there
— “accelerate the scale up of our fourth-generation algae greenhouse technology, now in early operation at a 550-megawatt coal power plant in ‘Asia.’ An engineering scale greenhouse must be completed at our Arizona facility by October.”
— “develop a project plan for a commercial scale algae greenhouse and sign by November at least one letter of intent with a compelling partner.” (Metcalfe disclosed at the time that GreenFuel was already talking with partners about projects ranging between $10M and $30M)
— hire a new CEO
— close GreenFuel’s next, expansion round of financing

Under that plan, the CEO was supposed to have been successfully recruited by November and the financing closed by year’s end. The success with the other five parts of the plan seems to have allowed some breathing room on those two fronts.

“We continue our search for a scaling CEO (to replace me) and due diligence toward the close of our C round of finance,” Metcalfe wrote Friday in an e-mailed update. “Our algae farming systems are increasing production, particularly in Cambridge, where our Winter days are growing longer and the Sun higher in the sky.”

More news should come soon, Metcalfe says.

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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