Prometheus, $10M in Hand, Poised to Deliver Alternative Fuel for Shell Technology Ventures

7/3/09Follow @gthuang

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reduce methane emissions from the mine and trade carbon credits from the site as a source of revenue. Montague notes that Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe could be a big market opportunity.

So you’d think the field would be pretty crowded, but opportunities abound. “The concept of waste-to-energy is exciting to investors, but a lot of companies are 18 to 36 months away from having proven, robust technology,” says Butler. On the venture side, Butler says there are only about 20 to 30 investors around the country who “get it,” meaning they have a deep understanding of the oil and gas industry, the waste-to-energy market, and the technology. In the end, Prometheus’s choice of investors came down to a Denver firm, a Houston firm, and Shell—and involved months of due diligence.

Plenty of things could still go wrong for Prometheus, of course—everything from falling oil prices to relationships with foreign governments. “Our biggest challenge is execution,” Montague says. “We have some capital, and a strong pipeline of projects. Now it’s executing on those projects, and doing it well. At the end of the day, it’s all about people.” He says he’s not as concerned about the markets; he suspects the price of oil will go above $100 a barrel again (it’s around $70 now). “Could there be macroeconomic factors? Sure,” he says. “We’re closing in the worst recession we’ve ever seen. But we’ve continued to build our business. We’re doing OK now.”

Prometheus currently has 27 employees in the U.S., including operators at its plants in California and Utah, as well as eight workers in Poland. Montague says the company is looking to hire six to eight new employees, mostly engineers, in the U.S.

As for what the deal means to the Seattle cleantech community, it definitely helps put the city back on the map of alternative fuel clusters, for potential investors and strategic partners. But it’s no Houston, say, at least not yet. “Seattle ought to be a leader in this space,” Montague says. “To successfully build a company—that’s the best thing we can do.”

Asked for his advice on surviving tough times as a cleantech startup, Montague points out the mistakes Prometheus made in the past few years. “We grew too fast, we hired the wrong people, and saw our culture shift,” he says. “You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing. The road is rocky, it gets turbulent. 2008 was tough. We could have packed up the tent.” Instead, he forged on. Lastly, he adds, be careful who you choose for a broker. “A big turning point for our company was to pick a local broker. It was a huge difference for us,” he says. “Choose wisely who your partners are.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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  • Joel Baughman

    Congratulations, Kirt! Glad to hear things are going well.