When another algae story hits the media there is a tendency to file it until there is something more substantial to report. However, here is another story:
Only a year old, Sapphire Energy is a San Diego startup that has lab-developed an algae that it says can create a substance akin to crude oil that can be processed by existing refineries, transported through existing infrastructure and burned without difficulty by today’s vehicles.
What makes the story a little interesting is the financial backing in support of this startup. Some investors are very convinced of this technology.
Sapphire has raised over $50 million from three investors, including Arch Venture Partners, whose Kristina Burow helped co-found the company. Burow told me in an interview yesterday that Arch, along with Venrock and UK-based medical research charity The Wellcome Trust, has given Sapphire an “open checkbook” not based on the usual venture model of set rounds and valuations, from which the company can draw as much capital as necessary to commercialize the technology as rapidly as possible.
The excitement of Sapphire’s investors and founders over its technology stems in part from the size of its plans. CEO Jason Pyle says that where other biofuels can only promise to replace a small fraction of the oil use in the United States, the algae that Sapphire is working on could replace all of it.