Transformative Technologies 2011: Sweet Sixteen voting, what went right and wrong?

September 4, 2011 |

Sweet Sixteen (round three) voting finished on Friday in the Transformative Technologies 2011 tournament. Four favorites advanced, yet four fell, including a #1 regional seed, (Amyris) and two regional #2 seeds (Virent and Codexis). East Regional #3 seed Mascoma also fell, toppled by Joule Unlimited in a close match.

What went right and wrong?

1. Nearer to commercialization. Generally, the companies that were on the faster commercialization tracks, won.

2. Are those underdogs really underdogs? Five companies recorded upsets in the round of 32, and four of the five steamrolled to victory in the Sweet Sixteen – #5 International seed Novozymes, #6 Central seed Terrabon, #7 East seed Joule Unlimited, and #11 West seed OriginOil. What do they have in common? Passionate fan bases for their differentiated technologies – Terrabon’s MixAlco, Joule’s SolarConverter. Novozymes’ enzyme technologies, and OriginOil suite of algal technologies.

3. Ground game. A good “get out the vote” effort helps – companies like Solazyme, Terrabon and OriginOil went to lengths to remind their supporters among Digest subscribers to fill out their ballots, and all three advanced. All companies have strong fan bases, among those remaining – but some do better at getting out the vote.

4. Vote early. Companies like Terrabon and OriginOil put together massive first-day voting leads, and though Codexis and Virent significantly narrowed the gap, they weren’t able to overcome substantial first-day deficits, and may well have branded themselves as “not quite ready for prime time” among undecided voters.

4. Public companies do better. Gevo and Solzzyme prevailed over privately-held companies, while Amyris-Novozymes and OriginOil-Codexis battles featured a paid of publicly-held stocks. But hot IPOs and public listings are no guarantee – as KiOR, Dow, Waste Management, Rentech and Dupont found in earlier rounds.

5. Highly-branded, differentiated technologies. Companies like Solazyme, Terrabon, Gevo and OriginOil have been highly focused for some time on branding, explaining, and communicating the differentiating points of their technologies. The exception to the rule here is Amyris, which has worked hard on those same factors, but simply may have run into more branding power than it could handle in Novozymes, which is second to none in technology communications.

Voting is open to all Biofuels Digest subscribers. Voting links are in the Biofuels Digest daily newsletter. To subscribe (free), visit here.

Transformative Technologies is a subscriber-voted, “knock-out” tournament which measures the impact of the competitor’s technologies on the bioenergy landscape. More than 400 pages of data on all the competitors (and more) is available here – also, individual match-ups include links to the most recent profiles submitted by companies for the 2011-12 50 Hottest Companies in Bioenergy, which is coming up for voting in the 4th quarter of 2011.

The complete tournament bracket, with the most up to date scoring, is available for download here.

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