Condi Rice to join board of biofuel startup KiOr

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to join the board of biofuel startup KiOr in July. Not coincidentally, the news comes the week that KiOr is reportedly planning to official price its IPO, which could raise up to $241 million on the Nasdaq.

Rice is no stranger to board seats, the oil industry, or Valley startups. Before she was Secretary of State, she sat on Chevron’s (s cvx) board; she is a director at C3, the carbon software tool backed by Thomas Siebel; and is a Professor at Stanford. While she was Secretary of State, she played a major role in how the U.S. responded to the Kyoto negotiations, (she was widely quoted at the time as proclaiming Kyoto to be dead).

If greentech startups have the heft, they try to bring on well-known, often-times political, figures to help open doors and raise their profile. Khosla Ventures — which basically controls KiOr — also brought on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a snior advisor. Kleiner Perkins has Al Gore and Colin Powell. Rice will probably be able to help KiOr make some important connections, given her political status and her Chevron time.

At the same time, four-year-old KiOr is still a high risk, high reward company. It more than doubled its IPO plans this month, from an original plan to raise $100 million, to a goal to raise up to $241 million. KiOr estimates it will price its shares between $19 to $21 per share.

At the same time, KiOr is still in the growth and scale-up stage, isn’t bringing in any revenues and isn’t profitable. For 2010, KiOr lost $45.93 million; in 2009, $14.06 million; and in 2008, $5.87 million. KiOr also is betting it will receive a $1 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, and it received a term sheet for that guarantee, but not all companies that receive term sheets for DOE loan guarantees will actually receive the guarantee.

KiOr’s ambition is to inexpensively turn wood chips into a substitute for crude oil, which can then be used by the world’s oil refining industry. KiOr plans to use the funds of its IPO to build more plants to reach a production scale of 1,500 BDT-per-day that will deliver a low-cost version of its biocrude. KiOR’s first plant will be built in Columbus, Miss, and will cost $190 million, and KiOR says that the first plant is already fully funded. It will cost the company $1 billion to build five plants in total.

KiOr is also interesting in that it is largely controlled by Khosla Ventures, and it is Khosla Venture’s third biofuel IPO in recent months (others were Amyris (s AMRS) and Gevo (s GEVO). Khosla Ventures owns 74.8 percent of KiOr’s Class B stock, and 32.5 percent of its Class A stock, which represents 73 percent of total voting power before the offering of KiOr. KiOr is officially considered a “controlled company, under The Nasdaq Global Market corporate governance standards,” says the company’s S-1. Khosla Ventures and KiOr even signed a letter of intent in May 2011, that says Khosla Ventures can “build, own and operate commercial production facilities” that use KiOr’s technology in 2015.

Images courtesy of C3 and darthdowney’s photostream.