Codexis IPO is Long on Promise – and Risk

Sometimes it takes an IPO to draw the spotlight to a promising idea. That may be the case with Codexis, a chemical company located in the heart of Silicon Valley with an interesting approach to synthetic biology.

Codexis, which filed on Monday a prospectus with the SEC, is in the business of evolved biocatalysts. That is, it takes a microbe or enzyme in nature and shuffles DNA sequences to create new variants, then screens for the variants most capable of developing new, potentially cheaper drugs and non-ethanol biofuels.

The company is hitting the markets with a long track record of losses, but in its favor it has lined up some well-known customers and partners. Codexis is supplying enzymes to Pfizer to help improve its Lipitor drug. It also sold a 13 percent stake Shell, cementing a deal to develop enzymes that can turn biomass into fuel.

You can’t help but wonder why Codexis is going public now, bracing one of the least friendly public markets in years with accumulated losses of $94 million. It could be that investors want help funding a high burn rate. Codexis’ cash flow over the past three years is negative $23.4 million and its prospectus notes:

We expect to incur losses and negative cash flow from operating activities for the next several years.

So will a stingy Wall Street want to help finance Codexis even as profits remain years off? The answer could just be yes, given that this is one of the first chances to invest early in a promising synthetic biology startup. But this is a lot of risk for a market that has seen too much of it of late.

Why a .Mac service for PCs could be in the cards

Mwsfdotmac_2The web continues to quake with aftershocks of “Safari-gate”: the Apple Software Update that installs Safari 3.1 for Windows by default. I tend to side with the folks that claim this practice isn’t the most forthcoming, but there are numerous examples of other companies doing the same thing for years. In the end, it’s up to each individual user to actually examine which check-boxes are activated and therefore, which applications are installed.Having said that, I started thinking about Safari 3.1 on PCs. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time writing about file synchronization applications lately, but it got me wondering if Apple is working on a “.Mac lite” service for Windows PCs. We’re getting to the point where assuming there are PCs and Mac co-existing in the same household isn’t that far-fetched.
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Web Worker 101: Products or Services?

If you’re an independent developer who’s decided to go solo, or even one who’s working with just a few other people, there’s one critical decision you need to make early in your company’s history: should you concentrate on products or services? That is, is it better to put your efforts into building something for resale, or to put your own skills out on the consulting market? As with many decisions, there are things to be said on both sides of the question. Here’s how they generally stack up.

Building products is often the dream of the independent software developer. It’s easy to read the stories of Microsoft or Apple starting out on a tiny scale, and to think “if I only had the right idea, I could do the same thing!” The most attractive part of being a product-oriented company is the siren song of passive income: write the code once, and sell it again and again, without any further effort beyond counting the money as it comes in.
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Blinded By SciVee: Science Video Online

If you prefer kinases to kittehs, pathogens to paparazzi, then check out SciVee, a new online video destination from the San Diego Supercomputing Center, Public Library of Science and the National Science Foundation which has been called “YouTube for scientists” by Slashdot and NewScientistTech. While I doubt any of the videos will ‘go viral,’ there will likely be plenty of content about actual viruses.

scivee-logo-main.jpgThe site is structured so that scientists can put together a video presentation to go along with the traditional research paper, giving users a chance to get a sense of the topic before diving into the details. Videos are typically a scientist in front of the camera paraphrasing an abstract, often accompanied by slides. Yes, it’s pretty dry, but then one doesn’t go watching videos about computational biology looking for something with zazz.

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Where is the ease of use?

Most of you have heard me complain, bitch, moan and rant about how tech companies don’t make it easier on consumers when it comes to using technology. Apparently I am not alone. Peter Me writes in Shit is too hard to use, “I’m working on a project where I get to go into people’s homes and watch them attempt to set up an internet-enabled device (excuse the vagueness). And, without fail, they cannot. What’s interesting to me is how they fail — each time it’s different. Though often in the same part of the process, the detail that causes them to go astray varies — mistyped email addresses, password confusion, network set up, clicking the wrong link and getting lost, etc. etc. And I’m sure that with each subsequent observation, we’ll observe new hitches.” (via dashes)