New Cash and a New Name for SunEthanol

Corn-based ethanol has been crashing with the economy, but the prospects for cellulosic ethanol seem a little brighter — SunEthanol, based in Hadley, Mass., says it’s pulled in $25 million in a Series B round, and changed its name to boot. Now known as Qteros, after its Q microbe technology, the company raised the cash from a group including billionaire George Soros and big oil.
Noticeably absent from the list of investors is South Dakota’s VeraSun Energy, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October. VeraSun took a minority stake in Qteros, then SunEthanol, in August 2007. (Qteros CEO William Frey tells us via email that despite not participating in this round VeraSun continues as a shareholder in the company.)
The Series B financing was led by new investor Venrock, along with previous investor Battery Ventures. Other new investors include London’s BP (s BP), no stranger to cleantech fundings, and Soros Fund Management. Series A backers Long River Ventures and Camros Capital also participated.
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11 Companies Racing to Build U.S. Cellulosic Ethanol Plants

There are almost a dozen companies racing to build the first next-generation cellulosic ethanol plants in the United States over the next few years. The plants will be built all over the U.S. and will churn out biofuels made from waste, plant byproducts and woody energy crops. It’s no easy task. Not only do these companies have to build pilot and demo plants, but ultimately large-scale, commercialized refineries that can take years to construct and require hundreds of millions of investment dollars.

While biofuels have been getting a bad rap lately, President Bush’s Twenty in Ten Initiative aims to increase the use of renewable and alternative fuels in the transportation sector to the equivalent of 35 billion gallons of ethanol a year by 2017. These 11 companies are focusing on finding the right recipe to make the cellulosic ethanol production economically feasible. Good luck to them (per request from the comment section, we added in the tickers for the public companies):


Verenium: The company is in the final stages of testing and evaluating its demo facility, which can produce 1.4 million gallons per year. Construction on the pilot plant began in February 2007. Japanese companies Marubeni and Tsukishima Kikai used Verenium’s technology to build a demo project that can produce 1.3 million liters (less than 350,000 gallons) per year in January 2007 in Osaka, Japan, with plans to scale it up to 4 million liters per year in 2008. The company is currently on track to start construction of a 30 million-gallon-per-year commercial U.S. plant in mid-2009. Verenium trades on the NASDAQ, ticker: VRNM.

Coskata: The company is currently producing cellulosic ethanol in its labs and plans to scale up a pilot project in Madison, Penn., to a 40,000-gallon-per-year demonstration facility that will start delivering ethanol by early 2009 and is projected to cost $25 million to build. Coskata says it’s working on a 100 million-gallon-per-year facility, in an undisclosed U.S. location, that it hopes will go online by early 2011. The startup has raised almost $30 million from Globespan Capital Partners, GM, Khosla Ventures, GreatPoint Ventures and Advanced Technology Ventures. Coskata’s technology first gasifies biomass into syngas and then adds proprietary microbes that turn the syngas into ethanol.
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Apps Like TwitterFone Signal the Future?

Business Week speculated on Why Twitter Matters, suggesting that its ‘large and vigorous developer community’ has already positioned the service as an innovative messaging platform.

Like other classic platform strategies, Twitter is not only providing a compelling user experience, but coupling this to a comprehensive developer toolkit.

Innovation on the Twitter platform continues with the recent launch of Cubic Telecom’s TwitterFone, a cute voice interface for Twitter, that enables users to record a short voice message using their cellphone, have the message transcribed to text and then twittered to the public timeline, including a link to the original voice message.

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Could Adobe AIR fill the MacWorld balloon?

Adobe_airThe jet lag from CES 2008 still hasn’t worn off, but maybe that’s a good thing. I woke up at 12:15 this morning feeling like I had a full night’s sleep, even though it was only a few hours of rest. Of course, the middle of the night is usually when I have my best thought of the day; yes, I only get one and that’s on a good day, so here’s today’s.The banners at MacWorld have this catchy little phrase: “There’s something in the air.” OK, it could be that we’ll see WiMAX-ready hardware coming out of Apple, but that might be a little premature. After all, Sprint won’t be rolling out WiMAX coverage until April or May and it’s going to take a while to blanket the country. We know that the Apple iPhone SDK is appearing by next month and that one of the grudges folks have with the device is the lack of Flash support. Could it be that the iPhone will support a light version Adobe AIR, just in time for the SDK release? Or maybe I just need more sleep… and a better thought for the day.

AT&T Gives Web Video on TV a Boost

The agreement unveiled by ON Networks and AT&T yesterday isn’t just about web shows moving to TV, it’s another step toward seamlessly integrating your web video and television watching experiences.

To refresh, ON Networks will provide four of the online shows for use on AT&T’s (T) U-verse IPTV and HomeZone satellite services. At first blush, this is no big deal, since depending on how you look at it, there are already a few ways for online shows to make the jump from the Internet to the TV.

You can have a video podcast up on iTunes that gets downloaded to your PC and transmitted to your TV via Apple TV (AAPL) (or similar set-up). This, obviously, requires a PC, a transmitter and a TV (and you still have your cable or satellite box if you watch regular TV).

Last month, PodShow content was added to TiVo. This removed the computer from the equation and better integrated watching web video into your regular TV watching lifestyle — if you have TiVo (TIVO).

The ON/AT&T deal, however, takes us another step forward.

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Earthlink, Broadband is the only good news

Earthlink, the ISP most people tend to overlook is getting a big boost from Broadband, according to Atlanta-based company’s latest earnings reports. The company now has 1.4 million broadband subscribers, and 4 million narrow band subscribers. Despite the shift, the company is slashing its full year subscriber growth from 300-to-400,000 subscribers to 231,000-to-271,000 subscribers. I assume that is because the phone companies are seriously putting a dent into its growth because of cut rate plans in places like Detroit. Things are getting rough for the company, much like the problems faced by AOL. Ironically MSN is making ton of money.

“It was a bad quarter,” said Mark May, an analyst at Kaufman Brothers, who downgraded the stock to “sell” from “hold.” “They’re having problems on the subscriber and revenue side. Those issues only got worse this quarter.”

Looking ahead, Earthlink’s Broadband subscriber growth is good news for Covad Communications, which is the wholesale DSL provider for the ISP.