Wednesday, September 7, 2011

More Reflections on Failed Solar Firm Solyndra

One of my mentors had a rule: He would never buy a stock/company that was headed by an attorney or that had more than one VC on the board. Then there's Solyndra.
From Greentech:
Dysfunctional solar boards full of lawyers and VCs in denial. VC firms at risk. Lawsuits and acrimony.
First comes innovation, then funding, then struggles, market forces, bankruptcy, and finally -- conspiracy theories and lawsuits.
Here are a few more pieces of the Solyndra solar failure puzzle:
* Years ago, one of Solyndra's founders and a co-inventor of the original design spoke with me about the firm's technology. That person had already realized that the design was flawed from a commercial standpoint and let me know that the packaging requirements and costs would prevent the Solyndra product from ever being competitive. 
* Here's a list of the board members at Solyndra:
Christian Gronet, Founder and Chairman
Brian Harrison, Chief Executive Officer, President and Director
John Walecka, Redpoint Ventures
Thomas Baruch, CMEA Capital
Dan Maydan Ph.D,  Silicon Ventures LLC
Winston Fu Ph.D,  U.S. Venture Partners
David Prend,  RockPort Capital Partners
Alex O'Cinneide,  Masdar Venture Capital
Anup Jacob, Virgin Green Fund
Jameson McJunkin M.B.A.,  Cisco Systems
James Gibbons Ph.D,  Cisco Systems
Edward Barnholt, KLA-Tencor Corporation
Steven Mitchell,  Argonaut Private Equity
Raymond Sims CPA, Financial Engines

What do you notice about that list?
For starters, there's not a single utility executive or a person from the power industry amongst this gang of 14 men. It's a collection of lawyers, VCs and a few semiconductor and networking veterans. Not one person from the industry they are selling into or someone with operational experience in the solar business. What were they thinking?

* Worth noting and being discussed in some Silicon Valley circles is the possibility that some of those venture firms (as opposed to the family funds) might be mortally injured by their investment strategy. In some cases, the firms violated the investment concentration covenants of their funds and had to reach into later funds....MORE