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. I'd like to listen into the conversations those VCs are having with their limited partners.
* GTM Research Managing Director Shayle Kann puts the Solyndra loan guarantee in perspective: Since mid-2010, the DOE has made conditional commitments for 18 loan guarantees in solar to 14 different companies, funding for projects and funding for manufacturing. The total sum of these conditional commitments is $15.585 billion. Solyndra's loan guarantee was $535 million -- or 3.4 percent of the DOE's solar portfolio. That number warrants repeating: 3.4 percent.
* Neal Dikeman at Cleantech Blog does his own insightful post-mortem and calculates what the DOE might end up recovering once the remains of Solyndra (IP, equipment, and land) are liquidated.
* Lindsay Riddell at the San Francisco Business Times provides a blow by blow of the just-filed lawsuit brought by employees of the now-defunct firm. The class action lawsuit alleges that Solyndra "violated state and federal rules that require companies to give 60 days notice before laying off more than 50 workers." Here is a link to the lawsuit itself. According to Riddell's article, "The complaint seeks unpaid wages, salary, commissions, bonuses, accrued holiday pay, accrued vacation pay, pension and 401K contributions and other COBRA benefits."