CIGS startup Solyndra has raised over $79 million, but that’s not helping the company keep some of its original engineering talent.
Three key members of the technical side of the company have left the company in the last several months, according to press releases and other sources. Last year, Benny Buller, one of the company’s founding members and the former vice president of engineering and technology at Solyndra, took off to become director of device improvement at First Solar.
In February 2008, Ratson Morad hit the road to join DayStar Technologies as President and COO. Morad also served as a vice president of engineering and technology and was part of Solyndra’s founding team, according to a press release from DayStar.
Jonathan Michael, one of the founders and former CTO of Solyndra, is no longer with the company. This occurred recently.
“I am no longer with Solyndra," read the automated response to an email I sent him today. I’ve called Solyndra’s corporate number to get a more full explanation but the corporate phone number listed on the web site goes to an individual phone mail box with no name attached. (Solyndra, like chip startup Montalvo Systems, is big on secrecy. Not a lot of releases, email addresses or public information. Montalvo burned through millions before getting gobbled up by Sun Microsystems earlier this year.)
Solyndra right now is in the midst of raising more money, according to sources, and has reportedly argued that it is worth $1 billilon. (Read this masterpiece of erudition I wrote at my former job on Solyndra's valuation here.)
The departures can be interpreted in a number of ways and we’re trying to get in touch with everyone involved. On one hand, you could say the shifts are the result of good opportunities. Everyone seems to want to work at fast-growing First Solar, so good move, Ben. Morad got an opportunity to jump from being a VP to serving as a president of a company. DayStar, however, has had to delay mass production like many other CIGS companies. (CIGS, by the way, stands for copper-indium-gallium-selenide. CIGS solar cells aren’t as efficient as regular silicon solar cells but proponents say they will be cheaper.) We don’t know where Michael is at the moment, but we will try to find out. Solyndra is also actively recruiting.
On the other hand, CIGS isn’t the easiest material to work with. So far, only Global Solar and Nanosolar have moved into commercial production. Recently, HelioVolt said it had achieved over 12 percent efficiency on some of its cells but it is not selling them commercially yet. Engineers started leaving Miasole, another CIGS makers, as problems started to arise. Again, this is speculation, but it’s a possibility. These were three high-level people too.