After more than seven years and more than $200 million of VC funding, Bloom Energy remains steadfastly non-communicative about its technology, product and business plan. The company ostensibly builds 5-kilowatt SOFCs (Solid Oxide Fuel Cells) or “Bloom Boxes” that can power a residence or business. The fuel cells are powered by methanol or ethanol which, when I last checked, was still a hydrocarbon product, albeit producing less emissions than, for example, a diesel generator.
It is said to be venture firm KPCB’s first greentech investment.
Every few weeks I receive a semi-credible tidbit about the company, which, in an attempt at journalistic integrity, I try to verify with the marketing folks at Bloom. This has turned into a sort of ritualized dance between myself and Stu Aaron, Bloom’s VP of Marketing and Product Development.
Over the last few months I’ve asked Stu about:
- News of an alleged $150 million dollar funding round and $1.45 billion valuation
- Rumors of an enormous government contract and a multi-million dollar order backlog from Coca-Cola and FedEx
- Why they’re using Advanced Equities to help them raise their next round
- The questionable fund-raising tactics used by one of their investors, Northgate Capital
I send a polite email with an inquiry and Mr. Aaron returns a polite, slightly weary and bemused response, saying, “No comment.” So, none of the above scuttlebutt is either confirmed or denied by Bloom.
I have even gone so far to inflict stress positions upon the Bloom Energy process engineers in my yoga class at Planet Granite in Sunnyvale. But these folks are well trained and have not divulged their fuel-cell intelligence.
Daniel Englander, one of our intrepid analysts found this entry on the California Solar Initiative website – clearly indicating a 25-kilowatt grid-tied fuel-cell installation somewhere in California:
- Bloom Energy Corp
- 25-kilowatt 480 Vac Three Phase Utility-Interactive Inverter for Fuel Cell
- Added 3/31/09
And I was able to find this test data on the inverter being used in this installation which simply characterizes a 25-kilowatt DC-to-AC inverter.
So, armed with some facts for a change, I asked Stu Aaron at Bloom to give me some background on the installation and in this instance, he surprisingly responsed, “No comment.” We’ll keep digging and hopefully Stu will weaken one of these days.
More fun facts:
According to Linked-In, Bloom has at least 150 employees.
And for some industry background, here’s a list of the profitable fuel-cell firms: