Mascoma, a biofuel startup with funding from some of Silicon Valley's premier venture firms, has withdrawn its registration for a $100 million initial public offering (IPO), citing "market conditions." Mascoma's IPO registration has been filed since September 2011. Investors include SunOpta (with a 20.6 percent pre-IPO stake), Khosla Ventures (with a 17.5 percent pre-IPO stake), Flagship Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, Kleiner Perkins, BlackRock, VantagePoint, GM Ventures, Marathon Oil, and Valero. SunOpta holds the biggest stake in Mascoma, following a $51 million merger in 2010. Mascoma has raised more than $135 million in equity. 

“The terms that the IPO market was providing at this time were not attractive to the Company,” said Bill Brady, President and CEO of Mascoma in a release.  “Mascoma is funding its operations with proceeds raised from current investors and new strategic investors and its Mascoma Grain Technology [...] business."

It's been a relatively encouraging period for cleantech IPOs. But not for biofuels.

SolarCity (SCTY), a distributed energy financier and installer, and Silver Spring Networks (SSNI), a smart grid network firm, have made it through the IPO gate with momentum. Other recent cleantech IPOs include Tesla (TSLA) and Enphase (ENPH).

But last year, Enerkem, a Canadian municipal-waste-to-cellulosic-ethanol conversion firm, also failed to make it through the IPO window.

And those biofuel and bio-product companies that have made it to the public markets have had a difficult time, judging by stock price, market cap, and profits.

Biofuel firms that have gone public since 2010

Company IPO Price Current Price      3/25 Mkt Cap Product / Process
Codexis (CDXS) $13 $2.34 $89M Custom yeasts and biocatalysts for cellulosic fuels and pharmaceuticals
Amyris (AMRS) $16 $2.88 $173M Synthetic biology applied to sugars to produce chemicals and fuels
Gevo (GEVO) $15 $2.16 $85M Synthetic biology to produce isobutanol
Solazyme (SZYM) $18 $8.32 $513M Algal oils and chemicals
Kior (KIOR) $15 $5.17 $543M Renewable crude oil from wide variety of biomass
REG (REGI) $10 $7.40 $225M Biofuel refiner and distributor
Ceres (CERE) $13 $3.52 $87M Seed sales for sorghum as ethanol feedstock.


Mascoma's consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) technology converts hardwood pulpwood into ethanol. Mascoma's proprietary yeasts, according to the firm, eliminate the need for a number of expensive enzymes used in biomass conversion. 

Mascoma has demonstrated its CBP tech at its demo facility in Rome, New York. The Rome facility is capable of producing a few hundred thousand gallons a year with a yield of 67 gallons of ethanol per short ton of hardwood pulp, when we last checked. There is a proposed Kinross facility that looks for yields of 83 gallons per hardwood short ton. According to earlier reporting, Mascoma expects the Kinross facility to produce ethanol at an unsubsidized cash cost of about $1.77 per gallon. The company stated that its target is to bring that number below a dollar within the next few years with a combination of further refinement of manufacturing, economies of scale and microorganism improvement.

But now Mascoma needs to find funding -- and it won't be coming from public markets.