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US cleantech company Virdia secures $100m in public, private capital

6 Mar 2012

US biomass specialist Virdia, formerly HCL Cleantech, has secured finance worth $75m through the Mississippi Development Authority to build manufacturing plants in the state.

In addition, the company secured additional funds worth $20m through a financing round led by Khosla Ventures, Burrill & Company and Tamar Ventures, as well as $10m in venture debt with Triple Point Capital.

The funding from the MDA comes in the form of low-interest loans, as well as $155m in various tax incentives over a ten-year period.

“Virdia’s technology and manufacturing platform holds the potential to enable the entire value chain of advanced biochemicals and biofuels. It will create a new wealth of thousands of local, sustainable manufacturing jobs anchored on this country’s unparalleled biomass resources,” said Vinod Khosla, founding partner of Khosla Ventures.

The company has also hired Philippe Lavielle as CEO, replacing co-founder Eran Baniel, who now serves as vice president of business development. Before joining Virdia, Lavielle was a member of the executive management at Genencor, a $1bn industrial enzymes company recently acquired by DuPont.

“This is an exciting and pivotal time for Virdia, and I am pleased to bring my experience to bear in leading the company through its next stage of commercialization,” said Lavielle. “The momentum we are experiencing in funding and our plans to scale up manufacturing move us that much closer to realizing our mission on a large scale. Virdia is well positioned to be the frontrunner in the race to make cellulosic sugars a reality – an indispensable step for the success of the bioeconomy.”

Virdia said it will build plants that convert cellulosic biomass to fermentable sugars and lignin, important feedstock for the renewable chemicals industry and biofuels sector.

“With global biofuel mandates alone calling for at least 72 billion gallons by 2021, unlocking the potential of lignocellulosic biomass will be vital to scaling the bio-based economy over the next decade,” said Mackinnon Lawrence, a senior analyst with Pike Research. “In the near-term, commercial production of next generation bio-based products across multiple industries – including energy, nutrition, biochemical, and plastics – is contingent upon a leader emerging in the space. With sustainability increasingly a concern, those companies with robust solutions that can produce low-cost alternative carbohydrates derived from non-food biomass are poised to capture significant market share.”

In October last year Khosla Ventures, established by former Sun Microsystems founderVinod Khosla, raised over $1bn for its latest  fund.

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