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Sapphire Energy

Sapphire Energy

San Diego
Founders: Jason Pyle, Mike Mendez, Yan Poon, Bryan O'Neil, Kristina Burow, Stephen Mayfield, Steve Briggs, Nathaniel David
VC investment over the last four quarters: $85.4 million

Launched in 2007, Sapphire Energy is a biofuel company developing a way to make renewable fuel equivalent to crude oil using microorganisms like algae. The 80-person company has raised more than $100 million in venture capital on the promise of "green crude production" that could be a renewable source of gasoline and jet fuel. Despite the plunge in crude prices since July, "once the current financial crisis ends, expanding economies will outpace available energy supplies again and the tight margin between production and demand will cause another price runup," a company spokesperson says in an e-mail. "Nations [that] plan for the long term are doubling their efforts to secure energy sources during these times, not pulling back."

Key to startup success: "Understand that your product must fulfill a critical need. ... Commit to the long term and build your team from the ground up, using all the talent they can apply."