Khosla's East Coast Ethanol Play: Mascoma

Justin Hibbard

If you watched Dateline on May 7, you know Silicon Valley VC Vinod Khosla is a big proponent of biofuels. His firm, Khosla Ventures, in April joined VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and other investors in a $50 million financing of Altra, Inc., a Los Angeles-based biofuels startup. Khosla has been busy on the other coast, too. In March, his firm plowed $4 million into Mascoma Corp., a Cambridge, Mass.-based biofuels venture. Mascoma has licensed a process developed by co-founder and Dartmouth professor Lee Lynd and Virginia Tech professor Y.H. Percival Zhang for cost-effectively making ethanol from corn stover (i.e. the parts of corn that humans don't eat--leaves, stalks, and cob). That's an interesting approach, considering corn stover is the most abundant agricultural leftover in the U.S. It certainly distinguishes Mascoma from other companies that have been racing to cash in on ethanol fever. Hey, I'm all for alternative fuels, but can this last?

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