A couple of months ago, in response to a story that Changing World Technologies was going to file an IPO to help commercialize their TPD technology, I reposted my story:
Turns out they decided against the IPO. Bankruptcy seemed the better option:
Changing World Technologies Inc., based in West Hempstead, N.Y., filed for Chapter 11 protection Wednesday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.
In a news release, the company, which owns the Renewable Environmental Solutions plant in Carthage, said it was trying to reorganize its business and find new financing “to fund its operations going forward and to move ahead with its expansion strategy.”
The company said in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had lost $18.8 million for the nine months ending Sept. 30 and had an accumulated deficit of $117.8 million.
They have had a long fall from the cover of Discover magazine, where they were going to be the solution to the world’s energy problems. Let’s review some of the quotes from that initial article, and then consider the fact that the company never made a dime:
“This is a solution to three of the biggest problems facing mankind,” says Brian Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, the company that built this pilot plant and has just completed its first industrial-size installation in Missouri. “This process can deal with the world’s waste. It can supplement our dwindling supplies of oil. And it can slow down global warming.”
Pardon me, says a reporter, shivering in the frigid dawn, but that sounds too good to be true. “Everybody says that,” says Appel. “The potential is unbelievable,” says Michael Roberts, a senior chemical engineer for the Gas Technology Institute, an energy research group. “You’re not only cleaning up waste; you’re talking about distributed generation of oil all over the world.”
“This is not an incremental change. This is a big, new step,” agrees Alf Andreassen, a venture capitalist with the Paladin Capital Group and a former Bell Laboratories director. “We will be able to make oil for $8 to $12 a barrel,” says Paul Baskis, the inventor of the process. “We are going to be able to switch to a carbohydrate economy.”
And it will be profitable, promises Appel. “We’ve done so much testing in Philadelphia, we already know the costs,” he says. “This is our first-out plant, and we estimate we’ll make oil at $15 a barrel. In three to five years, we’ll drop that to $10, the same as a medium-size oil exploration and production company. And it will get cheaper from there.”
CWT and their TDP promises are the poster child for the strategy of “overhype your technology to pull in investors, and hope the technological problems are resolved.” They had endorsements from lots of people, and a gushing article in Discover. But reporters and investors didn’t ask the right questions, and they didn’t do their due diligence, and the result was a lot of dollars flushed down the toilet.
The sad thing is, history is repeating itself right now with most of these cellulosic ethanol and algal biodiesel companies. They all have a great story to tell, they are all going to solve the world’s energy problems, and the majority of them will be bankrupt inside of 5 years.