Solazyme’s bubbling algae investors

Solazyme has been a very, very busy company this year gathering big time investors from across various industries to its fold. Many industry analysts are speculating this is part of a big-time preparation for an IPO (initial public offering).

Today, Solazyme announced its current development partner Unilever has joined its Series D financing round although no investment figures were disclosed.

Recalling from a past post in March, Unilever and Solazyme joined in a developing deal to use algal oil in soaps and personal care products. I also mentioned in the post that Solazyme has a patent filed last year on algae-derived polysaccharides that can be used as an anti-aging skin care ingredient.

Unilever might also be looking at using algal oils for food although Solazyme seems to be already doing that with another recent Series D investor, major agribusiness company Bunge. The company said Solazyme’s algal oil technology is strategically placed between Bunge’s sugar and vegetable oil portfolio. No investment figure was also disclosed for this one.

Other Solazyme investors in this round include CTTV Investments LLC, the venture capital arm of Chevron Technology Ventures LLC; San-Ei Gen, a major Japanese manufacturer and distributor of food ingredients; Jay Precourt and Family; and Sir Richard Branson via the Roda Group. Braemer Energy Ventures and Morgan Stanley led the round, with all major existing investors from previous rounds participating, including Lightspeed Venture Partners, The Roda Group, Harris and Harris Group, VantagePoint Venture Partners and Zygote Ventures.

Having consumer companies such as Unilever and Bunge is definitely good news to the algae industry, which is still trying to dispel technology skepticism, although most of that seems to be focusing more on its use as a biofuel feedstock.

Using algae on food and chemicals, on the other hand, is pretty much welcomed with open arms given that companies don’t need big algal oil volumes to use for these types of market.

As mentioned in another post in March, chemical companies already wading in algae developments include Honeywell’s UOP business, DuPont, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil and bioplastic producer Cereplast. I’m sure there are others out there that I forgot to mention.

In an article from ICIS Chemical Business talking about algae-based bioplastic, Algal Biomass Organization (ABO) noted that companies such as General Motors and Kimberly Clark are also looking to use algae-based products.

A recent report from SBI Energy noted that most of the algae developments are happening in the US although there are pockets of activities in the European Union and Asia mostly due to collaboration with the US algae biofuels industry.

SBI forecasts the US to represent over 82% of the global market for open pond algae cultivation systems from 2010-2015, while the EU and Asian markets will have 11% and 7% respectively. More than a dozen projects with over $25 million in algae cultivation system costs are projected through 2015.

By the way, ABO is having its annual summit in Phoenix, Arizona, on September 28-30. Too bad I won’t be able to attend due to schedule conflict but the press agency for ABO promised to keep me informed of any new developments coming out from the Summit.

They will also twitter live from the event via @algaeindustry and using the hashtag #ABS4.

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