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Solazyme Management Is a Step Ahead

Maxxwell A.R. Chatsko
March 31, 2013

Digging through balance sheets and income and cash flow statements is a tedious but necessary part of being an investor. However, there are integral metrics to each investment that don't show up on a piece of paper -- and some are difficult to measure at all. One such intangible is management. Having a strong leadership team in place is always an important aspect of building a competitive and market-leading company.

The individuals at the helm are even more important to a disruptive developmental-stage company. Luckily for Solazyme (NASDAQ: SZYM), its management team has just the right mix of experience and diversity to accomplish the company's goals. Wondering why the company has yet to stumble? Management has a lot to do with it. Let's take a closer look at the key people driving the company forward.

Co-founders fail up
For every start-up that keeps its founder(s) close and succeeds beyond investors' wildest dreams, there is another that fails miserably. So while I won't make any outrageous claims, I will say that keeping founders around for the long haul can have a compounding effect as a company outgrows its training wheels. Founders may not enter their first day of entrepreneurism with much experience, but what they learn along the way gives them something to draw upon when facing obstacles later down the road.

Jonathan Wolfson and Dr. Harrison Dillon, the respective CEO and president, decided to start a life-sciences company all the way back in their undergraduate years at Emory University. They probably didn't expect to meet up again years later in a garage in California, but that's exactly where Solazyme was born. The two knew they wanted to unlock the power of algae after hearing about its potential to be set on fire (piquing their interest in chemical applications), so naturally they targeted strains that grew in open ponds.

After initial development they came to a stark conclusion: Fuels from open-pond algae would cost some serious coin (in the late 1990s, anyway) and wouldn't be close to economically viable. Rather than scrapping their dream for commercializing algae at the first sign of trouble, the two turned their focus to algae strains that could be grown in a more traditional bioreactor. The platform that exists today can be directly attributed to their decision to turn failure into a launching pad. Investors wouldn't want anyone else at the top of the depth chart.

Engineering a bright future
Solazyme left the laboratory long ago, but it still needs to put a few more puzzle pieces in place before it runs on all cylinders. CTO Peter J.