As a longtime investor in biotech and energy tech, I see a lot of similarities between the two. Take the case of Ballard Power (NASDAQ:BLDP). Ballard is in the early stages of developing a fuel cell product that could have huge revenue potential, but it will likely be about 10 years before it's commercially viable, there is plenty of competition, and development is very expensive. Sorta sounds like a biotech with an early-stage cancer drug, doesn't it?

Also like most biotechs, quarter-to-quarter results aren't too important beyond monitoring the pace of cash consumption. In this third quarter, Ballard consumed more than $24 million in cash, versus just under $18 million last year, and ended the quarter with about $204 million on the balance sheet. Should the company succeed in its efforts to cut cash usage to about $50 million to $70 million per year, that would be enough for about three more years, but it would clearly need to raise funds again at some point.

Having already talked about the revised deal with DaimlerChrysler (NYSE:DCX) and Ford (NYSE:F) and the headcount/expense reduction plan, let's move to the other big news of the quarter: the CEO's resignation. About two weeks ago, Dennis Campbell left his post, replaced by Chairman John Sheridan. It seems to me that this was a somewhat sudden development, because there was no term of transition or immediate succession plan.

Although the stock lost a huge chunk of value during Campbell's tenure, there is no way that I'd lay that all at his feet. First, it's not his fault that the stock was ridiculously overpriced to start with back around 2000. Second, the company had a questionable business model even before he took the job.

It will be very interesting to see where the company goes from here. Although past decisions from this board don't exactly give me reason for a lot of optimism, perhaps the input of Daimler and/or Ford will guide the selection process toward a good candidate. And Ballard certainly needs a good CEO now -- one who is willing and able to shake things up and add some better near-term opportunities without giving up on the long-term promises.

Like any early-stage research company, valuing Ballard Power is an exercise in discounted assumptions. The key, though, is to make sure those assumptions are reasonable in the context of the technology, the presence of competitors like Honda (NYSE:HMC), Toyota (NYSE:TM), and probably General Motors (NYSE:GM), and the need for future financing. With all that in mind, Ballard Power is a high-risk bet that could still pay off, but one that I'm not about to take.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).