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VC Marianne Wu Talks Increasing Demand For Biofuels

Investors, researchers, and executives are discovering new ways to make and use biofuels.

VC Marianne Wu Talks Increasing Demand For Biofuels
Marianne Wu | Photo by  Toby Burditt
Photo by Toby Burditt

Marianne Wu
Partner / Mohr Davidow Ventures
Menlo Park, California

Wu finds promising biofuel and biochemical startups to invest in at the venture-capital firm.

"It's a really exciting time in bio­fuels and biochemicals. We're looking at massive markets, increased demand, and significant advances in biology and chemistry. A lot of people assume that green biofuels mean higher prices or worse performance. That's changing. The companies we're investing in give customers the proposition that the fuel is green, performs the same or better, and is cheaper. One of our companies, Zeachem, uses chemical engineering to turn woody biomass into ethanol and basic chemicals, and it does so with the highest yield, lowest carbon footprint, and lowest cost. Zeachem is a biorefinery model, which is like the traditional model: A single petroleum refinery makes many products—solvents, chemicals, heating oil, gasoline. We're replicating what traditional refineries have always done: Take a feedstock and turn it into lots of different products. Biology can do the same."

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Blake Simmons

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A version of this article appeared in the December 2011/January 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.