Milking Algae like Making BeerSolazyme's cofounders Wolfson and Dillon, 39, are sidestepping the challenges of algae ponds.
The pair met in 1989 at Emory University in Atlanta and discovered mutual interests in the outdoors and the environment. During that freshman year, Dillon, who was studying biology, and Wolfson, a political science undergrad, agreed to form a biotech company one day.
That off-the-cuff promise began to take shape in 2003. The two raised money from friends, family, New York-based Harris & Harris Group Inc. and Berkeley, California-based Roda Group and started growing algae in open ponds.
They wound up with little to show.
?We tried direct photosynthesis but couldn?t figure out how we were ever going to take it to a commercial scale,? Wolfson says. ?There were too many problems.?
The two went back to investors.
This time, they focused on algae that grow in the dark, as in swamps. Standing in front of a whiteboard, Wolfson explains the process in layman?s terms:
?We put algae in a tank and feed them sugar, such as sugar cane waste, and they make oil and we take the oil out. There?s a lot of science involved, but it?s a bit like making beer.?