During an internal compliance review of the company’s technology, Seldon scientists discovered that its signature innovation — super-small cylinder-shaped carbon nanotubes, or CNTs — “had little or no effect on performance” of the filtration “media” to remove contaminants, according to the company’s confidential 85-page 2013 business plan, a copy of which was provided to the Valley News.
As a result, the authors of the plan wrote, the tests “have called into question both the validity and value of (Seldon’s) patents.”
The finding turned out to be both bad news and good news for the company.
The good news: When reformulated to exclude carbon nanotubes, the filtration media was just as effective and no longer needed approval from the Environmental Protection Agency, meaning it could finally be sold into the U.S. consumer market.
The bad news: The discovery undermined the company’s selling point as a cutting-edge nanotechnology innovator, the key to Seldon’s industry positioning and marketing.
Seldon employees, many of whom asked not to be identified because they didn’t want to jeopardize their chances of finding new jobs by talking publicly about their former employer, said the discovery forced Seldon to focus efforts on developing filter technology that did not employ nanotechnology.
“It looked as though carbon nanotubes were the cat’s [behind]*, but they were not,” said one employee. The reformulated filtration media works nearly as well, the employee said, but “is not that much of a secret sauce.”The article quotes a lot of Seldon scientists who detail the various financial and management gyrations; they're pretty brutal. I often feel that there are way too many whiz-bang stories about startups and not enough skepticism, or postmortems. There are successes in startups, but there are many more failures.
*CJ's bowdlerization for corporate firewalls