Bloom Energy fuel cells at NASA
Courtesy of Bloom Energy
By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
June 18, 2018

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Outsiders to Silicon Valley want to believe their region one day will surpass it. With one possible exception—China—it’ll never happen. A little known company called Bloom Energy illustrates why.

Bloom has been around since 2001, and for the first decade or so of its life its hype far exceeded its accomplishments. It produced a proprietary fuel cell technology that turned gas into electricity in an on-location box targeted at corporate power users. Long before Theranos and its celebrity board, Bloom founder K.R. Sridhar and his venture capitalist backer/cheerleader recruited Colin Powell to Bloom’s board. 60 Minutes did a puff piece on Bloom back in the day; Al Gore was a frequently photographed visitor.

Bloom filed last week to go public, and a trot through its prospectus proves the point of Silicon Valley’s deserved exceptionalism. Only in this town could a nearly two-decade-old startup that has lost $2.3 billion (so far), has less cash ($88 million) than annual interest expense ($108 million), and whose business “depends on the availability of rebates, tax credits, and other tax benefits” have a prayer of going public.

Bloom has to an extent proved itself. It doesn’t make money, but its technology works well enough for Bloom to have recorded revenues of $376 million last year. As of March it had 312 megawatts in total deployed systems globally. Power plants can supply as little as 1 megawatt of generating capacity, but according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the country’s smallest nuclear power plant has 582 megawatts of generating capacity.

Bloom was once the pride of the “greentech” community, an overly cheerful phrase that has gone out of fashion. Today it holds nearly a $1 billion in debt, and it knows it can’t raise more. So it’s going public.

Silicon Valley really is a tremendous place.

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Former prosecutor Kathryn Haun published, on Twitter, an interesting take on the likelihood Elizabeth Holmes does jail time … Fortune welcomes nominees of companies that do well by doing good for its annual Change The World list. Learn more and submit nominations here. … JD.com, the No. 2 e-commerce player in China behind Alibaba, already is aligned with Walmart and messaging and gaming titan Tencent. Now it counts Google as a backer too. The U.S. advertising company, effectively blocked from doing business in China until now, will invest $550 million in JD.com. That’s what my friend Dan Primack, who is returning to Brainstorm Tech this year, would call a BFD. By the by, JD.com’s CEO, Richard Liu, will be appearing at the Aspen, Colo., conference too.

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

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