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Data Sheet—Why the Pride of Green Tech Startups Is Going Public

Bloom Energy fuel cells at NASABloom Energy fuel cells at NASA
Bloom Energy fuel cells at NASACourtesy of Bloom Energy

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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

NEWSWORTHY

What a screamer. Mexicans excited about their national soccer team’s upset victory over Germany trigged an earthquake early warning system. The country’s Institute of Geological and Atmospheric Investigations reported that crowds triggered two sensors in Mexico City in the seven seconds after star forward Hirving Lozano scored a go-ahead goal.

Own goal. Sometimes those much hyped new features in tech gadgets are just that. Amazon is phasing out the “Mayday” video call tech support service it created for its line of Fire tablets a few years ago, Geekwire reports.

Time to park the bus. Chinese tech manufacturing giant Foxconn is establishing a North American headquarters in Milwaukee, Wis. The new center, which will employ 500 people, is about 30 miles away from Foxconn’s planned $10 billion LCD display panel factory.

Between the sticks. Some features, rumored and confirmed, for the next batch of iPhones. Apple will continue relying on LCD displays for most devices next year, not switching over to more OLED screens (like on this year’s iPhone X) due to high costs, the Wall Street Journal reports. In a confirmed report, Apple is also improving the way iPhones send a caller’s location during a 911 emergency call. Apple also got Oprah Winfrey in a deal to produce content for its still unnamed and unannounced video streaming service.

Rainbow kick. The cutting edge EOS digital blockchain, intended as a competitor for ethereum, launched its service platform last week. After raising $4 billion selling EOS tokens, the system should be able to let developers create smart contracts and other blockchain-related applications while processing transactions more quickly than ethereum. At least that’s the idea.

Midfield anchor. Wireless carriers T-Mobile and Sprint on Monday are filing the lengthy paperwork necessary for the Federal Communications Commission to approve their $26 billion merger. Chances that the agency led by chair Ajit Pai disapproves the deal are less than the odds of Tunisia winning the World Cup. The real action will likely be at the Justice Department.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

The court decision allowing AT&T to buy Time Warner wasn’t exactly a surprise, in part because the Justice Department’s case lacked a compelling argument for blocking the deal. Missing, though it was critical when the DOJ negotiated Comcast’s deal to buy NBC Universal, was any consideration of net neutrality. That’s the concern that an Internet service provider, such as AT&T or Comcast, might favor content it owns, say from NBC or Time Warner, over independently produced content. Comcast’s settlement to buy NBC includes a seven-year net neutrality provision to block that kind of unfairness. But for AT&T and Time Warner, The Verge’s Nilay Patel goes into more depth on how the court and regulators missed this key issue. Patel goes almost line by line to analyze numerous problems with the decision:

Here is where it’s pretty clear the DOJ made a bad case. AT&T and Time Warner don’t harm Sling or YouTube TV by withholding CNN and other channels. It can license the channels, collect the fees, and still prioritize DirecTV on the AT&T network and excuse it from data caps. But this argument does not appear to have been made. Instead, AT&T was left free to counter by arguing that having lots of video services on its networks is good because it drives data usage…It appears the DOJ never pointed out the simplest thing AT&T can do: preinstall its own services and exclude them from data caps, and the judge took AT&T’s arguments at face value

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

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How Trump’s China Tariffs Will Make U.S. Chipmakers Pay Fees on Their Own Chips By Glenn Fleishman

Soccer Meet Blockchain: Olyseum Wants to Ride the Crypto Wave By Kevin Kelleher

Stephen Hawking’s Voice Will Be Broadcast Into Space By Emily Price

Apple’s Tim Cook Says Every Apple Park Employee Has a Standing Desk By Don Reisinger

Why Ex-Wall Streeter Michael Novogratz Is Investing in a Cryptocurrency Startup By Polina Marinova

Facebook Is Building a $750 Million Data Center in Huntsville, Alabama By Emily Price

BEFORE YOU GO

Sure, you know that the next Star Wars movie is not arriving in theaters until December 2019, but how many more movies do we get after that set in the imaginary universe dreamed up by George Lucas? Maybe as many as nine more are already in the planning stages, according to a report out of All Star Comic Con over the weekend. Hurray?

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.