Report: Bloom Energy raises another $130M

Bloom Energy fuel cells at Apple's data center. Image courtesy of Gigaom.

Silicon Valley fuel cell startup Bloom Energy has raised another $130 million in funding, according to Fortune’s Dan Primack. The latest funding means that Bloom Energy has closed on over $1.1 billion in venture capital funding over its eleven-year lifetime.

There’s a few things you need to remember about Bloom Energy. First, manufacturing fuel cells is a very difficult business, and one that is capital intensive with low margins. Fuel cells take fuel (natural gas or biogas) and combine it with oxygen and other chemicals to create an electrochemical reaction that produces electricity.

Behind the scenes with Bloom Energy's new fuel cell thumbnail

Customers can buy several Bloom Energy servers to deliver distributed power on site at a building, and that can have a lower carbon footprint than grid power. Competitors include ClearEdge Power, which recently scored a deal with Verizon, and the publicly-traded FuelCell Energy.

But Bloom Energy has actually gotten some breakthrough traction in the market over the past couple of years, particularly with data center operators. Apple, eBay, AT&T, Adobe, Google and others have bought Bloom fuel cells (or the power from the fuel cells) for both their data centers and building operations.

Primack reports that Bloom Energy’s latest funding was an extension of a round raised in 2011, at a pre-money valuation of $2.7 billion. The lead investor that put in $100 million wasn’t named, but Primack says that Credit Suisse put in $30 million of the round.

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Because the fuel cell business is so difficult (read my The pain point for Bloom Energy and other fuel cell makers), Bloom Energy is most likely not profitable even after 11 years. Bloom Energy CFO Bill Kurtz told me that the company was “half way to break even” in the Summer of 2012. Primack previously reported that Bloom’s retained earnings through Q3 2012 stood at negative $873 million, with $113 million left in the bank, and with positive gross margins on a pro forma basis. Bloom has a goal to be profitable in 2013.

Existing investors did not participate in the round, according to the report. Previous investors included Kleiner Perkins, NEA, DAG Ventures and GSV Capital. Bloom Energy was previously working with broker Advanced Equities (like on this round in the Summer of 2012) to raise funds, but Advanced Equities has since shut down. The broker was charged for misleading investors back in 2009 for fund raising for Bloom Energy, was fined and shut its offices.

We’ll be interviewing Bloom Energy’s VP Mission Critical Systems, Peter Gross, and eBay’s VP, Global Foundation Services, Dean Nelson, at Structure in San Francisco next month.

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