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KiOR: Catalyzing green energy

Company name

Ramana Nanda and Toby Stuart

Harvard Business School 

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KiOR: Catalyzing green energy

Year published 

Last year covered in case 


Biofuels start-up KiOR was developing a proprietary technology that had the potential to dramatically impact the emerging renewable energy landscape: a process that converted cellulosic biomass into "bio-crude," a hydrocarbon mixture with properties to those of crude oil. KiOR had been operating as a virtual organization, but with venture financing in place, founder and chief technology officer Paul O'Connor and the KiOR board needed to decide where to headquarter their business. 

Teaching note

  • N/A

Key Management Reading

  • Ambec, S. & Lanoie, P. (2008). Does it pay to be green? A systematic overview. Academy of Management Perspectives. 45-62
  • Reinhardt, F. (1999). Bringing the Environment Down to Earth. Harvard Business Review. July; 149-157 

Other Readings

  • N/A

Audio/Visual Material

  • N/A

Discussion Questions

  • N/A 

Green Chemistry Principle

  • Principle 3 Less Hazardous Synthesis (process)
  • Principle 6 Design for Energy Efficiency 
  • Principle 7 Renewable Feedstocks
  • Principle 9 Catalysis

Fuels, including biofuels

Teaching Topic
Environmental issues
Global/transnational issues
Social need as business opportunity

Management Discipline
Business, government and society

Business Logic
Cost of capital (backing from Vinod Khosla, VC supporting renewable energy technologies)
Product differentiation
Reduced Cost

Environmental Issue
Cellulosic biomass
Climate change
Renewable energy

Self Identified as Green Chemistry?

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