Hacking Algae



This week, a strange combination of two different stories with a common thread caught our attention.

The first, we already blogged about on our “People, Planets, Profits, and Projects blog –  “All our patents are belong to you“.

In that post, we discuss how Tesla was giving away its patents for electric vehicle innovation.  Since we posted we’ve heard other interesting angles (including this one from the Naked Scientists) on that event and how it was good altruistically but also made good business sense.

The second story is here.  From the Washington Post, it’s about a company named Algenol, which has developed a patented process to create biofuel from blue-green algae.

Here’s how the story opens:

About 16 months ago, a Florida-based biofuel company called Algenol noticed that its Internet service was slowing down. In checking that out, Jack Voth, Algenol’s information technology chief, stumbled on something odd: a telnet connection to its videoconference camera from an Internet Protocol address in China, a country where Algenol has never sought to do business.

That was only the beginning. Ever since, Algenol has been on high alert for what Voth describes as “nefarious activity;” the company estimates that hackers have attempted to break into its computers 39 million times in four months this year, triple the level of a year earlier.

The most serious of these were more than 63,000 attempts that came directly from China, including 6,653 attempts over 15 months from IP addresses and servers that Algenol says are the same as the Peoples’ Liberation Army addresses identified in a public report by Mandiant, a leading computer security firm.

This indicates the demand for this type of technology.  However, there simply has to be a better way to collaborate than to hack.

We think China, or any country, is better than this.  Why not partner with Algenol rather than hack into their systems, slowing down their IT systems and distracting them from their mission?  We’d encourage those who are undertaking this attempt to “aggressively borrow” the intellectual property of Algenol to instead seek to collaborate.  And we would encourage Algenol to consider the model developed by Tesla in our other story.  Perhaps this business model would work for them as well.

Here’s a brief video about the process Algenol uses to produce fuel from algae with their founder, Paul Woods.Probably not enough detail for the ‘hack-inclined’ but still very interesting…

The project management angle is the theme of mission/vision and how it’s connected to the portfolio of projects that an enterprise undertakes to accomplish them.

Should one of the subtending programs in the portfolio be… collaboration?