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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Angry Allozyne

When they shut down the Seattle PI on March 17, 2009 they put an end to a daily telling of the Seattle story. Good people, who were good at their jobs, were let go. It was indeed a sad day for the people and for the art and science of journalism.

The Xconomy came along to take over the news in the tech industry. It reports on how to get money, who is getting money, and why everyone should be giving money to the cargo cults. I don't hide my biases very well. Occasionally however, they do something I like. They let out a secret today about a Cargo Cult known as Allozyne. I ran afoul of one of their supporters last year when I had this to say about their company. I do not understand what these people could be doing in that little space just down the street from the famed floating houses of Seattle.

Thought I'd throw in a picture. It is a beautiful place.

Allozyne started off as a promising story. According to Xconomy, they still are promising.
Seattle-based Allozyne, one of the promising biotech drug developers to graduate from the venture-backed Accelerator, recently conducted a small round of employee furloughs.
They branched off from Accelerator with a fat bank account, fancy digs, pretty people to run the show, and some sexy technology from a couple CalTech brainiacs. They were promising, if you were into appearances. Somehow the rest of the world was not impressed. Since leaving Accelerator, the leadership of Allozyne has boasted of no major collaborations nor any meaningful successes. Enough time has passed to make those of us on the outside wonder what is going on. A news story finally breaks but it is not clear what is going on.

Allozyne made the latest round of reductions to its payroll a little more than a year after another round of job cuts that I reported here in January 2012. CEO Meenu Chhabra Karson said by e-mail, “We did not lay off anyone recently,” but declined to answer further questions. Three other sources close to the situation said staff reductions were made recently at Allozyne and described internally not as “layoffs” but as “furloughs,” which suggests the people affected may be called back. 
Did Meenu deny laying anyone off this time or is that a quote from last year? If her quote is a year old, the only information we have comes from Lukes three other sources close to the situation.  If it's new, why not speak to the rumors of furloughs? We all assume that they will run out of money someday. Are they so Cargo Cult that they don't want anyone to see them without their look of success?

The anger from the Xconomy commenters offers some information. It appears to come from within the walls of that little space down the street from the floating houses. Like this one from "industry exec":
Having worked directly with the company very recently, I've seen absolutely no evidence or impact of the alleged personnel management "reported" here - Allozyne has a solid team and is extremely well led, so hopefully this rather loose and speculative story won't needlessly create noise or disrupt the company's ability to operate and deliver on its technology (which is truly exciting!). I have to say, I seriously doubt the accuracy of this story and would think even Xconomy has a higher journalistic bar for what even qualifies as newsworthy...shame.
Oh, this guy has worked directly with the company very recently... from his office overlooking the houseboats! Then there is this one from JMM:
The Allozyne approach and the products they are generating are top-notch, as is the staff's commitment to their science. If allozyne is refocusing their efforts expect great things from these guys.
Top notch? Expect great things? We've been expecting great things since 2005! To be fair, Amgen took 20 years to really take off but this is not Amgen. Allozyne is a small company that appears to be on its last legs. They took 50M down to 1.1M then managed to put another 4M in the bank last year. 4M is not a lot of money for a company that has to pay Seattle rent, Seattle employee taxes (why not set up shop in Bothell?) and exorbitant salaries to arrogant angry managers. Which one of these commenters was Leroy Hood? Which one was Carl Weissman? Who said this:
we're conducting a paid study with Allozyne and haven't seen or heard any issues either - management team is extremely professional and scientists are hitting our goals. I'd be surprised if this were true.
He calls himself "insider". He doesn't always use capital letters to start his sentences. He must be a high ranking insider exec. He claims to be paying Allozyne. We can no sooner verify his claim than we can verify Lukes. At least we know where Luke works.

I don't have anything to add to the story here. I started the blog a year after Allozyne began. My premise was that most of these little companies were ran on smoke and mirrors. The "entrepreneurs" are mostly PhD or MD level people who have a sense of entitlement. They put millions of dollars in a pot and swish it around to collect what spills over. During the day they hold meetings on how to swish the pot around. When the companies run out of money their work is done. Very few succeed so why worry about the failure. You move on with a C-level pedigree. Good job! Meanwhile the layoffs are real. You just aren't going to hear that from the Cargo Cult leaders.


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