From $850 Million to $20 Million and a Bailout

Gro Intelligence, a climate analytics startup, was going to fix the global food system.  That’s a tall order.  But folks invested and created an $850-million company.  As it turns out, Gro had no impact on the global food system.  In fact, it did not even make its payroll taxes.

Beware of entrepreneurial wizards promising the world, or at least a new food system.  Gro’s CEO founder is out along with the operations VP, and the Board has hired a law firm to determine what went wrong.  The board now oversees a $20 to $25-million company.

One has to wonder, where was the board when it was reviewing the company’s financials? Contributions to the employee retirement plans were late. Yet, Gro, ranked as one of the most influential companies in 2021,  was not making  payroll. And 60% of its work force has been pink-slipped with remaining employees promised that they will get their missed paychecks.  Getting that in writing will still put those employees  fourth in line in bankruptcy.

There was the usual cash-burn problem as former Gro CEO Sara Menger did her TED talks and Davos appearances. She had lined up some clients such as Bayer and Unilever, and shame on them for buying it all hook, line, and sinker.  But the board saw nothing except star power and heard only promises until a consultant came on board, as it were, and discovered the payroll issues.

Sophisticated board members awaken and arise.  Forget about the rankings, the PR, and the promises. Forget about markets and valuations.  Stick with the basics:  Are we meeting payroll? Sad that we cannot trust executives to do the basics that the smallest LLCs and S corps do.  Sophistication and Davos do buy cover.  Ignore the media coverage and hype, don’t hire consultants — just ask employees about their paychecks.

Juliet Chung, “Climate Analytics Startup, Once Rising Star, Is in Crisis,” Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2024, p. B1.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
This entry was posted in News and Events. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.