The UK publication This is Money has an interesting accountof how Oxonica once the model of nanotech startup success has become a cautionary tale within a couple of years. Once trading at more than £100 million (US$161 million), the company is trading at just 3p, valuing the company at less than £2 million (U$3.2 million).
By this account and others I have read, the downfall of the company seems akin to Greek tragedy in that the company was brought down by its own hubris. Instead of just paying licensing fees to the inventor of a fuel additive that allowed diesel engines to run more efficiently and cut carbon emissions, once Oxonica looked poised to win a huge contract for the product they claimed that they had developed their own and didn't need to license the original formula.
A couple of problems quickly developed, the contract more or less fell through when the Turkish fuel company Petrol Efisi that were testing the fuel additive balked when it didn't meet its stated performance levels. Doh. Then the inventor filed a lawsuit and won. When Oxonica appealed, the court again sided with the inventor again. Doh x 2.
Now in the hope of making up for poor business decisions with endless legal wrangling the article outlines how the company has "set aside £394,000 to cover the royalties and it has earmarked a further £800,000 for possible legal costs. The total is already dangerously close to Oxonica's bank balance of £1.6m."
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.