The technology behind Pasadena-based Materia remained relatively low profile for the first seven years after its birth in a Caltech lab.


Then its co-founder and board member Robert Grubbs won the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on Materia.


The last three years have been a boom time for the chemical catalyst company. Over the past 18 months alone its employee base has doubled to 80 people.


This month, the company announced that it raised $40 million in venture funding for a startup called Elevance Renewable Sciences Inc. The joint project started three years ago with Cargill Inc., one of the world's largest producers of agricultural oils, after Elevance received a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.


For the Elevance startup, Materia will apply its technology to Cargill's renewable oils, such as those from soy, canola and corn. The Materia process will replace petroleum in production of commercial grade waxes, lubricants and additives. Candles manufactured in this way are already being sold under the name NatureWax. They burn cleaner and hold more fragrance than those made with petroleum.


This recent round of funding for Elevance was led by investments from TPG Star and TPG Biology Partners II.


Materia holds 350 patents worldwide related to metathesis, a chemical process that allows rearrangement of carbon bonds. The company applies this technology to new chemical, pharmaceutical, and plastic products. Its revenues flow from licensing its technology, sponsoring research, and sales of active ingredients. One such product is insect pheromones, an alternative to pesticides.

Drive Through

Brentwood-based LeadPoint, an operator of an online marketplace for leads, has seen buyers double to 3,000 over the past year. Sellers have grown by about 70 percent.

Buyers are auto dealers, for example, who purchase leads from Yahoo Autos, which sells the contact information of a consumer that filled out a form to get a quote about a car through the site. LeadPoint serves as a marketplace for that transaction and takes a commission usually under 20 percent of the sale.

"Our technology allows our site to function like a real-time auction," said Marc Diana, co-founder and chief executive of the company. "It's a marketplace where consumers are matched with service providers."

Before LeadPoint, Diana was on the founding team of LowerMyBills.com, a comparison shopping site that sold to Experian for $380 million in 2005.

Brentwood-based LeadPoint started four years ago but it's already 100 employees strong.

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