Editorial: Moxie’s collateral damage

In 2016, we celebrated Moxie Solar as the Fastest Growing Company in the Corridor with an amazing 536.27% revenue growth calculated over the previous three calendar years. By 2023 the company was no longer in business, and the fallout from this once shining star is now starting to become apparent thanks to Noah Tong’s exemplary investigative reporting for the CBJ.

It is not uncommon for companies to grow too fast. We have seen that several times over the past 14 years of publishing the CBJ’s Fastest Growing Companies list. Asoyia, Lattice Communications, Bochner Chocolate and Express Auto Delivery were all companies that made the fastest growing companies list, but were unable to sustain their growth and went out of business.

Moxie seemed different. 

Moxie even sustained their growth for a time by remarkably making the fastest growing companies list every year from 2016 through 2021. But making the fastest list and profitability are two very different metrics.

“The biggest issue they had, frankly, was they tried to grow too fast,” said Keith Fuglaar, Moxie’s CFO during the company’s final months, in a CBJ investigative news report.

What we haven’t seen from other fast growing companies’ failures is the level of collateral damage that was done with Moxie’s demise. Multiple lawsuits, unpaid or underpaid employees, and untold numbers of disgruntled clients remain in the wake of Moxie, putting a tarnish on this once-rising Corridor company.

The solar company founded by Jason Hall, a banker-turned-entrepreneur, was one of the so-called “gazelles”— fast growing companies that economic development organizations and city and state governments covet. 

Moxie also had the underpinnings of helping to fix climate change, which has become so politically intoxicating.

“What really kept us rolling was this vision, this dream that we had of being a company that was going to change the world and put Iowa on the map,” said Julian Vandervelde, a former vice president of sales for Moxie and a University of Iowa and NFL offensive lineman.

“We were trying to catch something that seemed untouchable,” he continued. “There’s a giant that is climate change. If we have the opportunity to … really chase this thing down, we have to take it.

“Sometimes your eyes get a little too big for your stomach.”

Moxie’s demise, exhaustively detailed by Mr. Tong, will become another textbook case of the entrepreneurial dilemma, which is described as a situation where entrepreneurs have to choose between multiple future courses of action concerning their firm, without sufficient information to make that choice.

It is clear that entrepreneurs and economic development officials will be examining this case for years to come to, hopefully, prevent it from happening again.