Overnight successes rarely happen overnight, unless a lottery ticket purchase hits the timing and the numbers just right. Investing in startup companies rarely results in overnight successes. If the company or the stock or both are in demand, then they’re already succeeding and some of the impressive initial gains have been missed. Overnight success has more to do with public perception. News articles may splash around headlines as tweets go viral and products sell out, but those familiar with the company may breathe sighs of relief rather than shouts and celebrations. Until the news hit and the sales surged, management, employees, and shareholders couldn’t be sure when or if success would ever happen. That’s where it seems that MicroVision is now. I wonder how many of my entrepreneurial friends are in a similar situation.
MicroVision and its stock (MVIS) haven’t provided financial benefits for me, though they have certainly provided more than enough stories. I heavily filter what I post here because, even with all of those stories, I don’t want to bore you, and there’s very little quantitative progress. If you want to read more, I recommend the various discussion boards (Motley Fool, Investor Village, Silicon Investor, reddit, etc.) or blogs like Peter Jungmann’s. They’re devoted to the company and the stock much more than I am. One of the familiar refrains in the almost twenty years that I’ve owned the stock has been; “This will be great, as soon as they have their first real product.” That makes sense. It’s hard to succeed without a product. It does happen, but not for MicroVision, yet.
The hope is that MicroVision will finally be involved in a product that succeeds well enough to make the company and the stock a success. “Hope” is not an investment strategy. “Finally” doesn’t exactly have a date associated with it. And success is subjective.
Recent shareholders may consider the stock to be a success because it has doubled in the last year or so. Long time investors like me thought the stock looked good every time we bought it; otherwise, why buy it? I bought my first shares during the Internet bubble. MicroVision isn’t a dotcom, but it was caught up in the irrational exuberance. The stock was a hundred times higher, then. My hopes are that high, but my expectations have been lowered by time and dilution. (A Study In Dilution MVIS) In 2012, the stock had a reverse split, one share for every eight owned. They did that to avoid delisting. One way to avoid delisting is to keep the share price above $5. My benchmark is that $5 mark times the eight-fold change required to reach that old threshold. Just getting back to that point is about a sixteen-fold increase. Others would cheer, as would I, but I’d also know MVIS wouldn’t have been a good investment for me because of the cost of time and money. Get the stock back up to one hundred times today’s $2.59 and then I consider re-retiring.
What’s going to make that happen? What’s happened in the meantime?
For the last few years I’ve maintained a chart showing some of the company’s confirmed and potential products. Each has the potential to be that catalyst that creates MicroVision’s overnight success. Each has passed by without moving the stock to those previous levels. The chart was getting unwieldy, so I hoped to find another way to build and maintain it. Thanks to one of my major clients (the History of Computing in Learning and Education Virtual Museum) I came across a timeline generator that was much nicer.
Neat ideas can take more time than expected. Thanks to a redditor, I had a much more comprehensive list of MicroVision’s products. Open the timeline template, dump in the data, rearrange the data, decide some of it could be improved, and generally spend hours of free time chasing down SEC filings, company press releases, and discussion board posts to arrive at something that is unofficial and inaccurate but better than what I had.
Those hours weren’t wasted. To many, it seems that MicroVision has yet to have a major product, or a major partner, or a major success. I was surprised to find that MicroVision released their first product near the beginning of 2002. With very few gaps, they’ve had something to sell, or something one of their customers was selling for over fifteen years. None have been viral successes, but they keep trying. And, they’re trying with partners like Sony, Sharp, Pioneer, Lenovo, etc. No wonder I’ve been hopeful for so long, and so tired of waiting.
Here’s a link to the chart. I’ll see if I can embed it, too.
This may be the nature of an overnight success, lots of activity that doesn’t catch everyone’s attention – until it does. At this point, patience is thin, the stock is a bad topic of conversation for some, and each day I look at it, I see those years of missed opportunities for me and the company.
And then I wonder. Is the same thing happening with me? I could fill a similar timeline with entries from every aspect of the incredibly short version of my resume: Consultant, Writer, Speaker, Teacher, Photographer, Engineer, Entrepreneur, etc. – a list so long that, yet again, I missed out on a job because I was overqualified. Is the same thing happening to many of my friends? They’re working hard, trying various business models, losing patience, and struggling to get by. Which idea or gig will finally let them succeed and break free?
There’s no guarantee for MicroVision, other startups, me, or my friends. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. Humans are amazingly resilient. We prove that by persisting.
In the meantime, we work hard, try to find a balance or at least not step too far away from it, and hope and wait, and wonder. Success? When it happens, it may seem like it happened overnight.