Maybe this could all fit in a tweet. Here’s a draft.
MVIS at CES2018 = Moviphone + etc.
Ok. Done. But, you know there’s more to say.
The Consumer Electronics Show is where the buzz is built for the gadgets people buy. Every year that I can recall as a sharedholder, MicroVision’s performance has been eagerly anticipated by the shareholders. Finally, an opportunity to see behind the company’s curtain whether through news from the company, or from insights provided by customers. MicroVision is notably reticent and its customers have little incentive to mention component providers. That leaves shareholders hoping for news, but possibly not hearing any. Thanks to people like Peter who attend, visit the MicroVision exhibits, check in with customers, and investigate competition – basically, someone who does for free what the paid people in the company can’t or won’t do.
As I commented earlier, this year felt different. Even though there are more real products for sale, there was less buzz about MicroVision at CES. The classic problem is differentiating between a busy company withholding news, a company that has too little news, a company that isn’t saying anything because there’s nothing to say, or a company that hasn’t found its voice after it lost its CEO.
One week and one CES later, nothing dramatically new was revealed. The shareholders already knew about MoviPhone, yet another in the recent surge of smartphones with embedded projectors. (If you want to learn more about unboxing reviews, availability, and technical issues, visit the MVIS subreddit.) This is the type of smartphone that’s been anticipated for years. It arrived, generated some positive reviews, but probably didn’t get as much attention because it was from MoviPhone, not Samsung, Sony, or Apple.
It sounds like work continues on LiDAR, smaller form factor projectors, and the inevitable variety of test units and prototypes; but there was a lack of news (that I could find) about committed products or excited customers. The great news from Sony that was hinted at in the last few years faded. Sony did announce a new stand-alone pico-projector, but it uses an Texas Instrument component, not one from MicroVision. Without any details furnished by any of the companies, the switch suggests to me that the Sony line of several home life devices have either been delayed or deleted, or are being redesigned for a different supplier. The Head Up Display units weren’t mentioned. Maybe with the great visuals of enormous monitors and autonomous vehicles there was less interest in writing about components and sub-components.
MicroVision was wise enough to start the show with a press release, and to emphasize MoviPhone’s announcements. But. In one week of one of the most dynamic and dramatic trade shows, @MicroVision (their Twitter account) posted fewer than a dozen tweets. I post that many in a day, and I’m not a multi-million dollar public corporation. I deal with NDAs, sensitive clients, and legal restrictions, too. This can be done.
Individual investors aren’t limited to press releases and tweets. It can seem that institutional investors are more likely to get better access and deeper information, but they have no incentive to share what they’ve learned. Individual investors can, however, exercise more control and authority if their resources allow. Peter is a good example. Check priorities, time, money, and interest and go – if they all align. Do that and get some much first hand information that it takes longer to describe it than it did to acquire it. I’m sure he’ll provide an update and a summary with more to tell. Do tell.
The good news is that MoviPhone exists. It is a real product. It is the sort of product that many hoped would be announced as a surprise at past events. Five years ago, it would’ve been stellar. Last year’s phones were exciting, but have not lead to significant commercial success, yet. Maybe MoviPhone will make the previous CEO’s claim come true. (Note: Forward looking statements can seem silly in retrospect.) A few years ago the CEO suggested that the company would be profitable 6-9 months after the launch of a successful smartphone that had a MicroVision projector embedded in it. Such statements are appreciated. In practice, the definitions matter. Is MoviPhone a success? When do the 6-9 months start? Would that statement be true so many years later?
The same CEO also suggested the company would see $30M to $60M in revenues in 12-18 months from one of their more recent initiatives. That statement was about a year ago. Similar questions exist. Is that statement true enough? When do the 12-18 months start? Has anything changed because the CEOs changed? That was the sort of information I wanted to learn from this CES. Alas, no news (from my limited perspective.)
For years, MicroVision has been a company that will be successful in 9-18 months. Watching CES from Washington State means I don’t know much more than I did before. As an individual investor, I like investing in local companies for a variety of reasons. One is that watching the company becomes easier. Easier isn’t necessarily easy.
Most individual investors don’t have spare time to attend such events or call principal people. That’s why individual investors benefit from being in a community of individual investors. Some have the time. Some have the analytical skills. Some have industry expertise. Collectively, such a community can be powerful and impressive. Without people like Peter and others, less would be known about MicroVision. The same is true for many small companies. If you are in a similar situation, check around. You may create something far greater than anything any one of you can create. You may also find that, even with that much effort, there really isn’t anything else to hear. You aren’t missing a thing when there isn’t a thing.
In the nature of the Internet, Peter’s post may publish about the time this one goes live. In that case, great. Thank Peter. In the meantime, I’ll lower my expectations of MicroVision, listen for news about MoviPhone, and wait and hope for significant pleasant surprises. Oh yeah, and earnings reports where those $30M-$60M in revenues will start showing up, right?