That’s a familiar refrain. “When’s that stock going to go up?” I hear it a lot, internally and externally. Within my portfolio, and the portfolio of many that I know, the poster child for that question is MVIS, Microvision; the stock that represents the company that represents a massively disruptive technology and the potential for impressive profits that have yet to be realized. The company reports earnings on Monday, November 1st.
One of my friends was kind enough to review my book before I sent it off to the publisher. It didn’t describe his style of investing, which I appreciated because he could take a larger view of the text. Listening to him told me if I got anywhere close to getting across my intent. I worried that it would come across as a “Get rich quick” scheme, which would be wrong in many ways. He assured me that to him is was more like, “Get rich slow”, and I can’t remember if he added my frequent waffle-word, maybe.
Get rich slow, maybe. Investing happens so people can have more money than they started with. I am a long term investor, so it is common for my investments to languish a long time before they move. And nothing is certain in life, so maybe captures the reality of risk in anything.
Despite the possibility of making money eventually, patience can wear thin, and in some case can vanish entirely. Everyone has various reserves of patience. For some, patience would fit in a teacup. Others would need olympic swimming pools. Microvision has quite a few investors looking at dry buckets and hoping for rain.
For those who haven’t heard of Microvision, don’t be surprised. The company is small (less than 200 employees) and is based on a product and technology that also emphasizes the small (MEMS, micro-electro-mechanical-systems, in their case, mirrors on chips). Of course, companies making small things can become quite large. Intel fits that description. Intel made chips that moved electrons. Microvision makes chips that move photons. If successful, Microvision can affect, and sell into, most video display and scanning markets. They can’t do everything, but they are aimed at large slices of very large global markets. The question is, can they succeed?
I’ve held the stock for over a decade. Its high was back in the internet bubble days at about $60. I bought a few shares above $30. Today the shares have been diluted ten-fold and the stock is trading at about $2. My patience for them has been dwindling for years. And yet, I’ve bought more.
The story of Microvision will be a book someday, if they succeed. They’ve already developed a DVD-quality projector that fits in a pocket. Supposedly, it will fit into a cell phone with a few months, oops, a couple of years. Sometime around there it should also fit into a pair of glasses. I bought one of the early pocket models (ShowWX). It has about the same level of quality as the first Macintosh that I bought back in the mid-eighties; very cool but lacking some key functions. There’s hope.
I know quite a few folks that bought MVIS stock in the last few years. Many of them have many more shares than me. That’s gutsy, but also more easily done. I’ve been buying shares over the years, as next year continually seemed to be the year they would broke through into success. My friends have been buying down in the single dollar digits. Smart, if it works. I bought higher and lower, which might be smart enough. If it succeeds, they’ll be rich. I’ll be rich enough, if it happens soon enough.
Apple stock (AAPL) seems like a no-brainer when it comes to investments. They even used it as an example in the movie, “Forrest Gump”. The early investors, the pre-IPO investors did well, but look at the stock up until 1998. It barely moved over 15 years. It was expected to die, go bankrupt, and become a bit of computer age folklore. From 1998 until now the stock has risen 3,350%. It took about 15 years for Apple to mature enough to establish itself and to begin generating impressive revenues; and it happened from unexpected avenues like iTunes.
I don’t know what will happen to Microvision and MVIS. I do know that this year they finally began shipping a commercially viable product, which doesn’t seem to have caught on. I also know that they have generated backlogs of orders that I think eclipse any prior year’s revenues. According to them, they are operating at full speed but can’t say anything because of their customer’s non-disclosure agreements. Those of us who can recall prior agreements with Honda and NCR pay less credence to assurances.
In 2006, the CEO expected “Super Bowl” style success in four years. In 2007, he said that 2009 would be the Super Bowl year. In 2009, he thought it might be in 2010. This year he said that a Super Bowl year will require a particular type of laser in commercial quantities. From what I’ve read, that should be available in 2011.
Good. Then maybe the stock will go up. Of course, it could go up with this earnings report, or a product announcement, or a laser announcement, or before, or after, or – sigh. Anyone have some patience I can borrow?