It’s spring, and I forgot my camera. The photographer in me chided myself as I walked past flowers and early light on the way to the bus. Then I chuckled because, even though I left my SLR and point & shoot at home, I was carrying four cameras: one in my cell phone, one in my laptop, and two in my iPad. Ideas that seemed ridiculous become innocuous. That’s why I am less likely to laugh at ideas that sound unlikely. That’s true in investing, and in life.
Good morning MicroVision. MVIS is up 30% as I type. MicroVision is the storied company behind a story stock, a great example of high risk and potentially high reward. I bought shares of MVIS back in 1999. Can you say “Long Term Buy and Hold”? Their idea is simple, ingenious, or ridiculous. The company is based on the technology behind making a chip that includes an oscillating mirror. Simple. Used one way it can act as a camera. Reverse it and the mirror can act as a projector. Ingenious. But, who would want a projector when they already have a screen? Ridiculous. Through over a decade of technological progress, unfortunate finances, and manufacturing delays, the stock is known for high promises with little substance. Today they announced a deal that includes the regular dose of ambiguity, but they included data; “$4.6 million in development fees to MicroVision over the next 13 months“. Let me check. Yep. It’s still up 30%, on over 25 times normal volume, and it’s only 3.5 hours into the trading day.
Why is everyone so interested? $4.6 million is not a lot of money in Corporate America. 2,000,000 shares traded isn’t much either. But the money is coming in like the cavalry, arriving just as the threat of finding funding loomed. And the trading volume is about one-tenth of the total shares available in the company. Ten percent of a company trading ownership is a major sign of interest.
Why would anyone else be interested? MicroVision’s technology isn’t a panacea and they do have competition, but the potential market is so enormous that even a slice of a slice is enough to create massively profitable companies. Count the displays you see in a day. Laptops, cell phones, cash registers, dashboards, bulletin boards, almost any electronic device has a display. Almost all of those displays are made of glass, take a lot of power, and weigh a lot. For some devices, the display is the major cost, weight, and power draw. MicroVision’s pico projectors are only slightly larger than the cameras embedded in phones, and are lighter, cost less, and use less power than conventional displays. The technology can’t handle very bright displays, but they’re always in focus. They may become as ubiquitous as cameras. They are also why things like Google Glasses become feasible. (Ah, but is MVIS inside?) Human creativity means things that are unimaginable will be imagined. Beside, the eco side of me likes the idea of better displays that use fewer resources.
Why am I interested? Have you been following my story? I need money. Granted, the only reason I need money is because our system of exchange for things like food, shelter, and utilities requires money. Fortunately, I own shares of MVIS. Unfortunately, I bought them at much higher prices. MVIS has to increase 25 times to make my money back, and even that won’t be enough to totally get me out of debt. It’s been a rough ride. And I’ve ridden it because MVIS could be worth ten times that. That would pay off the mortgage, the credit card, remodel the house, and undam a lot of plans. As with any investment, no one knows.
My portfolio relies on more than one stock. I continue to be a fan of diversification. Diversification is one of the cheapest defenses against risk, but it doesn’t come with guarantees either. All of my stocks are down over 50%. Four are down by more than 80%. Two are down by more than 90%. It happens. It is rare, but it happens. My portfolio also relies on patience, that Long Term Buy and Hold I mentioned above (aka LTBH). If a company can survive to profitability, then the ups and downs that preceded that date become moot as financial institutions plug income and expense, asset and liability into their spreadsheets, and then adjust for growth.
That’s what’s supposed to happen, yet – well, here I say it again – there are no guarantees. Look at Dendreon. They received FDA approval for a revolutionary and effective cancer treatment (Provenge), and the stock (DNDN) went down 90%. That was the first cornerstone of my diversified portfolio to fail. When I sold the last of those shares I had to quit paying the mortgage. The patience aspect of my portfolio strategy is being severely tested.
The good news that exceeds MicroVision’s good news is that the market is starting to respond to good news. In a rational market, good news makes a stock rise and bad news makes a stock drop. For the last few years, despite steady progress, almost every stock in my portfolio has dropped regardless of their news. The markets were irrational. Now, they appear to be returning to reason and rationality. Look back at the Small Recoveries experienced by AMSC and RSOL. Good news produced a positive response. That’s good in general. Personally, it is good, and part of a race between recovery and foreclosure.
If the markets are returning to rationality many will be surprised. Maybe the rest of my efforts will make sense too. That may sound ridiculous, but in retrospect it may appear to be innocuous.
Ironically, four cameras at hand didn’t produce a photo for today’s post. The laptop camera isn’t very convenient for close-ups of flowers, and the iPad and cell phone don’t readily communicate with my MacBook. Welcome to a snapshot taken with my Point & Shoot.