Friday, July 2, 2010

Microvision: Open Letter to Microvision CEO Alex Tokman

For a company that launched laser based SHOWwx in September 2009, and announced the availability of the hottest consumer electronic product of this decade, your management team is awfully quiet on all fronts of news with no visible signs of product promotions, marketing or sales. Granted, the backorders and future product introductions do count; but then again who knows for sure what the future would bring, and if the delivery would be made at profitable terms.

Market does not like the lack of any significant news for extended periods and reacts by selling [and short selling] the Microvision stock. Just over the last one week, the stock price has dropped by 30% [down from $3.60 to $2.64]. This kind of price drop, it seems, has become a norm for Microvision stock after every Qtr earnings CC or the Annual Share Holders meeting.

Lack of news; or lack of any visible signs of product promotion, marketing, or sales does not build confidence in Microvision business model… and as a result, more and more investors [and supporters] abandon the MVIS stock every time there is carnage in its market price.

I don’t know if you realize how important the Microvision investors are to the well being, survival, and future prosperity of your [our] company?

Think about this…

At this early stage of the game, your first wave of prospective customers will be the Microvision investors [their family & friends], employees, vendors, hot leads from trade shows, and a few live ones from the ROV customer base. That’s your “hot” prospective customer base that you can easily tap for “placing the sensors in the ground”.

There are over 1,000 investors of MVIS stock that track the company’s news like a hawk on a daily basis. Each one of us [investors] has at least 200 people in our center of influence. If you do the math and add-up all the numbers you get over 200,000 people that would love to provide comments [and feed back] and be part of this paradigm changing technology at this early stage.

President-elect Obama used the Internet to reach out to millions [and continues to do so to this day] in a very short period of time and raised over $1billion in donations for his Presidential election. If Obama can evangelize his “Change We Need” slogan, then why can’t Microvision do the same with its “PicoP Green Machine” slogan? Let’s face it… sooner or later Microvision will have a HD PicoP Projector/TV that could provide large screen HDTV experience to a billion people in energy starved China and India. In the U.S. and Europe, it could easily replace millions of power hungry LCD/Plasma TVs in every room.

Investors need more frequent news on product developments; and also need to see visible signs of activity in promotions, marketing and sales… no matter how small. It keeps us interested and engaged. Share more information with us [Microvision investors] and make us part of your viral marketing strategy. It costs you nothing and results could be 200,000 times better than what an expensive team of executives with fancy titles would bring to the table.

For a moment think Apple…
To succeed like Apple, companies need to understand more deeply the consumer they are targeting. Apple recognizes that it can't have everyone as its customer. It is willing to alienate some segments by appealing to a strong core of people that sociologists refer to as the Cultural Creatives. These are the people who wait in line overnight for the latest iPod, iPhone, or the iPad. Focusing on the Cultural Creatives in turn attracts followers who might not otherwise trust the brand.

[The concept is presented in the book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World (2000), where the authors claim to have found that 50 million adult Americans who can now be identified as belonging to this group. They estimated that there were an additional 80 to 90 million Cultural Creatives in Europe as of 2000.]

Observe the next 10 people you see on the street with an iPod and ask your self how many of them represent the Cultural Creatives featured in Apple's advertising.

One, may be two?

Address your core audience… and the rest will follow. That's how you sell 10 million iPods in one quarter.

In the hands of an artful company like Apple, design is the vehicle for driving meaningful, relevant experiences that are authentic to the brand. It's not about paring product lines or making cool stuff. Done right, design can add value to the bottom line and the brand. However, design done right goes beyond the appearance and behavior of the object itself. It takes the entire product ecosystem into consideration. Design done right sees technology as an enabler, not just the solution.

Apple creates holistic experiences that inspire customers, strategic partners like accessory manufacturers, and content providers to build up the platform. Apple understands: “It's not about market share. It's about mind share.”

There are two ways to reach this group of prospective Microvision customers... the first is by more frequent e-mails… and the second is more organized, like the formation of “PicoP Green Machine User’s Group”. With that as a means to reach out and touch, you could hold the interest and engage your core Cultural Creatives… in exchange for latest news or sneak-peak at the technology that could save the Planet Earth.

You know what I mean? You get the idea!

It doesn’t cost you anything and it can build your e-mail list very quickly. Think “Obama” every time you want to reach out and touch millions in a hurry.

The foresight to go live with your Blog “The Diaplayground” was an excellent idea in this internet driven world… and the timing could not be any better. Perfect stroke of genius!

However, there is total lack of response to visitor posts at your Blog site… and that is the second issue.

I expect customers, investors, vendors and competitors to dominate the ranks of visitors that lurk The Displayground.

As investors, we are a fickle bunch and our Blog posts tend to be skewed towards topics that effect our financial investment in Microvision. We tend to be long term investors but the current volatility can be devastating… and as such, we doubt our good judgment from time to time. Sometimes our questions may be direct, inquiring, frustrating, out-of-line, etc. Some of us, at times, can’t say what we mean or mean what we say. However, we mean no disrespect, malice or harm. Now, with your corporate governance legal frame work in place, your team may or may not respond to [or even publish] our comments from time to time. We would understand your position in such a situation. However, there are ways to answer a comment, without violating legal rules and regulations, and still maintain the flow of dialog with the Blog participant.

I guess it all goes back to: “the beginning of openness and sharing of the truth with integrity and trust.”

Openness and sharing truth with integrity are important to investors… both large and small.

Anant Goel

PS: "Strive for simplicity, innovation, human-centered interaction, visual interest, and efficiency." This is the calling card for all businesses for the future.