MergerMarket Interview with Sumit Sharma

Landscape with Dreams pt. 2

In the prior post, I described my take on the motivations and strategic positioning of major players developing AR glasses and how they might view MVIS now that it is up for sale.

In this post, I'll look at a few of the leaders in semiconductors through the lens of how they may value MVIS, because, after all, Microvision is at its heart, a silicon company.

1.) ST Micro

ST Micro is a $20B market cap Swiss semiconductor company that manufactures the MVIS MEMS mirrors used in laser beam scanning systems such as the HoloLens 2. MVIS and ST have had a long relationship that includes a 2016 "co-marketing agreement" and "joint product roadmap", as ST describes it:

MicroVision and ST anticipate exploring options to collaborate on future technology development including a joint LBS product roadmap. This cooperation would combine the process design and manufacturing expertise of ST with the LBS systems and solutions expertise of MicroVision. 

“Working with MicroVision, our goal is to build on our matched skills, shared vision, and commitment to grow LBS-enabled markets to open up many opportunities for both companies,” said Benedetto Vigna, Executive Vice President of the Analog and MEMS Group of ST. “This relationship will position ST to pursue all of the growth opportunities for LBS and the complementary power, sensing, and control components.”

That's acquisition-type language to this reader, from a little over three years ago.

ST recently published this document that describes ST's position in the AR market, and includes the slide below.









So, this is what "co-marketing" looks like as described in the press release; ST sells ST-branded, MVIS-based pico projector components or modules into the market and probably pays MVIS a royalty or fee per unit. 

ST makes sense as an acquirer because they have an established relationship with (read, dependency on?) Microvision, appreciate MVIS' tech unique value, and have the know-how to manufacture MVIS' core components. Should MEMS LBS becomes the standard technology for eyewear displays, ST would be sending royalty checks to MVIS in perpetuity, checks which when totaled, would in all likelihood far eclipse MVIS current $30M valuation. 

ST is also involved in self-driving car technology and could benefit from MVIS' forthcoming solid-state automotive LIDAR solution. 

2.) Qualcomm

Qualcomm is another silicon company (market cap $83B) making a big push into AR technology. The "XR2" chipset is designed for augmented reality and includes sensor fusion capabilities to support eyewear displays. 

Qualcomm is also an IP licensing company itself and could probably do extremely well licensing MVIS laser beam scanning tech into the market. Their statement that "Mobile XR has the potential to become one of the world's most ubiquitous and disruptive computing platforms -- similar to the smartphone today," pretty much says everything about their motivations. 

Capturing MVIS would give QCOM the crown jewel IP for augmented reality displays to broadly license the mobile XR future, and marry the display to the computing platform of XR. 



3.) NVIDIA

NVIDIA is another silicon company (market cap $158B) working in the graphics chipset space. They also work in edge computing and self-driving cars technology and may make sense as an acquisition partner. They could combine their super-computing horsepower with point clouds of 3D data generated from MVIS' LIDAR solutions to create computer vision that's faster and more accurate than anything that's existed. That would be a super synergetic combination. 

4.) Texas Instruments

TI (market cap $99B) is a diversified semiconductor company. They manufacture the DLP micromirror projection display system that was popularized in big screen televisions a number of years ago and is also in use in handheld projection systems. Their DLP platform is targeting many of the same markets and use cases as MVIS laser beam steering. (The principal difference between TI's DLP and MVIS tech is that DLP is a chip containing many mirrors that essentially shutter a light source on and off. The disadvantage relative to MVIS is that the blocked light in DLP is wasted as heat, resulting in inefficient power consumption.) MVIS uses a single mirror or a pair of mirrors to steer a single laser beam across the field of view to create an image. There is also no fixed plane or panel in MVIS tech which allows greater flexibility in designing large field of view displays without increasing the size of associated optics.

Purchasing MVIS would make sense as it would give them a complementary technology to their own projection tech, with MVIS unique benefits of low power, low heat, small size, scan angle-based images etc. 


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