The current dysfunction in Washington might deliver some opportunities for the patient, discriminating value investor who has an appetite for some risk. Expect volatility in the near term. But keep watch out for the following stocks with an eye to accumulating on any irrational, short-term weakness. While the government may be dormant, the following companies are showcasing interesting products and business models. Ultimately, it's innovation from companies like these that create jobs and propel the American economy to greater heights. What characterizes the following stocks is that they are all highly entrepreneurial, growth-driven bellwethers in their industry at attractive valuations.
If you haven't heard about Augmented Reality, don't worry, you soon will. Because it is easily one of the most exciting technological developments on the horizon. While most technological progress occurs subtly, step by step, AR represents more of a quantum leap than an incremental improvement. Precious few technologies have the potential to radically alter day-to-day life the way Augmented Reality could. If you missed the boat on 3D printing, now is the time to get in on the ground floor with AR companies before their prices are bid up by the attention they'll inevitably garner from the mainstream press and less savvy investors.
Himax Technologies (HIMX) will be a key supplier for the growing AR space. It has appreciated just slightly north of the $10 threshold. The company is coming off a game-changing agreement with Google Inc. (GOOG). On July 22 the company announced that Google agreed to make a minority investment in a subsidiary, Himax Display (HDI). Himax Display fabricates the Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) chips and modules necessary for the deployment of Google Glass' head-mounted display.
Operationally, Google's investment will allow the company to make the necessary production improvements to handle the expected raft of orders that will attend the commercialization of the Google Glass. Currently, the company does not have infrastructure to hand the anticipated volume.
You don't want to be an uncritical lemming, but HDI has a peerless investor pedigree. Google is joining Silicon Valley stalwarts Khosla Ventures and Intel Capital Corp. These venture funds have tremendous track records. They perform rigorous due diligence, and as such their investment is a validation of both the profitability of the technology and the competence of the management team. A chance to partially outsource some of your due diligence to these firms is not an opportunity to sneer at.
An investment in the public equity of the parent will get you great exposure to HDI with the additional benefit of diversification. HIMX's technology has a very broad user base (phone, tablet, automotive applications, CMOS sensors, wafer level optics, etc.) and isn't nearly as dependent on the success of one large client. Himax's earnings last quarter were solidly in line with optimistic guidance. And the company looks poised to compound on its past success.
These high expectations for Google Glass bode well for other companies that will piggy-back on the Google Glass roll-out. Infinity Augmented Reality (ALSO) is one such company. The company is headed by a successful team and board of directors, which includes serial entrepreneur Moshe Hogeg (of Mobli fame), Infinity Augmented Reality is the premier contender to be the brains of the Google Glass platform. Like most AR equities, this company is off the radar of most institutional analysts and investors. So unlike HIMX we haven't seen much appreciation in the stock before the advent of Google Glass.
Infinity Augmented Reality platform will allow digital glasses to integrate with most smart consumer devices (cars, tvs, smart phones, tablets, etc). The recently announced Amazing Relevance is a novel predictive application that will significantly enhance user experience of digital eyewear. The software will intuit user preferences making navigation of the virtual environment far more fluid. This will make Google Glass more attractive to both user and the business that will advertise via a virtual reality overlay. Accordingly, the company has announced several monetization strategies for this new platform, which will allow advertisers to market with heretofore unknown specificity, and allow them to extract patterns across a number of demographic parameters.
This is an opportunity to initiate a position at an attractive cost basis for the speculative investor who is willing to take a risk betting on the increasing demand for augmented reality and Google Glass. As with many of these challenging over-the-counter stocks there is a great risk potential, but great reward as well. In conclusion, Infinity AR software technology will be to Google Glass what the Windows operating system is to 91% of the computers worldwide.
PayPal is great. But what if you are a minor? Well, that's where Virtual Piggy (VPIG) comes in.
Of the many interesting developments afoot in the e-commerce ecosystem, this company has identified an attractive and underserved niche in the family and under-18 payment segment. VPIG's free e-wallet will offer a safe, secure transaction solution for youth. It doesn't take much imagination to understand why parents are so eager to adopt such a technology. The service is quickly scaling up, recently amassing a user base of 500,000 accounts. It's also joined up to the DemandLink platform that will permit rapid integration with the many merchants under its umbrella.
Anything that makes spending money easier, is almost a no-brainer. But Virtual Piggy has an additional educational component. The company is using its software to teach kids how to save and build smart money habits. That's a win-win for everybody.
PayPal was a private Silicon valley VC deal for insiders only. And it created a few notable billionaires. Fortunately, for you Virtual Piggy is an e-commerce solution open to regular investors.
Patent trolls have a bad name. But that shouldn't stop you from turning a profit on the well run ones. Some days you pay the troll. Some days the troll pays you. Vringo, Inc. (VRNG) is embroiled in some protracted legal battles. But such is the nature of its business model. VRNG has distinguished itself though in the size and prestige of its legal opponents, most notably Google. The other companies I've mentioned have sought to profit from Google in a non-adversarial manner. VRNG has taken a different more combative tack. And they've won. Strangely the stock hasn't responded well to the legal victory, reflecting the likelihood of a drawn out final legal remedy and the uncertainty such duration brings. But VRNG's case has merit, and Google's temporizing may bring penalties. This is an interesting binary opportunity for those who see VRNG's claim as meritorious and ultimately compelling Google to dole out compensatory damages.
Star Scientific (STSI) rounds out the list. The company has found success with its quick-selling, crackerjack anti-inflammatory compound, Anatabloc. Efficacy seems uneven with significant inter-individual variability: some people swear by it, others see no discernible results. But in those responsive individuals, and there are quite a few, there's no doubt that the anecdotal reports clearly suggest Anatabloc is a supremely potent anti-inflammatory compound and one with systemic benefits so it can treat a number of indications. And it appears to do so without materially adverse side effects. Which is a welcome rarity in powerful anti-inflammatory therapeutics. Contrary to common wisdom, measured insults of inflammation are good and necessary things. Your body is adapted to their effects, and they can--at the right dose--be an example of good stress (eustress rather than distress) and cause your body to rebound in a strong position. It should come as no surprise then that some of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents have dangerously immunosuppressive effects. Perhaps Anatabloc is a Goldilocks compound, delivering just the right level of anti-inflammatory action. Though some caution is in order given the company's current cash burn rate. If the company can eschew compressed margins in the face of increasing volume and wider distribution, they should be in good stead.
Hopefully, this quick survey of American companies will hearten you now that you sat and watched the dysfunctional congress critters go at it. America is still full of smart people doing fascinating work that will better our lives. Hopefully, this resolution has staying power and is a sign that the government will allow growing, young businesses like these the opportunity to prosper in a predictable, stable economic and legal environment. These dynamic companies don't need government to do the job for them. They just need government to get out of the way. We can't predict the future, but we can be certain that future of unfettered entrepreneurship is a hopeful one.