One of our goals with Seeking Alpha is to build a community of smart investors and business leaders who want to exchange ideas and information about stocks, companies and markets. So we've turned the notion of an interview on its head. Instead of having a journalist choose questions to pose to a company, we're inviting companies to field questions from our readers. Our editors police the questions to ensure civility, but guarantee that as long as questions are asked politely they will not be edited.
Our first reader-driven Q&A was an interview with Luciano Siracusano, Director of Research for ETF firm WisdomTree Asset Management. This week we launched the second, an interview with Steven Sprague, CEO of Wave Systems Corp. (Nasdaq: WAVX).
The results are remarkable: the interview with Steven Sprague is a thorough discussion of Wave Systems that probably provides more useful information about the company that its recent conference call or investor presentation. As I write this, there are 90 high-quality entries, covering the company's products, market, partnerships, financials, options, governance and competitors.
Most striking, Steven Sprague's willingness to answer unscripted questions has provided a massive credibility boost to him and Wave Systems. Dominic Jones, author of the excellent IR Web Report, writes in Throw Your CEO Under a Blog Bus:
This free-for-all blog interview is infinitely more credible than the stage-managed Q&A on an earnings conference call, or a broker conference audience, or even a rowdy annual meeting. More credible than a media interview, more credible than a feature in Fortune (ok, it depends).
Seriously, I’m having a hard time thinking of when I’ve ever seen something more effective at building credibility with investors. It’s riveting stuff.
Oh, but it takes guts to do this. And Steven Sprague, CEO of Wave Systems Corp., has a lot of guts. The picture of the serious-looking Mr. Sprague was taken before the grilling, though you’d think it was after.
Toughest question is from “Digital Dancer”:
Dear Steven: Wave System subsidiary, Wave Express (WXP) brought in a total of $29,000 in revenue for all of 2006. It is headed by your brother, Michael Sprague, Pres. and your father, Peter Sprague, CEO. The VP of sales is an old family friend, David Nadig. Wave has funded WXP with more than $56 million (including interest) to bring in $29K in revenue. My question is, why shouldn’t shareholders view WXP as a mere vehicle to provide your family and friends with paychecks and bonuses? Both your brother and father made well over $100,000 each. In addition, Wave, the parent company, funded a lease with Michael Sprague for an additional nearly $50K/year to house WXP headquarters in his personal loft apartment in New York City. All of this seems a bit suspicious to me, but I would love to hear an explanation, since one has never been given.
To read Mr Sprague's answer to the question, read the interview. If you handle IR for a publicly-traded company and you'd like to build awareness and credibility with investors through an interview with our readers, please email Seeking Alpha.