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Friday, December 28, 2018

Energous FCC Approval Found: It's a renamed approval from April 18

My last few posts have asked where the FCC approval for the recently announced product was, as it wasn't showing up on the FCC search site. While the FCC site doesn't have it, it can be found at a different site and is ID VAW-NF910. It is indeed by SK Telesys, was granted on Dec 27th, and is for wireless charging under FCC Part 18. Reading further though, it's clear this is not a new product, but rather simply a renaming of an earlier near field charger, the 2ADNG-NF230.

Since I've written a lot this week, I'll summarize here:
  • This transmitter is a rebadged 2ADNG-NF230 that Energous mad a fanfare about in April 18
  • If it's been approved since April and is awesome, why can't I buy it yet?
  • There is no receiver that works with it yet approved (known of), so no product sale possible
  • If so, no PSAP/hearing aid approval could then be claimed
  • For safety shouldn't be within 10 centimeters of a person when operating
  • Maximum output is 1 Watt, so likely under 100 mW charging max
  • Slower, less safe, less versatile than a Qi charging case for earbuds
  • Share price continues to fall from this brief spike

So back to the detail:



I did a full post on this 'product' back in April and I was as unimpressed then as I am now, I titled it "Energous FCC Approval Shows Weakness of WattUp Technology". Basically, slower than Qi, with further safety restrictions and less compatibility. There are already Qi based charging cases for earpieces, why is this any better? Or should I instead ask, why is this not worse?

The user manual for the 2ADNG-NF230 is here, and the FCC Approval from April 9th 2018 can be found here. Below are pictures of the device and antenna from those documents.


An interesting statement from this documentation:

The NF-230 Charger requires all persons to be at least 10 cm afar from the charger at all times except when placing or removing the device to be charged. 

Don't sleep too close to it!

With one antenna active at a time, it's 29dBm output so just under 1 W transmitted. They maintain the SAR limit (1.6W/kg) at around 0.86W/kg, so judging by the previous Part 18 approved device which was similar output after the safety cutoff zone (though 10W transmitted), we can probably expect no more than 200 mW of received power, and after conversion from RF to DC down to around 100 mW at most

Interestingly, if SK Telesys and Delight are simply rebadging existing Energous applications, there is no current FCC Approval for a receiver for this, so the transmitter can send, but there's nothing to take the power. The only parts in the same frequency range approved are the larger sized transmitter (2ADNG-MS300), and a phone sized receiver (2ADNG-MS300A), and are not appropriate for this.

I would give some comment on their DA2223 chips and what they might be able to do in a receiver, but unlike regular electronics, the vendor provides no data sheet, only marketing level material. Without receiver approval, there's no product here!

And doesn't this mean that a statement like "FCC approval of the Delight PSAP hearing device" in the press release is a bit of an exaggeration when it's a charger that's approved, not the PSAP? There really needs to be another approval somewhere we've not seen.

Well done Energous, great marketing hype given there's absolutely nothing new at all. What did that do for your share price?


Oh, a bump and back down 40% from there. I hope the insiders managed to sell at that high - we'll see in a few days if they do.

(Repeating the seemingly obligatory statement - I have no financial position, short or long, in Energous or any related company. Nor have I ever had any such positions.)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Energous Product Announcement: Where's the Approval?


Earlier today Energous put out a press release about an apparent FCC approval for an anticipated personal sound amplification product (PSAP) that may be on the market in as little as three months. Despite his being a re-announcement of an already delayed product, and contact only, it send the WATT stock shooting up from under $4.80 to nearly $9.50 before settling back down closer to $7.00 at close, a healthy ~50% gain. Interestingly, it's basically a year to the day when they announced the FCC Part 18 approval for their mid-range wireless charger, that still is not announced as for sale, which got it a big price spike before a long slow decline. As this was 3am pacific time, my post was fairly cursory, and since then I've had some discussions with others who follow Energous and a few interesting points have come up.

As noted earlier, no FCC approval could be found for such a device for Energous or the manufacturers SK Telesys or Delight. Now I'd expect there to be something, somewhere - Energous push things pretty far IMO in how they exaggerate, but they really avoid doing anything blatantly illegal. Given this, I'm interested to know what that FCC approval is, if the company can provide any more details on that - the type of approval, and approval number, anything.

Interestingly, this is a personal sound amplification product PSAP - not a hearing aid. A hearing aid requires FDA approval, a PSAP does not. From the FDA:

PSAPs are intended to amplify environmental sound for non-hearing impaired consumers. They are intended to accentuate sounds in specific listening environments, rather than for everyday use in multiple listening situations. They are not intended to compensate for hearing impairment or to address listening situations that are typically associated with and indicative of hearing loss. 

Products making these (hearing aid) or similar claims should not be considered PSAPs. In addition, products that are sold as an “over the counter” alternative or substitute for a hearing aid should not be considered PSAPs. Because PSAPs are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or mitigate disease and do not alter the structure or function of the body, they are not devices as defined in the FD&C Act.

The link also has a very clear definition of hearing aids, and the regulatory pathway expected of them.

So a very clear and specific difference between a hearing aid, and a PSAP, and while the press release starts by talking about a PSAP, it then goes on to say:

Like hearing aids, PSAPs are used by the hearing impaired to assist with hearing loss, but they are available without a prescription and tend to be lower in cost than hearing aids.

So they are making claims that these devices are to be used for mitigating hearing loss, which makes them hearing aids, not PSAPs, and subject to FDA approval. Now confusion is often useful when you want people to draw incorrect conclusions from statements, but when you get into a regulatory environment like the FDA, you have to be careful and precise. So which is it Energous?

It's also very hard to find out anything from either of the partner companies on the product itself. SK Telesys isn't a hearing aid company and there's a single Energous related press release that I can find on their page (and nothing else, for any product, for a company that's 21 years old...). Delight have a website with more information, but not much more. They clearly advertise as a hearing aid (not a PSAP), no mention of FCC or FDA approval (it has Bluetooth, FCC approval is mandatory, it's a hearing aid, so FDA approval mandatory), and it's dated from the original June 2018 announcement.



Now there's even a PDF for download, however you enter an email, click send now and then see this:
And when you click the only button you have - nothing. So a 6 month old webpage, with minimal information, that contradicts some of Energous' statements, and that I can't find necessary FDA or FCC approvals for. No ordering page, no description of commercial outlets to purchase from, no release date.

Not much more to say, with so little to go on, the coming weeks will tell. The roller-coaster of Energous continues. Now to keep an eye on when insiders sell and see if they take advantage of this spike.

(Repeating the seemingly obligatory statement - I have no financial position, short or long, in Energous or any related company. Nor have I ever had any such positions.)

Energous: Here we go again with another 'product' announcement

Only a few days ago I thought I'd done my last post on Energous for 2018, but it was not to be. Not to be outdone by uBeam, a few minutes ago Energous sent out a press release about the first new amazing life changing FCC approved WattUp consumer product, the SK Telesys hearing aid  personal sound amplification product (PSAP).

New wirelessly-charged personal sound amplification products from Energous customer, Delight, are certified to sell in the United States

“FCC approval of the Delight PSAP hearing device is a very significant and positive announcement for Energous in that it represents the first WattUp-enabled consumer product moving into full commercial production, with anticipated availability in Q1,” said Stephen R. Rizzone, president and CEO of Energous 

Incredible. FCC certified to sell. With anticipated available in no more than 3 months. Wow, couldn't be more certain than something that's 'anticipated'. And it was only at the beginning of August that the same CEO Rizzone was telling us that this hearing aid product personal sound amplification product would be available in... 90 days. (And that's forgetting the Myant chargable undies announced as a product about a year ago and that seem to have been... forgotten). I used to say "Time to Carrot" for Energous products was a near constant 18 months, but that's the long range wireless charger, for the contact based charger, it's apparently 3 months. 

So yes, even if this product ever becomes available, it will be the in-contact WattUp version, not the at-distance, and charges at a rather low rate (a few hundred mW most likely, claims up to 1 W but we'll see). I know it's easy to get mixed up between that and the at-distance wireless WattUp products that charge even slower and aren't actually available, but then that's kind of the point of creating a single marketing name for multiple very different products. Almost as if the company wanted to bamboozle and confuse you into thinking they had something other than what they do.

So why use this instead of Qi, the industry standard, that charges at a higher rate, is compatible with all your existing wireless charging devices, and is more efficient? Not sure, about the only thing they might be able to claim in "hearing aids don't need to be in a case" which is awesome, especially when they roll off the nightstand and get lost.

The FCC approval itself is also interesting. Seeing there's a government shutdown the FCC can't have authorized it in the last few days (update: turns out the FCC is funded through Jan 3, so still possible), and a search of the FCC system shows no recent licence grants for Energous, Delight, or SK Telesys (most recent authorization, 2011). I'll dig through the FCC site tomorrow to see if there's something in another section, but sounds odd to me. Almost as if Energous were desperate for some form of publicity and made up the best they could from the turds they had lying around.

So, this was an amazing announcement today. For a product that was first announced 5 months ago, was supposed to be out 2 months ago, might be available in the next 3 months, is contact only charging, and is slower than the incumbent mass adopted charging technology, Qi. Cue the WATT fanboys to go nuts...

Update: WATT did indeed spike to around $9.50 before dipping and settling around 70% up at $7.95. Let's see if there is another sudden rise and long slow decline situation here.

(Repeating the seemingly obligatory statement - I have no financial position, short or long, in Energous or any related company. Nor have I ever had any such positions.)

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Energous in 2018: The Sudden Rise and the Long, Slow, Decline

With the end of the year looming, and a few days off on my hands, it's time for a "year in review" of my favorite companies like Theranos and uBeam, but let's start with Energous. To place where the company is right now, let's look at the stock price over the last year.

Energous share price over the last year
Energous share price from March 2014 (IPO) to date


It wasn't so long ago that Energous were on top of the world, and 2018 was going to be its year of proving the doubters wrong, but what a difference a year has made. A year ago tomorrow WATT closed at around $8.83 per share and then there was a sudden leap to $33.50 on Dec 28th (closing at $31.57), following announcement of FCC Part 18 approval of their 'mid range' wireless charging, which the media reported as almost a fait accomplis for the company. I covered this in multiple posts, and it was clear to me that this was an approval for a product that could and never would be released - impractical, no true application, ridiculously low charging rates, and in my opinion unsafe. Subsequent lack of announcements on this appear to have proven me right. 

Energous even got a congratulatory tweet from FCC Chair, Ajit Pai, despite his public office not being supposed to promote any company or product. The public and institutions bought and bought, at just the same time the insiders and large holders sold, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. As you can see that was the peak and after a few bumps it was a long, slow decline for the company to its lowest price ever, of $4.80 per share (Now down over 85% from peak, it was initially offered at $6.00, was $9.50 on launch day, and had a previous all-time low of $4.91 in Jan 2016). 

At the end of October I was noting a $1.50 to $2.00 decline per month, and near 2 months later here we are $3.00 lower, so $1.50 a month continues. This long slow and steady decline seems to be continuing, and if anything seems remarkably steady. Any chance there's a co-ordinated selloff to not spook the rubes?

At this rate the stock will be at zero by the end of March 2019, which is an interesting date because given their ~$12.5m a quarter burn rate and near zero revenues they are essentially out of cash to operate by then. Without a raise or cash injection, Energous have three months left to live. While Energous have filed with the SEC to sell up to $75m of stock, that's now 60% of the market cap. With a continuously declining stock price and no products, who would buy? 

What are their options? Well I have been fully expecting some form of 'goosing' the stock price with a vapourware product launch or similar for CES (essentially, IMO, what they did at the beginning of 2018 following the FCC announcement), but that seems to no longer be an option for them. Take their announcement of the DA2223 chip, for example. It fizzled out with barely a ripple in the stock price. That was announced at the end of November, and is supposedly the receiver chip that will enable Energous on hearing aids and the other markets that will make them billions. Some are even back to saying this is what will get Apple on board, despite them literally putting components of another utterly incompatible wireless technology in their products and announcing that different method as the future (sneaky Apple, misdirecting us like that). These chips have no market availability, no price, no data sheet that any engineer would want - simply some marketing and 'product briefs'. To release it would show there is not a transmitter you can buy to work with it, and if there was you would see how awful the performance is. IMO it's vapourware and Energous will never want their products out in the wild for actual testing, it would show them for the farce they are.

A reader points out to me - it doesn't look like the FCC granted Energous the experimental license to demo their new toys yet, and then the government went on shutdown (turns out the FCC have funds to stay open until Jan 3). They might not get it before CES and have to rely on showing the same things as last year. This might work in their favour, no limited visibility of their next-gen useless crap!

That reader also reminded me there are other ways they attempt to boost the stock such as with 'accidentally' misleading deals and press releases. Earlier this year they announce a deal with IDT International. Most engineers did a double-take on that, as IDT Inc is a large $6bn market cap company that's pretty respected, but closer inspection revealed it's IDT International, a smaller Hong Kong electronics company with around 3% of the market cap of IDT Inc. In one of my earliest blog postings I commented on how companies, and Energous specifically, can use vague and misleading wording in announcements to allow readers to make leaps toward what they think the company said, while remaining perfectly legal and technically accurate. Seems they are still at it.

Other options? Cash injection from Dialog, who recently got a bit of a windfall from Apple? Seems like it would be a tough sell to its shareholders for a public company, but I've seen dumber things happen. They might market it as investing in a seriously undervalued company, and that there's huge upside. Given the management invested prior, it might be they have to keep going rather than admit they bought a lemon before and their judgement was poor. It wouldn't be the first time.

Last option I can think of is that the company still goes ahead with a stock sale under poor terms and raises just enough for a last hurrah for the executive team and bonuses all round. This has been a roller coaster of surprises with this company as to how long they can keep it going, so who knows.

As to what else happened in 2018 for Energous, it was pretty much a continuation of what has gone on before. Poor revenue at earnings calls, repeatedly delayed long range charging systems (time to carrot - a near constant 18 months), quiet downgrading of performance specs, multiple announced products then either cancellation or lack of availability, but really the highlights came with Aristides Capital presentation on Energous, and the earnings call in August where someone finally called bullshit on the CEO. If you haven't already, watch the Aristides Capital video and listen to the Q&A on the August earnings call.

So we're really in a wait and see what happens position. I've said before that I think Energous are geniuses, not in the technology sense but in how to extract millions of dollars, seemingly perfectly legally, while producing nothing that was ever promised. Most startups have to actually get bought to make money but all you seem to need is an early IPO, some marketing hype, and hopeful but gullible investors. They may have a new business model here and as unique as their ascent has been, I fully expect their decline and end to surprise us even more.

(Repeating the seemingly obligatory statement - I have no financial position, short or long, in Energous or any related company. Nor have I ever had any such positions.)

Edit: Someone on Stocktwits linked this post so I got a ton of hits from there. Apparently I'm a bitter long who lost money and just bashing. And before Christmas too, what a Scrooge. But not one rebuttal or serious argument regarding what I've said from them. Thank you to those few on there who point out that I'm sticking with the facts and that it's not financially motivated.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Dreaded SSSS

Just an anecdote about security, or lack of it, on my recent transatlantic flight - no tech commentary this post.


Those of you who pay attention to air travel security issues may have heard of 'SSSS' which is an acronym for Secondary Security Screening Selection - basically a higher level of security screening. On my recent return flight from London to Seattle, I was 'lucky' enough to get this on my boarding pass - it's literally marked SSSS as you can see above. Apparently it's when you do something suspicious such as buy a one-way ticket or pay in cash for your flight, neither of which applied here. There's also been complaints it's racially/ethnically biased, however I'm as white as you get, and also have gone through the additional checks to get Global Entry and Nexus, so it's likely just random in my case (we'll see next time I fly).

So what did this mean for the flight? Well there was absolutely no difference at the regular security checkpoint at Heathrow, but I went to the gate a few minutes earlier than normal and spoke to the security people there. They thanked me for coming a few minutes early rather than waiting for boarding, and took me to a small area behind the check-in desk. After checking my passport, the agent had me take all electronics out of my carry-on (2 phones, a laptop, a USB hard drive). They checked one of the phones turned on, then swabbed down the electronics and all compartments of my carry-on, before putting it in the machines for explosives residue test. After that came up clear, they stamped my boarding pass, and told me to make sure I handed it to a gate agent at boarding rather than try to use the automated gates they have at Heathrow. I packed up, it had taken 3 or 4 minutes, and they were very polite and professional. At boarding, I handed my stamped pass to a gate agent who also thanked me for not trying to go through the automated gates, and it took a few extra seconds to check me through manually, and after that boarding was normal.

Where it got annoying was at my connection in the US, which was at Chicago O'Hare. As I had to change terminals to a domestic flight, I had to go through security again, and unlike normal, I now didn't have TSA-Pre on my boarding pass, which is the faster and less invasive security line - I tried to reprint my boarding pass in case it would be added when in the US, but no such luck, and I had to join the regular line. Wow, I had forgotten how bad that is. Long, slow, and full of people who don't travel enough to know what to do, along with everything having to come out the bag, and shoes and belts off. Recipe for disaster. I had 90 minutes to make my flight, and I got out of security at about the time boarding was supposed to close. 

I made it to the gate just as regular boarding ended and they were about to call standby, so pretty close to losing my seat. And here was where the most ridiculous thing happened. The guy in front of me tried to board, and his boarding pass kept getting rejected. After a minute of trying the gate agent looked at it and said "Sir, this is a boarding pass for yesterday's flight", and the passenger looked at him with a straight face and just said "I missed that one so I want to take this one", and credit to the gate agent he just said "That's not how it works Sir" and led him over to the main checking desk. After that, I boarded normally and no hassle.

So, overall it really was not a major setback or exceptionally invasive, just frustrating I didn't get to use TSAPre, but after all that security let a man with a day old boarding pass through security all the way to the gate. Yay. I feel so much safer...

Update 24th Feb 2019: No issues next time I flew, seems to have been a one off after all.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Awards Lists: Media Shows How Valuable They Are


You've likely seen the various awards that go around being quoted by entrepreneurs like "Forbes 30 under 30" or similar and thought "wow, that person must be amazing to have been given such a sought after and presitgious award, they don't just get handed out to anyone...". Well, I'm here to burst your bubble, and let you know that such lists are what are known as "clickbait" and are designed to be a quick and easy to write story, with zero controversy, and multiple page views with the associated ad revenue. Much more $/hr efficient than actual real investigative and careful journalism. Case in point, here's Influence Digest's "21 LA Based Entrepreneurs With Incredible Personal Brands" with, you guessed it, Meredith Perry, former CEO of uBeam, being an honored recipient.



"Meredith Perry is the inventor of Ubeam- a technology that uses ultrasound transmit power over the air to charge devices wirelessly. The tech influencer has been included in Fortunes “30 under 30”, Forbes, “40 under 40”, and has been recognized as one of Fast Company’s, “Most Creative People”. Meredith’s personal branding exploded after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and serving as an ambassador for NASA.

Perry invests in technologies that drive the future. It is her tech-savvy skills that earned her the respect of many young millennials."

So at least 50% of the credentials for having such a hot brand include being on other similar lists. Famous for being famous, the Kim Kardashian of the LA Tech Startup Scene, but hey that's branding. This article was so well researched that they don't know that it's uBeam not Ubeam, that Perry didn't invest in anything, that "millenials" by definition restricts the age group to younger adults, but most importantly that a few months prior she'd "stepped down" from her role as CEO of the company she founded, which has produced no products or open demos despite near $40m in investment, and thought by some such as myself to have been "asked to leave" her role as CEO following poor performance. Well done Influence Digest, you've shown exactly how much value such an award has.

Now, if you've looked through some of the other awardees, you'll notice there is the likes of Mark Suster, a reasonable awardee given his prominence in the LA startup scene. As the article notes "The influencer manages an amazing Medium-hosted blog. His articles help founders and entrepreneurs understand venture capital and proper financial valuation." Indeed they do, but more than that, his Medium posts support founders of his investment portfolio companies when they come under fire in the press with promises to immediately fund their next company, which remarkably seem to just disappear at about the time the founder might cash in on such support. The one that caught my eye here, though, Brock Pierce:


Brock Pierce, cryptocurrency guru. Wow. Except that name rang a bell. It reminded me of John Oliver and his "Last Week Tonight" show. Take a peak at this segment:

As you can hear, Oliver says "Just Google 'Brock Pierce scandal'" and so I did, and a few hits came up, such as this one:

"Just prior to DEN’s IPO, a young man identified only as Jake W. filed a lawsuit accusing Collins-Rector of sexually molesting him for three years, beginning in 1993, when W. was only 13. The IPO was cancelled; Collins-Rector, Pierce and Collins-Rector’s partner Chad Shackley resigned; and the company filed for bankruptcy.

When the company collapsed, Collins-Rector, Pierce and Shackley fled the United States after the three men had been accused of sexually abusing, drugging and making violent threats against underage DEN employees. The three were extradited to the United States for charges of transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts, however only Collins-Rector was charged."

So as an Executive Vice President this guy co-leads a company into bankruptcy, flees the country when accused of sexually abusing underage employees, and is extradited back to the country on charges of transporting minors for sex (he was ultimately not charged). Putting aside the nonsense he spouts on that clip, that is some pretty major personal brand development right there. Perhaps that's what they meant by "endured many entrepreneurial adventures"?

So there you go, a glimpse into the quality of research and the people who receive these awards. And yet it works, it actually opens doors and gets access to people with money. The tech press, and media in general, actually do influence who and what gets funded just through nonsense like this. I could point you to a number of founders of companies who are so busy actually doing good work and technology that they don't pursue this kind of thing, and consequently have a harder time raising money. If we want better startups funded and more actual science and business, and less bullshit and exaggeration, these lists just need to die. Until then, even founders who know what they really are have to play along, it's just part of the game.

So, anyway. Congratulations to Meredith Perry for receiving this award, alongside a man previously extradited to the USA for charges of transporting a minor across state lines for the purposes of engaging in sexual acts.

Thanks to "StillTrying" on EEVBlog for spotting the original tweet.

Edit: Coincidentally, I just read an article on a "cryptocurrency cruise" that is entertaining in itself as a glimpse into the insanity that is that world, but also because there's a reasonable amount of the article covering Brock Pierce, and shows a different side to him. I'd encourage you to read "Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche", it's well written and interesting.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Energous at CES 2019

So it appears that it's not just uBeam that will be showing at CES 2019, but that Energous (the company that claims to do at-distance wireless charging via RF) will be there as well. While they are not in the official exhibitors list, one of the EEVBlog readers pointed out to me that they've applied for an experimental demo license from the FCC (Special Temporary Authority) to show equipment there that does not have FCC approval. They did this earlier this year for CES 2018, as well as back in June 2016 when trying to demonstrate their earlier system to the FCC.

The application for CES 2019 is very similar to the 2018 version, though only for 2 systems not 13, but a key difference in the amount of power transmitted - 10 Watts ERP (Peak) not 30 Watts ERP (Peak) from a year before. Whatever the system they are showing at the upcoming CES, its peak output is 1/3 of the system from last year. It would be interesting to know why they did this - but without further information it is hard to tell. (One other thing that is different is that they do not include the low power wifi/bluetooth communication component. Forgotten, or done via a separate commercially available part?)

Note this power is way down from what they tried to demonstrate to the FCC in June 2016 - not only was it at 5.8 GHz rather than the current 913 MHz, they were at 56 Watts (Mean), so what they finally got approved in December 2017 was significantly lower in power than what they showed the FCC only 6 months prior, and what they are showing now is lower than that. I go into a lot of detail about those 2016/17 changes here.

Looking forward to CES 2019 and the tech press completely failing to question Energous effectively, yet again...

Update Dec 7th: I clarified the wording that at this time it is an application for the license, not awarded. Also there is an informal objection filed against this.

Update Dec 24th: Energous filed a response to the objection calling for it to be dismissed. It doesn't look like the FCC granted Energous the experimental license to demo their new toys yet, and then the government went on shutdown. They might not get it before CES and have to rely on showing the same things as last year. This might work in their favour, no limited visibility of their next-gen useless crap!

Update Jan 7th 2019: Experimental licence granted by FCC. Now they just have to have a product that is safe, practical, efficient, and useful. Perhaps in the next 18 months? :)

Friday, November 23, 2018

The uBeam Handshake

It's Thanksgiving here in the US, and you'll see us Americans talking about what we are thankful for. For me I could say I'm thankful that things seem to be going well for my family and friends, that we've not all been incinerated in nuclear fire following a Twitter feud, and that I don't have to deal with the ridiculousness of working at uBeam any more.

Since I got such a good response to my earlier anecdote about working about uBeam, I thought I'd share my recollection of another that highlighted one of those ridiculous things - this time it's The uBeam Handshake:


Here's a picture of Meredith Perry in January 2018, co-founder and then CEO of uBeam, making a strange shape with her hand. At first you might think it's a Spock Hand (technically a Vulcan Salute), however you'd be very wrong. That, to the initiated and chosen few, is the beginning of The uBeam Handshake.

While I can't remember the exact date it started, it was sometime in the first few months following our Series A funding in October 2014, while we were in our office in Santa Monica. We were working hard to get the company going, equipment setup, and start the process of building devices, when during one impromptu group meeting Perry comes out and says how cool it would be to have our own secret company handshake. Trying to get the meeting back on track proved fruitless, Perry was on a roll and wasn't going to be dissuaded from this. Being a bit of a self described 'space nut', she starts making the Spock Hand and then has one of the other team members do the same, then reach out so they could touch fingertip to fingertip, at which point Perry said "Bzzzzt" - and lo the uBeam Handshake was born.

Perry was very pleased with it, and proceeded to educate the team about it for the rest of the afternoon, with mostly everyone there having to do it ('Bzzzt' included). Eventually the fun died down and we got back to work, and forgot about it all. Over the next few days and weeks, however, Perry started cajoling everyone to do the uBeam Handshake, and for me and others it quickly moved past being a slightly stupid and amusing distraction to being a really dumb and annoying distraction. From what I remember, many if not most were uncomfortable, Perry was the only one to ever initiate it, with most trying to get out of it but eventually being badgered into doing so - few wanted to tell the CEO "No".

I discussed with my team members how to find ways to get out of doing it, and spoke with Perry to let her know it was not popular and that for a CEO to press her employees to do something like that was inappropriate. Perry was clear that I took it too seriously, that everyone thought it was great as no-one else had complained, and she'd run her company as she pleased. A few days later at a company lunch in the office, Perry tried to get me to do the handshake with her, making a fuss about it to try to get the whole team to watch. I declined, making some joke about not shaking hands while eating, but Perry was having none of it and kept pressing. And I kept declining. After a few attempts, she gave up, and we went back to eating. That incident was never mentioned again, and it was the last time she ever tried The Handshake with me I can recall, but I felt she was annoyed that I had not done it, and I was annoyed she'd attempted to make me in front of the whole team - whether I had done it or not, the company lost with either choice.

The Handshake disappeared for a while, or so it seemed, and I wasn't really hearing about it from the staff. I remember Perry tried to create variations of it, such as The uBeam Wave, which she demonstrated to me in the hallway by standing straight upright with feet together, military style, with arm outstretched forward at an upward 45 degree tilt, very straight and hand in the 'V' shape. When I reacted with some alarm and said what it reminded me of, Perry stopped doing it (she hadn't realized the resemblance at first), and I think is one of the few times she listened to me tell her not to do something. Eventually the uBeam Wave seemed to morph into what you see in the picture above from Jan 18 - hand in the 'V' shape, elbow bent and close to the body hand about shoulder height, with a little side to side motion.

As 2015 rolled on, it started appearing again, especially around the convertible note round in early summer, sometimes with Perry telling guests, potential customers, or investors about it, then doing it with whichever staff member was nearby. Given the presence of a third party, it was a lot of pressure to not say 'no' to the CEO, and so people seemed to do it. Things at the company were very unpleasant at that time, and I was arguing with Perry about a lot more critical matters, throwing in stopping her doing it to the team just would have been an exercise in frustration - and one of the many, many, reasons I left later that year.

Pretty much every time I saw it done after the first handful, I had the feeling it was an odd power-play, a way to locate the few who would find it equally 'fun', or who were in a position where they wouldn't or couldn't decline. Or, perhaps, to identify the 'heretics'? It wasn't the only ritual that happened at uBeam that gave me that feeling, but I'll get to those others in future posts. In the meantime, if you see a former uBeam team member from that era, try to give them the uBeam Handshake, I promise you'll get a reaction...

Update 25th Nov 18: One of the former uBeam employees tells me that one of the handshake variations tried was that rather than touching fingertips, the hands were at 90 degrees to each other and interlocked at the 'V'. I also want to make it clear my opinion is these choices of variations were made without realizing possible alternative interpretations and not not done to be deliberately offensive to any group.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

uBeam at CES 2019

For those of you going to CES in Las Vegas this coming January, you might be interested to know that uBeam will be exhibiting at the Venetian. It looks like it may be one of those "invitation only" rooms, so you'd likely have to contact the company to see what they have to offer. From the CES notes:

uBeam is a technology leader in the wireless power industry by utilizing airborne ultrasound to transmit power to create a true contact free charging ecosystem. By using proprietary transmitters and receivers, uBeam is able to deliver the necessary power to charge a range of devices from portable electronics to IoT sensors at various distances. uBeam’s wireless power solution removes power constraints for system designers and decreases battery-related issues to enable performance enhancements and system robustness, thereby creating a new dimension in power delivery and design paradigm.

I'm not sure someone told the marketing team that they've pivoted away from consumer and portable electronics, to solely B2B and IoT (apparently only working with TLAs now). That they claim "proprietary transducers" is interesting because every demo I saw had them using Murata off-the-shelf car parking sensors, and any proprietary transducers highlighted were never shown working or in a device. It's a sleight of hand to show your own tech and claim it's brilliant, but the actual demo you don't admit there's something else in there.

I love the last sentence, it's "marketing buzzword bingo"-tastic. Seeing "new dimension" and "design paradigm" reminded me of the ridiculous terms that then CEO Perry and the PR team would add to documents, even technically oriented ones, over the objections of the engineering team. But, hey, if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with bullshit.

I don't think this shows that uBeam are still active as a company in producing a product, but rather that marketing booked this months ago and really want the free Vegas trip before the whole thing goes belly up.

Monday, November 5, 2018

uBeam Glassdoor Review: "Not sure if uBeam even qualifies as a company."

Some of you may not be familiar with Glassdoor - an online site where you can anonymously post a review of your job, your company, or your interview experience. The collated information is made available if you sign up with an email, and for sizable companies there can be a good amount of information as to company culture and even salaries. Somehow they must make money from all this, I guess at some point you hit a paywall or large companies pay for anonymized/collated data, because in June of this year they were purchased for $1.2 billion

I've checked in to the uBeam section of Glassdoor every few months over the last couple of years, and there's only been a couple of reviews posted. They were mildly positive with statements such as such as "5 star. It feels like working in a lab in grad school..." tempered with "Sometimes there is uncertainty with any project and there may be a sunk cost mentality." to the slightly more negative "3 star. No technical leadership at high level". For whatever reason I checked in today, and saw a review had been posted yesterday with the title:

 "Not sure if uBeam even qualifies as a company."

So this got my attention, enough that I finally signed up for a Glassdoor account so I could read it in its entirety, and oh boy, was someone unhappy with their time at uBeam. Before you read this, I'll be clear - this was not me, nor is it anyone I know (that I'm aware of).


Just to repeat:
"Not sure if uBeam even qualifies as a company."
Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
Doesn't Recommend
Negative Outlook
Disapproves of CEO
I worked at uBeam full-time

Pros

Dog friendly office
Benefits paid for 100%

Cons

Like being paid to sit and witness the ramblings of the mentally ill. The female head of the company was beyond delusional, and while I felt sorry for her at times, her delusions gave a complete false sense of reality. This company is more about a small group of engineers getting paid to run experiments than anything else. There is no chance this company will survive or succeed. Not a good career move in any way. I regret ever starting this job.

Advice to Management

She should have never been allowed to run this company - not even for one day.

So that would have been an interesting exit interview...

But, on a serious note, when someone asks me why I started my blog, what you read above is one of the many reasons. When people take jobs, they move their families, change their direction in life, and make choices that have huge impacts which ripple down for years or a lifetime. New entrants to the workforce have no experience of what is normal, good, or bad, and they don't have that metric to tell them "something is wrong". They can learn bad habits or miss out on opportunities for mentoring by talented seniors, or building a career in a worthwhile company. More senior staff can spot the warning signs, but they can be subtle until you're on the inside, by which point you've swapped your kids schools and put your old house on the market, and the practicalities of life force you to stick with a frustrating job for a couple of years. 

uBeam were getting so much glowing and uncritical press coverage (though, hats off to the few journalists who did a solid job) that the public perception was not what I saw as the reality, having experienced it from garage prototype through Series A and the next round. At the very least potential staff had to have some possibility of seeing an alternative view before making a major commitment. In some ways it was the excerpt from Adam Grant's "Originals" about Perry, which in no way resembled the reality I had lived, that was the straw that broke the camel's back and made me write the first blog post. So well done Adam Grant, I can now say your books are not completely pointless.

Update Nov 6th: I just realized that the two 'Pros' in this review were things I had a strong hand in setting up. For the year I worked in the Santa Monica office from its opening, I would bring in my dog Jackie on a regular basis, and so set the precedent. On the 100% benefit coverage, this is something Marc Berte and I had implemented, and fought for when incoming CFOs tried to kill it. We believed that happy, stress free, healthy employees were worth more to the company than ones worried to go to the doctor or stressing about paying bills. The automatic reaction of the MBA class to that setup was horror and an immediate "We have to end that" and "That's far too expensive" even though as a % of well qualified engineer salary it was pretty low and waaaaay down the list of company expenses. Feeling quite pleased with myself this morning. :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Energous Earnings Call Q3 2018

Energous had their earnings call yesterday, and sadly it was a much calmer call than last time - no irate investor actually demanding real answers to pointed questions, demanding accountability for prior statements made. It was completely as expected, same old delays and obfuscation, you can read a transcript here for yourself. Last quarter's earnings call promised hearing aids on the market in the next 90 days, which was essentially today, so what do we get?

Indications are that the hearing aids from SK Telesys and Delight will be the first WattUp enabled products to hit the consumer market hopefully, before the end of this year.

"Indications" that "hopefully" in the next 90 days. Again. Will they just disappear and be forgotten, just like Myant? Why does anyone believe a single thing out of this CEO's mouth? Other 'highlights':

  • Key products such as the spine tracker and some location tags are listed, so essentially tiny markets from non-Tier 1 customers. Not enough to sustain a $200m+ market cap company.
  • Continuing with ~$12.5m per quarter expenses with ~$29m in the bank. Capital raise needed by the end of Q1 2019.
  • They claim progress on their GaAs and GaN chips for transmitter, receiver, and power amp chips, and that they can handle up to 15 Watts. This may actually be true, but the surrounding transmitters and receivers will still be in the <100 mW range. There is legitimate work that can be done in this area, if Energous ever have worthwhile IP, this is where IMO it will be.
  • They still mix consulting and licensing revenues so we can't split them, and they are still a paltry ~$200,000.

One of the more egregious statements came in the Q&A, regarding contact charging vs at-distance:

The strategy has always been that we go in first with near-field, engage the regulators and then migrate the discussions to distance.

The entire basis of the company for the first three years was at-distance, with FCC approval of at-distance always the 'Holy Grail' which finally came in Dec 2017 and then... nothing. They marketed themselves as charging multiple devices, at up to 15 feet, at up to 5 Watts. If they position themselves as a contact only Qi competitor, just without the existing infrastructure, support, standards, efficiency, or max power delivery, they'd never have the funding they have enjoyed. From the earnings call in Feb this year:

We expect the first contact-based transmitters will be in the hands of the consumers in early 2018, followed by the first at-distance transmitters coming in late 2018, culminating in far-field transmitters coming to the market in 2019.

We're heads down focused on commercialization, and we believe that the $40 million is sufficient capital to get us to that point (profitability).

So the first thing never happened, they've just admitted the second won't happen, the third really isn't a priority and never was, and that they will still be in the red by ~$12m/quarter by the time that $40m runs out so they miss the fourth by just a tiny amount.

Why does no-one call them on this? Well, in a way, the markets are doing that. Here's the stock price at around 8am Pacific this morning.


That's nearly a 9% drop first thing in the morning, hardly a ringing endorsement. We'll see if that continues. Unfortunately, you should remember that there are some large institutional investors still owning WATT, so that's part of someone's pension taking a hit there.

Now we wait another 90 days for the same again...

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Energous, Theranos, uBeam Updates

I've been at the International Ultrasound Symposium in Kobe this week, and have hardly had time to do any updates or summaries of what's been going on in Energous, Theranos, and uBeam lately. Having spent the weekend walking around Tokyo, my feet are now sore enough that I'm going to sit still for a couple of hours and write. Let's start with Energous:


We last left Energous after an earnings call where finally someone questioned their basis for optimism, and they were promptly cutoff. Emperors do not like their nakedness pointed out. The other key takeaways from that call were that the long range transmitter was pushed out to 18 months away (again), and that hearing aid products would be out within 90 days. Well here we are 88 days later (which means another earnings call is coming up, Tuesday Oct 30th at 1.30pm PT), and what's happened?

First thing is that the share price seems to be on a long, slow, almost constant trajectory down, losing about $1.50 to $2.00 per month since April, and right now the after hours trading has the share price under $8, putting the company market cap close to $200 million. Not good for shareholders and compensation of employees, nor for any future share offering. Worse, given their revenues, >95% of their valuation is based on the hope of massive future growth - there might be a stock price at which the big institutional investors need to exit, and at that point it's game over. So what are they doing about it? I've indicated in the past that I expected to see some goosing of the stock price with pointless or small-time product announcements and so on, and those products were indeed announced. (BTW Energous, you didn't bother to check your website after the redesign - your "In the News" page is a bad link). 

First of all we have some asset tracking tags by Qubercom, though it seems it's the contact based charging, which kinda defeats the "IoT charging" wireless benefit when you have to drop 20 of them at a time on a charging pad. Seriously if you want to charge IoT low power devices wirelessly, there's already solutions like PowerCast out there. Then we have some spinal position trackers, also with contact based charging from the Gokhale Method, which I did try to buy, but the nice lady there told me they wouldn't be available until next year and only available to practitioners, so it's not really a big market. Apparently Austar Hearing have an upcoming product, but I can't find anything there. Now Energous have also passed regulatory approval for their contact charging in 100 countries (oooooh...), so you can imagine my shock when none of these had any effect on the stock price.

Pretty much, it seems everyone is wise to their games now. No stock bump just before Apple WWDC events, no belief that charging hearing aids is going to make them a $1 billion company. Without a major product release (not announcement), real regulatory approval for something practical, or clear licensing deal with a real company like Apple, this thing is heading to $0. Remember they are out of cash in Q1 2019 so they've less than 6 months to raise more money, and with a declining stock price that's going to be hard to do. Have we reached the limit of this game? I would say so, but the chutzpah of this company, and the gullibility of the press and the public, might mean there's another round left in it.

Theranos

CEO Holmes and COO Balwani of Theranos are facing criminal charges for fraud at the blood testing company. Earlier this month they lost an appeal to try to keep documents out of the government's hands, and according to Bloomberg the judge in the case referred to undisclosed charges and activities, while the Assistant U.S. Attorney bluntly stated that the indictment did not cover all the criminal activity, implying there may be more to come for the pair. Not looking good for them.

Marketwatch had an interesting article on "The Last Days of Theranos" and is pretty blunt with the sub-title of "the financials were as overhyped as the bloodtests". It covers a lot of the mechanics of what happened but the really standout parts for me were the statements from Daniel Warmenhoven, a board member from December 2016. It starts with this quote from him about one of the huge deals that "made" the company:

“The Walgreens deal made no sense, ... It was doomed from Day 1 because it was based on using the minilabs, which weren’t completed when the deal was signed."

So he immediately admits the whole thing was a fraud, but later comes out with this gem:

Warmenhoven told MarketWatch he blames engineers for the final sinking of Theranos. “They lost the recipe. The tests were not coming out right. That 60 to 90 days extra to figure it out took away the runway we thought we had.”

Yes, that's right - after terrible business practices, fraud, intimidation of former staff, 15 years work and over $700 million of investment, it comes down to two months and dumb engineers losing the Post-It with the entire future of the company on it. Damn those pesky engineers!

This seems to be the norm for people like Warmenhoven - engineers as annoyances, replaceable cogs that better behave, not a vital part of the technology development or company, but rather the true irreplaceable geniuses are the CEOs who are the innovators and aren't held back by such things as fraud, physics, or Post-Its. 

This ties with statements I've heard C-level execs make with all sincerity "I told the engineering team what they needed to do, they just didn't understand/weren't good enough". There's some school of MBA that says engineers are fungible units, and are lazy and always say they can't do it, and so need pushed. To an extent there's usefulness in pushing a team to achieve more, and then as a C-level exec providing them the resources, cover, and time to execute, but those without the training and experience seem to regard measured statements that something can't be done as demanded as more of the frustrating whining of a developmentally challenged child than of an experienced employee trying to do the right thing. The idea that the C-level is wrong or mistaken is clearly an option never to be considered.

uBeam

And so that brings me to uBeam. Only a couple of things to say here, there's really precious little new information on this. Mark Suster, the lead investor in uBeam, seems to have deleted all his Tweets from prior to October 1st this year, which is shortly after Perry "moved on" as CEO. He's been a prolific poster on many topics over the years, so this was surprising to see. Further, his Medium post supporting uBeam from just after my blog gained publicity, seems to have been altered. The article "What is it Like to Wake Up and Have the Press Ready to Torpedo Your Business?" used to contain the line:

“If for any reason we fall short of expectations we have set in the market, I will be the first person in line to admit it and then to immediately fund Meredith’s next company.”

for which Mark drew high praise - you can see references to it in the original blog comments, as well as articles from other investors here, here, and here - but at some point between original publication and now, that line disappeared. I wonder why it's not there anymore? (Thanks to HowardLong of EEVBlog for spotting this).

Last thing - I've been asked "What would you do if you were made CEO of uBeam today?" Here's my simple answer, and bear in mind I have not seen the status of the company or the books, I'm just inferring from public information:

I'd give the staff 60 days notice that their jobs were ending, and an offer of a bonus should they stay and tidy up their work (document, and pack it up), along with services to help find another job. Then I'd close down the company, and return the remaining money to the investors. In my opinion, it's the most they'd ever get back.

I'll be surprised if that happens as usually the "sunk cost fallacy" along with legal hurdles prevents such an approach, but I just can't see how the company is viable at this point.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

End of an Era - Thoughts on uBeam Founder Stepping Down as CEO

Earlier today news was broken by Axios that uBeam founder Meredith Perry had "stepped down" as CEO to spend more time with her family... I mean make way for a more seasoned CEO. As always seems to happen with big uBeam stories, I had work commitments that meant I had barely a few minutes to type up a post as it happened, so I'm only just getting to my thoughts on this late at night. Now bear in mind I have access to no more information than any of you on this event, so this article is simply my best guess based on knowing much of the history and the personality of the people involved.

There's a small number of articles that have any hint of original information - there's the original story from Dan Primak at Axios, a series of tweets from lead investor and board member Mark Suster, (Suster deleted all his Tweets Pre Oct 18, here's the waybacked record of that) and the statement from uBeam on the company blog. There's also an article on Techcrunch by Josh Constine that recaps some of the history of the company. From the company blog:

Meredith Perry has decided to step down as the day-to-day CEO of uBeam and will assume a role as a senior advisor and an active board member at the company.  Having overseen uBeam from its inception through its development of a functional working product, Meredith felt it was time to bring on a seasoned executive in the electronics field to lead the company through its commercialization phase. The company has begun a search for this new CEO.

The official accounts are very professional, making it clear that it was absolutely the decision of Perry herself to step down, praise for her great ability, and positioning that her stepping aside is actually a new era in the company. A bold step that bodes well for the future! Yeah, right, that'll be why Suster's tweets seem to quietly admit they've abandoned the phone charging thing, which is pretty sad considering they raised $10 to $14 million dollars on that promise less than a year ago, and (by my guess) around $37 million promising over the lifetime of the company.

So let's take much of this in turn - first of all the Perry I thought I knew would never, ever, in my opinion, voluntarily step down from her position in the company. If an interviewee for a senior role ever asked if she might consider stepping into another role in the future as the company grew into a new phase, it appeared to me as if that ended any chance of a job offer, no matter how talented or capable they otherwise were. In describing her role I would hear her talk about "the mission" and her "destiny" to bring wireless power to the world. I always felt that in Perry's mind, she was uBeam, and uBeam was her, and given how much stock I believe she held in the company at least when I was there, legally that was pretty much true.

A "functional working product" made me raise an eyebrow. If they had that, I'm pretty sure an Apple or Google would have taken them off the field by now, and neither would they be moving from "consumer-facing mobile charging to b2b licensing for IoT". A functional working product that could charge a phone at 15 feet and faster than a wire would not be pushed to IoT (Internet of Things), in my opinion. As I've commented in the past, pointing at Energous and Ossia, there's a pattern to the at-a-distance wireless power companies of initial bold claims of producing devices working at multi-meter distances and multi-Watt charging, then to 'trickle charge', then to a licensing model, then to IoT. I would expect at some point investors just don't buy that the 10 to 100mW charging levels under good conditions will work for phones, so the business model shifts to saying IoT because you can make some half-baked argument it'll work, right up until it doesn't. In my opinion, if you want an IoT charging option for distance, that's low cost and been on the market for years, and you only need micro- to low milli-Watt charging, look at Powercast. Basically, what they have works and none of the other options, to me, offer anything better (but some possible big downsides).


Taking a look at uBeam's product roadmap from the last fundraising round, you can see that by now they should have completed multiple new transmitter and receiver designs, licensing deals, and about to start a private beta test, with a product launch starting early next year. I'll just quote Techcrunch here saying "repeatedly missing self-imposed deadlines" and leave it there.

The "begun a search for a new CEO" line is interesting, as normally that line is "and introducing our new CEO" or "long serving COO steps into this role" or similar. Problem is that uBeam has bled senior executives - by my count it's 1 CEO, 1 CFO, 2 CTOs, 2 COOs, and 3 VP Engineering that have departed, and that doesn't include the other staff. The COO who left most recently (according to LinkedIn), around May 2018 after barely 9 months on the job, had an extensive background in IP licensing and would have been perfect for a role to transition to "b2b licensing for IoT". To me, there's a red flag here, if this were well planned out and in a well running company, I'd expect to see a smooth handover to an experienced executive happy to take on the role, and you don't hand it over to the head of HR, no matter how talented they are, they're not the right choice for a tech company looking to do licensing deals.

Next thing that I notice is not what is said, but what is not said. Where's the quote from Perry herself? These releases usually have something from the founder/CEO saying "It's been the honour of my life to grow this company and build this team, but I feel my talents best serve the investors on the board and evangelizing for the company, and I leave it in the capable hands of my successor." but this time - nothing. From Constine's article "TechCrunch spoke to Perry but she declined to comment on the record." is interesting, there wasn't even the prepared one liner to hand out. Nada. Zilch. Nothing... Hmmm.

Update 9/21/18: Perry tweeted a short statement after close of business yesterday, which managed to say very little but was at least professionally written. Still strange this wasn't prepared ahead of time, it's the sort of thing that takes a few minutes to prepare and is standard in this type of situation.
End of update, back to the original post.

So jumped or pushed? I don't know, but this doesn't smell to me like a regular founder transition.

I'll leave this post with a story about my time at uBeam, and specifically my last day at the company, in October 2015. Things had been untenable for some time prior, and I had exhausted every route available in trying to correct what I saw as a terrible situation for myself and the company, all the way to the board. I had been interviewing and things were clearly going well enough that I was prepared to go, and had some upcoming personal events I wanted to attend to.

One meeting in particular pushed me over the edge, and I told the CEO that I was extremely unhappy, and we should discuss a way to amicably separate. I knew the transducer and acoustics side better than anyone, and would give the company as much time as needed to transition and pass over my knowledge. It was a tense meeting, and I went home after, and there were then a series of ... interesting ... emails and phone calls with Perry, that ended with no conclusion. Ironically, among the demands from the company was a statement for the press about how I still believed in uBeam's goals and the technology, but I declined. I got a text the next morning to come to the downstairs company conference room, and to bring my laptop, lab-book, and any company property - it was clear what was about to happen.

I arrived and the room had CFO Hushen and CEO Perry. It was tense, and Perry sat at the head of the table in her position that she used when about to be CEO-like and give a prepared speech - straight back, leaning slighty forward, hands together. She looked at me and said:

"Today will be your last day with the company. But before we go on to that, it is important that you understand that you are a quitter. You have quit on me, you have quit on yourself, you have quit on the company, you have quit on your team, you have quit on.... wait what are you doing?"

At this point the speech was so ridiculous I had picked up my phone to start taking notes because this was too good not to write down. I looked up and she seemed shocked and demanded "Are you texting someone? I'm talking." and I looked at her and said "Just taking some notes." Sadly, this seemed to throw her off, and I never did hear the rest of that prepared speech. She simply mumbled then moved to telling me that I would now give an exit interview, and was again perturbed when I declined. She insisted and the CFO, acting as HR, had to step in and say that wasn't necessary. I handed over my laptop and the few items I had, and made a clear instruction that the company was not to make any statements or quotes that were to be attributed to me - I heard from the team that about ten minutes later they were all told in a company meeting by the CEO that "I wanted them to know that I wished them all the best and success for the company, and still believed in the company mission" or something similar.

The next few weeks were also interesting when it came to the mechanism of departure, but that's another story. So to end this post I'll address Perry herself and say that if you stepped down from your role:

"Today is your last day as CEO of this company. But it is important that you understand that you are a quitter. You have quit on yourself, you have quit on the company, you have quit on your team, you have quit on.... well, you'll have to look at your own notes for who else you quit on.

Oh, and the exit interview is optional."

Meredith Perry No Longer uBeam CEO


Meredith Perry has stepped down as CEO of uBeam, the controversial wireless charging startup she founded in 2011.

uBeam wants to commercialize its technology via licenses to embed it in third-party products, and Perry was not viewed as the right person for that task.

If only someone senior in the company could have told the board and investors that back in 2015...

Perry will remain a "senior advisor" to the company and on its board of directors.

I didn't think that Perry would ever willingly step down, so if I am correct there, this was forced by investors after failing to meet milestones. I'm certainly surprised it happened this early after the last round. More comment as I learn more.

You can find my uBeam posts here and more detailed thoughts on this event in a much longer post.

Update 25th Nov 18: The interim CEO and VP of Finance and HR lists herself on LinkedIn as being in the Interim CEO role since July of this year, whereas this announcement came in September. Mistake, or was Perry on 'gardening leave' since July and it was only made public in September? (Thanks to sdpkom on EEVBlog for spotting this). She's also, apparently, still CEO of Cubed Communications, so that's 2 CEO and 2 VP roles simultaneously!