The “Ringer” offers a particularly interesting read into where Moviepass is today. The author offers a rare glimpse into what things look like at the company, and does a great job of pulling together a picture of an executive team that has gone from darlings to dolts over the past year.
The interview touches on everything from the ill fated photo of Lowe and Farnsworth in front of the AMC NY theater, to the 5 Million emergency loan last summer during the meltdown period.
It exposes the harsh reality of the half truths that were told by the company. And shines a light on the obvious issues that fraud and abuse were rampant with the way the service was constructed.
For investors it serves as a reminder of how totally dangerous it is to invest in early stage companies that don’t have a clear business model figured out. The chaos of Moviepass and the clear oversights of the management team are painful to read about. Everything from the lack of reliable fraud protection, to the stupid pricing scheme, to the cocky public attitude, wreaks of a Silicon Valley sitcom.
Obviously, there are a few ways you can interpret the piece. One, the company is just slowly dying and heading to the scrap heap of early innovators slaughtered by incumbents and stiffer competition.
Or two, the company has retrenched appropriately, and will rise from the ashes.
The interview makes it hard to determine if Lowe is a beaten man, or if he is simply frustrated from the last few months of failures and the public drubbing that came with it.
I have seen these things go both ways. I have witnessed miraculous turnarounds and total flame outs. My suspicion is that there is still enough belief and enough of a business left with Moviepass that Lowe and company will continue to push the nickel uphill with their noses. They still see light at the end of the tunnel and they believe they can build a meaningful business.
Luckily for them, they still have real subscription revenue to work with, albeit smaller and slower growing, with real revenue and managed costs they are likely close to sustainable.
That gives them some hope, and allows them some time to keep working through a plan that could work. If there was no hope, I think these guys would likely have thrown in the towel by now and sold the thing off for nothing and called it over. But I think they see hope and that’s why they are sticking to it.
I also know from experience, the new kinder and gentler attitude is probably only partially real. It’s more likely they still have long term dreams of totally disrupting the entire ecosystem. But they also now know that a Trojan Horse is a much more effective PR strategy than the “hey look at how cool we are!” strategy they had been employing.
It rarely makes sense to put a target on your head. When you walk around boasting how fantastic you are and how you are changing the industry, the industry will do all it can to make sure you don’t! So it’s not surprising that the PR strategy at Moviepass has changed to “get along to go along”.
But I seriously doubt that Lowe and company have left all their dreams behind. They are likely biting their tongue and biding their time and wondering if, just maybe, they can pull off something big still, but do it over the period of years not months.
If they lose hope, and the management begins to bailout, you will know they are done for.
I am sure it stings Lowe quite a bit that he now has to sit in some shitty office and talk to some smartass from the Ringer who is beating them down like a dead horse.
It is quite a fall from being the media darling hosted on CNBC and the national morning shows. Those guys now treat Lowe like a bad joke and a fraud.
Lowe wants redemption, and as a shareholder I sure hope he finds it!