AMBA - We got permission to repost it!

CMFFrankDip kindly go us permission to repost his recounting of the AMBA shareholders meeting. It is definitely worth the read!


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This morning I had the pleasure of participating Ambarella’s third annual shareholder meeting which was held at AMBA headquarters located at 3101 Jay Street Santa Clara, California.

Let me warn you this is going to be a long post and I will try to add as much color to the festivities as I can - first a few pictures. I created a Google doc with three pictures of the building that houses approximately 25% of AMBA’s 543 employees. You can view those pictures at this link:…

AMBA occupies both floors of the right side of the building (as you face it). This is a relatively standard building for engineering companies in Silicon Valley - furnishings inside were quite nice and the meeting was held in the 2nd floor Board Room.

Before I get into the details here is a summary.

This company is operating on all cylinders and is in the right place at the right time. They have a lot of tailwinds as the world goes to digital video everywhere.

The company develops semiconductor processing devices to enable HD video capture, sharing, and display. They are a fabless semiconductor company that has approximately 543 employees with 81% of those employees being engineers. They are headquartered in Santa Clara, California and 75% of the employees are located in Asia.

AMBA has a high IP/patent barrier to entry in SOCs for competitors in 3 areas:

  1. Video Quality - low light high resolution
  2. Compression Efficiency - 500:1
  3. Low Power SOC’s

The differentiators that AMBA has built into their products helps them win many design sockets and gives them the all important pricing power which is reflected in their margins.

Fermi Wang is a founder CEO who has dedicated his life to increasing high resolution video capability and has embodied his spirit and passion within AMBA.

Take a look at the Glassdoor rating:…

The company operates in four primary areas of the camera market:

  1. Action
  2. IP Surveillance
  3. Drones
  4. Automotive

My key take aways from the meeting were:

  1. The CEO is completely engaged and worrying about who is buying or selling stock as insiders would not dissuade me from owning this company.

  2. The company has a competitive moat built around IP.

  3. The company has pricing power.

  4. WT Micro accounts for 62% of AMBA’s revenue as a logistics supplier. The key relationships with the customers are owned by AMBA not WT Micro.

  5. Drones are going to be the next big growth area for this company.

Now to the details.

The lobby has a 40 inch Ultra HD 4K television showing footage taken with a camera utilizing AMBA’s system on a chip (SOC).

I arrived at the lobby at about 8:30AM and sat with another shareholder for about twenty minutes until General Counsel Mike Morehead came out to take us up to the Board Room. We walked upstairs and were immediately introduced to CEO Fermi Wang as his two favorite shareholders. He was very personable, highly energetic, and sat down across the table from us and began telling us about his background which I will get into in a moment. I gave him a copy of David Meier’s original recommendation for AMBA and explained to him a little about the Motley Fool,that we were retail investors who had a long term buy and hold approach to owning fractional shares of great businesses and learning as much as we could about the companies we owned. He really warmed up to this - then the other shareholder sitting next to me said, and I am not making this up, I bought the stock because Jim Cramer talked about it. Talk about stockholders from opposite ends of the investing spectrum.

Fermi gave us a lot of information about his background. His father was an analog video engineer and he got involved with learning about video engineering as a child in Taiwan. His childhood gave him a great background for what would later become his career. After graduating from the University in Taiwan he went to Columbia University to work on his PhD. His advisor said he could choose between two areas to work on artificial intelligence and video compression. He chose video compression and graduated in 1991.

At about this point George Laplante, the CFO joined us and introduced himself - it was a couple of minutes before 9. I congratulated him on a great quarter and specifically getting days sales outstanding (DSO) down from 57 days to 50 days comparing sequential quarters. He said I was giving him too much credit as it was more a result of mix shift between WT Micro and Chicony.

I asked him how that works.

He said that WT Micro is simply a logistics partner that is paid on commission and the higher percentage of business from them in a quarter compared with Chicony causes DSO to go down. Fermi then explained that AMBA owns all AMBA’s inventory at WT Micro and AMBA has direct relationships with all the customers. WT Micro handles the logistics and takes the credit risk and handles the customer payments - for this they receive a commission from AMBA. Fermi explained that it can be hard to do business in China and WT Micro helps facilitate this for AMBA by handling the customer payments. AMBA is the one who negotiates the contracts and the product design with the customers.

When I think about this it makes sense in that WT Micro is selling a lot more than AMBA products to the same customers - so if a customer becomes a credit problem WT Micro has a lot of leverage because they sell that customer many different electronic components.

Somehow in the mix Fermi said he is very optimistic about drones being the next big revenue growth area for AMBA - he said we should see this in the current quarter’s results.

So lot’s of info and the formal meeting has not even started.

Now it’s 9AM and we are ready to begin. Two more shareholders join us for a total of four shareholders. The attendees from AMBA are:

Fermi Wang - CEO
George Laplante Jr. - CFO
Mike Morehead - General Counsel
Debra Stapleton - Investor Relations
Vicki Hsu - Stock Administration

also attending was Rob Ward of PricewatersCooper.

Mike Morehead ran the formal meeting which ran for two minutes - the first 3 proxy items were approved and the fourth around exec comp reviews was approved for a one year review on an advisory basis. You can read the proxy items here:…

Once the formal meeting ended Mike stated that since the company had just done it’s quarterly announcement two days ago the company would not have a formal presentation and he would now open the floor for stockholders to ask questions of Fermi and George … and so the fun began.

  1. I asked if they could tell us which foundries they used to make their chips.

Fermi said Samsung and TSMC - it sounded like Samsung got more of the business. (This is good for us as shareholders as these two companies have their facilities in different countries South Korea and Taiwan. Geographical diversity reduces risk of an exogenous event (typhoon, monsoon, earth quake, tsunami) shutting down the supply chain.))

  1. Dan , another shareholder, asked - how do you look at all the M&A that is taking place in the semiconductor space?

Fermi said the semiconductor business is a mature business with many companies growing between 3% and 5%. As a result larger slow growth companies are looking to buy innovation and add more growth to their product base. At the same time small semiconductor companies have difficulty affording the $8M it costs to create a mask set for a 40 nanometer chip and if they make a mistake and have to do a second mask set an additional $8M - as a result they are more willing to be acquired by a larger company with deep pockets.

  1. Dan asked about the police wearable camera market.

Fermi said that Taser was the leader in producing a product for that market, however it was relatively small with only 800,000 police people in the U.S. He said China had a much bigger market with 5M police people. He said Digital Ally was a smaller player in the market and that the Taser product was not hi resolution.

Fermi said that Garmin was a new customer that AMBA had announced.

He also said Comcast was a new customer for a home security camera application.

  1. I can’t remember exactly how this came up but Fermi told us about his background in Silicon Valley.

He started with C-Cube Microsystems where he was GM of a division that helped enable DirecTv to broadcast using compression - this company was bought by LSI.

Then he was CEO of a company called Afara Websystems that did server design. This company got sold to Sun Microsystems as the company had trouble raising additional capital after 9/11.

In 2003 he co-founded Ambarella.

  1. We were now getting near the end of the meeting and I decided to try to broach the topic of stock sales by the management team in a manner that would allow me to be welcome to attend next year’s annual meeting.

I asked with the stock price having run up as much as it has coupled with the fact that this was mainly an engineering company, how do you keep the employees who are getting richer by the minute motivated to continue to perform at a high level for the company?

Fermi said that was one of his biggest worries. He used the term “Vest In Peace.” He was of course referring to the fact that employee stock options were vesting on a monthly basis and many had strike prices at much lower values than today’s stock price. He said he and his management team spend a lot of time talking about this and he keeps his managers closely watching the performance of all employees and giving feedback to keep things on track.

My take on the stock sales are they are simply diversifying their holdings. If you look at the compensation section of the proxy which is in the earlier part of this post you can see that the key executives are getting stock options and restricted stock units each and every month. As a result they still have tremendous financial incentive to keep the company moving forward as the vesting period for the grants are four years.

At this point there were no other questions and we wrapped up.

Enjoyed the meeting and learned a lot about the company.

My big take away is this - Fermi Wang, CEO, is extremely passionate about this business and his company. He is from Taiwan and his dad was an early video engineer. He grew up as a kid learning about video engineering - this is the equivalent of Wayne Gretzky learning to skate when he was 2 years old. He is extremely enthusiastic about Ambarella’s future and this company is his life. He is not going anywhere and he is the classic founder CEO who embodies the principles we look for as long term investors.

Hope this helps.



I think Frank was too shy and the question remains unanswered , not least because he did not ask it! All rather curious. Had the directors not sold, they would be getting richer by the day.

Saul et al…

Apologize if my question has been answered previously, I am still fairly new to the board.

I like everything I see here and think that this appears to be a great company. My question is, how much upward room does the stock have to grow? From what I can see it looks like the ticker has jumped considerably in the last year. Is it still an attractive entry point at today’s price?

Thanks and appreciate the ongoing education.


I decided to practice poking around in the Form 4 submissions for insider transactions.…

So far I see not much besides options being exercised. In the case of the CEO, you can see the last (perhaps only) submission here:…

Lets look closer. The form shows buy and sell of shares, and exercise of options, but it does NOT show receiving new options. Wang started with options for 5210 shares (that took subtraction). AFTER exercising options for 16041 he has options for 73500 shares. By my arithmetic he had to have vested over 84000 in options in May, of which he cashed out less than 20%.

I would say that Wang, at least, is still “getting richer by the day”.

Kohn Leslie, Director and CTO, cashed out all his options, 27552. And he sold an additional 12448 shares. That seems less extreme when you see that he still owns 821244 shares. He too is still getting richer.

OT note: When I try to research this sort of thing I always find all the other sides with insider information obscure things (to me at least) as they try to “simplify” it. I have not found a free alternative to the SEC Edgar site that helps me.


Apologize if my question has been answered previously, I am still fairly new to the board. I like everything I see here and think that this appears to be a great company. My question is, how much upward room does the stock have to grow? From what I can see it looks like the ticker has jumped considerably in the last year. Is it still an attractive entry point at today’s price? Thanks and appreciate the ongoing education.

Considering that you are just starting out, what I’d do is figure out how much you’d like to invest in each of your investments (on average), and then invest only a quarter or a fifth of that right now in AMBA, and then wait and see. This looks to me like a “short squeeze”, where investors who are short (meaning they borrowed the stock and sold it with the idea of buying it back later cheaper), are getting killed by the rising prices and are having to buy back what they sold at any price. This drives the price way up, but it will stabilize, possibly a bit lower than it is now. (I’m holding mine and not selling any though. I’m not at all good as a market timer).

Welcome to the board.



thank you for the great write up. unfortunately none of the links would open for me. just me?

makes me wish i had attended

none of the links would open for me

Posts don’t usually show the full link, so copying-and-pasting a post often leads to broken links, which I think is what happened in this case. Here they are.


Glassdoor Reviews:…



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Thanks for the response. I still have about 20 investing years in me before I get to my retirement goal of 55 but trying to learn everything I can. I will try to participate in the discussions as the opportunity presents itself.


RHinCT: I do not subscribe to RB and the AMBA disposals in question are not easy to find but my understanding was that the RB case was that directors had sold a significant percentage; you are saying they did not?

Owing to not subscribing, my holding remained intact I am glad to say. But was the RB case wrong or is there still a puzzle?

My poking around was only this year, not looking back over the multiple years that had been under discussion elsewhere. Most of it appears to be sales based on a plan put in place some time ago. The amount owned by the insiders is still by my measure a very large amount, but everything is relative.

only a quarter or a fifth of that right now in AMBA, and then wait and see. This looks to me like a “short squeeze”

Saul, I’m detecting a learning experience in the making here :wink: I show a 1YPEG of 0.39 for AMBA. Now there are a lot of product launches in the first half of the year this time, so I can see how they might be skewing the YoY numbers up. On the conference call, Wang said “The unusual line number of new product launches we are experiencing in Q2 have historically occurred in our third fiscal quarter.” So we may see some YoY softening in the back half of the year. Is that what you’re thinking about, Saul, when you recommend only 20%-25% of a target position size? A 1YPEG of 0.39 seems to offer a bit of cushion for a slowdown. Or are you thinking that with a P/E so high we could see some serious compression once a slowdown manifests? (The company does seem to be getting a lot of hype right now.)

I’d love to better understand how you’re thinking about the situation and the financials.



I’d love to better understand how you’re thinking about the situation and the financials.

Hi Neil, my reasoning isn’t really based on the financials, but on the fact that two weeks ago, just two WEEKS ago, AMBA was at $84, now it’s $112, up 33% in two weeks! And four weeks ago, it was at $72. And now it’s at $112. That’s up 56% in four weeks, in what at least looks like a short squeeze. Now, I try not to anchor on previous prices, but when a new beginning investor asked me about investing in a stock with that kind of meteoric rise, I felt it would be irresponsible to suggest that he start off with a full position after a rise like that. I felt I was in an awkward position and did the best I could to be sensible. I did point out though, that I haven’t sold any into the price rise.


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I understood what you were getting at. I am new to the board and to the investment philosophy used here, however I have been investing for about eight years so have a little experience. Not as much as I would like but that is why I am here.

In any case, you answered my question perfectly and it matched with my own thought process in regards to taking a small position.

Appreciate your feedback.