When Nikhil Balram joined Mojo Vision, the company had initially been developing a smart contact lens. However, seeing the potential of its advanced MicroLED technology, Balram’s initial role was to spin this out as a separate display company. This plan shifted, however, as market conditions changed, and instead of spinning out a separate entity, Mojo Vision pivoted itself to focus disrupting the display industry.
In our first interview with Balram, seen below, we talk about the need for change in the display industry, and how MicroLEDs may be architecting a disruption of the industry. Balram likens the display industry’s evolution to the progression seen in the personal computer market. Initially, products like PCs were custom and intricate, requiring a deep systems expertise. But as the market matured, the approach became more modular and standardized – PCs went from being custom-built to snap together models that anyone could assemble.
The display market is in its early phase where significant value addition is crucial. It’s a stage where close collaboration and intensive research, like spending two years on qualifying machinery, is necessary. The focus is on establishing the foundational pipeline to enable the future modularization of the display industry, making it accessible to even tier two and tier three players targeting value segments.
Analysts and market commentators may be underestimating the MicroLED opportunity. While current estimates peg it as a $1-2 billion segment, Balram suggests a broader view, seeing it as a potential $160 billion opportunity. Drawing parallels with the LCD evolution, he emphasizes the need to understand that, in time, every display could potentially be a MicroLED, echoing the same vision once held for LCDs. This isn’t just a segment expansion but a complete market disruption.
Backgrounder on Nikhil Balram, CEO, Mojo Vision
Nikhil Balram has a rich background spanning 30 years in the display and semiconductor business. He began his journey as a chip engineer and architect at IBM. He then faced a choice between joining Microsoft or a Bay Area company, Kaiser Electronics, which was focused on advanced displays for military aircraft. Balram chose Kaiser, and this began his career in display technology.
In his work with Kaiser Electronics, Balram learned about the intricacies of developing displays for military aircraft, which had to perform under a range of conditions and were crucial for pilots’ safety. This experience taught him about the importance of understanding the user’s vision system.
Balram later moved to the consumer tech world, including stints at S3 and Google, where he saw the differences in product development for consumer versus military markets. In his role at Google, he saw the potential of MicroLED technology.