Thursday, April 10, 2014

Valentine Research: Does the next decade belong to Mike Valentine?

Updated: 1721Z-5, 12 Apr 14, By Veil Guy

Not so long ago, I proclaimed that the last decade belonged to Escort and for good reason.  In that span of time the combined organizations of Beltronics and Escort gave us the first (fully realized) GPS-enabled game-changing radar detector (Passport 9500i), the first RDD undetectable radar detector (Beltronics STi Driver), the first band-segmented radar detector ever (Beltronics STi-R), and the highest performing dash-mount radar detector of all-time (the revised Escort Redline EE).

For quite a long time, Escort (appeared to have) held all of the cards.  

However and most unfortunately, a dark cloud has been gradually forming over that organization and what may have appeared to have been a winning hand, at one time, may now simply be a house of cards on the brink of collapse.

While Beltronics and Escort have been hitting home runs, they have also been losing a good number of games.  The management era of John Larson (now having come to a close) took the company to areas with which it was not familiar and were untested.  

Beset with bad investments in new product development unrelated to their core competency; misguided investment into the Chinese market; the commitment of precious resources to (re)build a direct marketing organization (and in the process undermine their well established distribution network and sales channel) and related ineffectual tactical product cross-branding, brand dilution, distractions from (unmerited?) patent infringement suits, and loss of technical clarity suggest to me that the company had lost their way.  

Instead of us seeing a continuing onslaught of class obliterating products each built upon the accumulation of past successes, we instead got a bunch of misfires, including their latest disastrous launch of their supposed halo product, the Passport Max, a product plagued with problems and one that was clearly directed by management skilled more in marketing than technical brilliance.

With the recent involvement of Monomoy Capital Partners (a VC firm), the desperate infusion of cash may have come with an exacting toll and, most certainly, a change of governing philosophy but one that has two potentially very positive long-term implications: 1) a return to profitability and 2) a return to core competency.

Just this week, the costs at the wholesale level, of accessories have risen considerably (in only a
few short years components have inflated nearly 500%)--conceivably a very smart play for raising profitability without cutting quality.

While it is only to be expected that during any reorganization there is going to be some handing out of pink-slips, it has been especially troubling that there has been some recent cutting of high-quality personnel, resulting in the loss of some extremely talented individuals.  Cost cutting through payroll reduction can be a good thing, if done judiciously and with precision, but can impart mortal injuries if done indiscriminately, too broadly, or with haste.

In all of this, however, there's been another firm, one that has continued to manufacture products of excellence and with such focus, for more than two decades.  That firm is Valentine Research and that product is the Valentine One.  While VR may have never reached the market saturation or achieved sales or revenue anywhere near Escort (they didn't need too, either), Mike's closely-knit organization has remained absolutely focused (like a police laser beam) and committed to continually producing the very best for great value.

I am not aware of any other piece of consumer electronics, none, that remains as relevant today as much as it did when it was first launched.  I am also not aware of any product, nada, that has maintained the same retail price, either.

Mike Valentine and his organization clearly are in a class of their own.

In a few short weeks time, we all may very well be reminded again of how so very true this is.

One of the reasons that you haven't read a review of mine concerning the Valentine One LE connection or V1C for short, was in part due to the fact that I didn't want to publish a review only to find that it would become immediately stale.  That instinct may have been a good one for it appears that Valentine Research may be introducing a major upgrade to the venerable V1.  

There has been a quiet "buzz" afoot about something big coming from the boutique of VR's walls and that buzz may be soon becoming deafening.  Judging by the IP work filed (and approved) we could soon expect to see a new V1 imbued with a significantly improved display and a substantial improvement in Ka-reception capability something that I would expect would trump the Redline EE. 

On the Ka-sensitivity front, while Escort internally challenged and refused to accept my novel findings years ago about the performance benefits gained, in the real-world, from Ka band segmentation (of their own design), Valentine embraced my empirical observations and then ran with 'em.

In terms of flexibility, it wouldn't surprise me to see USB connectivity and Bluetooth integration for both iPhone and Android smartphones contained within the unit given the size of its housing. That's something I don't care for with the existing V1C--the requirement of additional components (no matter how small).

While Mike insists that GPS false lock-out is a "dangerous" thing to use (something with which I tend to agree and don't use myself), I have seen that with some enthusiast-developed software (called YAV1), that GPS-lockout using a V1C is far superior to the blunt-instrumentality of Beltronics and Escorts variants.  I can only imagine how good it could be if they attempted to do something along those lines, in-house.

I am also virtually certain that VR could really devise a system that is extremely effective at filtering out the K-band emissions of the automobile lane-departure systems which I regard as the greatest nuisance of falses ever and something that GPS-lockout is unable to tame. Certainly if Whistler can be so effective at it, I have to believe so can Valentine.

Some of this is speculation on my part, so please don't call Valentine and tell them, "Veil Guy said this..."  However if even I am only half right in my prognostication, I believe it's going to instantly catapult the V1 (or whatever it is going to be called) to the very top of the food chain and we will be witnessing an undisputed "changing of the guard," or as some would say, a "crowning of a new king."

If, on top of that, you consider that Valentine Research is just about 20 minutes south of West Chester--an easy commute for some newly "unemployed" super talented invidual(s) RIF'd from Escort by MCP--it's really not all that hard to imagine the next decade (or two) could easily (re)belong to Valentine.

Happy and safe motoring, my friends...and fasten your seat-belts!



Unknown said...

That's exactly what I was thinking belscort is going down.. just like apple. . Anything that goes up.. must come down eventually. .right?

jwardell said...

I hope this is all very true! Very few companies exist this long without sacrificing quality, and quality and design is exactly Valentine's biggest strength. Despite rising prices, Escort has only gone downhill. I was very sad to sell my V1 last year, when my personal needs (quiet urban driving) dictated a switch to a Max.

Sometimes I wish the two could join so we could benefit and have a detector with all patented technologies, but I know this would not be worth it as we would most likely be left without the high quality that V1 has always upheld.

Denis Flaherty said...

I have owned numerous detectors over the years fom the old FUZZBUSTERS on, and have logged thousands of miles with NO problems until my STi Driver. I kept 'em a long time and when I saw one that was more advanced, I bought it. But never did I spend as much as the Driver cost. Starting a new business, I drove much less than previously, so not as much use. However, at about 1-1/2 mos out of warranty, it ceased to function, and they wanted $100+ to repair it(I was pissed off so I have been driving without it). My problem was the company attitude about it(tough shit), did u leave it in the sun etc. Anyway, it was obvious they didn't care. So it's not fixed and I need to do ZL1 CAMARO needs a ride...what goes around....thanks

GlennJ said...

Works for me. Never been tempted to move 'up' after purchasing V1.
Great product, they deserve their success.

Unknown said...

Veil guy,
When do you think we will hear the announcement?

Veil Guy said...

Haven't got a clue. :)

Check out VR's website and enter your model number for an upgrade and see what happens...