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Clear Growth Path: William Wang

Jun 5, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The player: William Wang, chief executive officer of Vizio Inc.
The play: Mr. Wang has grown closely held Vizio from its 2002 launch to revenue of about $2 billion last year by selling some of the market’s least expensive high-definition televisions to big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Costco. “In 2002, HDTVs were considered a luxury item,” said Mr. Wang. “We’re basically trying to commoditize the category.”
The pitch: Mr. Wang, who had a computer-monitor business before starting Vizio, used his experience as an engineer and relationships with overseas manufacturers to build TVs cheaper than Sony or Samsung. In the first quarter, Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio leapfrogged Sony to become the No. 2 flat-panel TV seller in North America, doubling its units sold from a year earlier, according to NPD Group unit DisplaySearch. “I worked on the computer side for quite some time, so that gave me a competitive edge as far as access to technology,” Mr. Wang says.
The challenges: Larger competitors such as Sony and Samsung are taking losses on some of their cheapest models in order to secure flat-screen market share, according to some analysts, though Mr. Wang says that strategy is short-lived. “I don’t think anyone has a business model that says, ‘We’re going to lose $200 million to go after Vizio,’” he says. Also, some analysts say new production lines from companies such as LG Electronics and Sony may cause a flat-panel television glut by next year, a notion Mr. Wang also dismisses. “HDTV penetration in the U.S. is less than 50%, and in the world, it’s less than 10%,” he says. “There’s a lot more room for us to grow.”
Backstory: Mr. Wang, 43, was born in Taiwan, moved to Hawaii at age 12 and relocated to Southern California two years later. A USC graduate, he worked at Tatung, which makes computer monitors for IBM, for four years before starting his own computer-monitor business in the early 1990s. He is married and has a daughter.

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