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post #1 of 24 Old 06-24-2013, 10:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi, all. I do not write product support statements very often, if ever. However, I have found myself in a situation where I need to share my story and I figured this is the perfect forum to do so.

Since 2006 I have used a home automation product called Lifeware (by Exceptional Innovation). This software controlled my 6 zone Russound system with 6 sources, lighting, some appliances, etc. About a month ago my hard drive crashed on my home automation server and I replaced the system and took my backup configuration and installed it on the new server. Upon installation, my Russound configuration was working through Lifeware but my lighting was not. To keep the story short, I called Lifeware and they essentially told me that they are focused on commercial installs and couldn't help me. So... I spent thousands of dollars on software and lighting that was essentially rendered useless. Nice!

So, I spent the next couple weeks researching solutions and looked at everything from HAI, AMX, Crestron, Control4, and RTI. I was really wanting a home automation platform that could do the following: Control Russound zones/sources, control insteon lighting and appliances, have weather reporting capabilities, and provide scripting capabilities (rules). I also wanted the ability to control cameras, video, and energy management in the future. Lastly, the user interface ease of use was important and I wanted to run it on tablets as well as PCs.

I came very close to purchasing Control4 but I didn't care for the user interface and I really didn't like the idea that I had to use Control4 based hardware (unless I wanted to get into buying 3rd party drivers). I also didn't care for having to rely on a dealer for everything. With all this said, I had spent enough time researching and so I was very close to just doing Control4. At the very last minute I put in one more hour of research and found a software product called Main Lobby by Cinemar.

Upon researching Cinemar I decided to give them a call. I spoke to both owners, Dave and Mario. They were both extremely helpful. As I reviewed their technical product documentation it appeared to support ALL of my requirements out of the box. I decided to install the free trial software and I was able to use some prebuilt templates that Cinemar created. Within minutes, and I mean minutes, I was connected to my Russound and looking at my music album cover art. I then connected my lighting, again, simple. I was amazed. I ended up spending time with Dave and he helped me get my Russound zones working the way I expected. I hooked up Pandora as another source. I ended up creating user interfaces for my Android tablet and my iPad leveraging the existing templates provided by Cinemar. In a matter of a couple days I had a platform that was better than what I had previously. I was very happy.

The level of thought put into the design of this product is outstanding. Everything from their installation assistant, to the tools available on the server side, to the screen designer. It was designed for efficiency and is very easy to use. The thing I am most amazed about is the lack of awareness on this product. It is truly outstanding. Not to mention the price being very attractive. I spent about $1000 on my software and that included paying Dave for his time helping me get set up.

If you are someone looking for a robust, well designed home automation system that will not lock you into using a dealer for everything or using very specific hardware, and you want a solution that is attractively priced, give these guys a look. In my opinion, they are the ideal home automation software for small business or residential.
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post #2 of 24 Old 07-08-2013, 10:05 PM
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I too have been looking quite a lot into cinemar, and what appears to be their closest alternative, CQC, as both allow you to use whatever hardware you want and provide a single UI for all HA...lights, security, cameras, audio and video. There's quite a few new companies on the scene with slicker UI's and with native ipad apps rather than HTML based UI's that mainlobby and CQC use., such as Irule, Command Fusion, but they have limited AV and security capabilities. There's also homeseer and mControl, but I don't think they are as capable as mainlobby and CQC, which brings me to ask, why more and more people don't seem to refer to mainlobby or CQC that often in the forums. CQC seems to get the odd mention, but mainlobby not so much.

If anyone has any feedback on the above systems in order to compare them, I'd be much appreciated.

thanks
derek

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post #3 of 24 Old 07-08-2013, 11:14 PM
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CQC doesn't use an HTML interface. It's fully customizable, at least as much as anything else out there, particularly given that it requires no coding to do.

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post #4 of 24 Old 07-08-2013, 11:57 PM
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Sorry Dean for the incorrect statement, what I meant to say is that CQC and Mainlobby don't use native IOS or Android apps but use web apps (feel free to correct me).

I must admit though while most will agree that native apps run faster, until I try out the software I should reserve my judgement,

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post #5 of 24 Old 07-09-2013, 12:05 AM
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In our case we use our own RIVA technology for one set of iOS/Android apps. These allow you to view the same screens you created for your Windows clients on those other clients. It uses a remote graphics output type technology of our own to remote the drawing to the clients. There are also some native apps with fixed function and interface which are driven by 'room configuration', i.e. you tell it about what rooms you have and what devices are in them. That information can be used to both auto-generate regular Windows client interfaces, but can also be used by Android and iOS clients to drive fixed interface type clients.

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post #6 of 24 Old 07-09-2013, 08:52 AM
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Thanks Dean,
So your RIVA protocol is a type of remote desktop login, correct?

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post #7 of 24 Old 07-09-2013, 05:27 PM
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More or less, an RDP or X-Windows type of thing, but specialized to this particular need so that third parties don't have to write huge amounts of code to support it. The iOS and Android RIVA apps are third party programs. The iOS guys have just put out a room configuration based one, and we are working on one of those for the Android side, which folks are playing with now in early form to give us an idea of how they like it and how it's working.

Ultimately, there's no way to win for us on this side of the isle. You either have to write potentially huge amount of code on multiple platforms, or you have to try to do something to extend your main platform to the others. The former is almost not worth it financially if you were going to try to do something on the order of our Windows Interface Viewer client, which is very complex and powerful, and certainly no third party is going to take that on unless there was way more money in the offing than is likely in the fairly smallish automation market. The latter is a lot more practical but also will have some limitations, as RDP does, since the client doesn't really know what it's interacting with. It just draws graphics as requested and sends user input the other way. So some fancy graphics effects are not practical to do in a RIVA type situation, like inertial scrolling. The more native room configuration based apps can, but they are considerably more limited function, supporting the key stuff that most folks will want to deal with (lights, music, movies, weather, and security currently, with more added over time..)

So it's always some sort of compromise when you are forced to try to support multiple platforms like this. Other companies ran into other things. Cinemar uses Flash, but of course Apple considers interacting with the rest of the world to be degrading so no Flash there. So, Cinemar were forced to create their own system as well, ultimately. But, they only started a while back, whereas we'd decided to that route from the start, so on that front we are way ahead. But, even now 10+ years later, there's still lots to do because it's a huge effort. Right now we are adding inertial scrolling on our Windows viewer, and added gesture based scrolling in the last release, to keep up with what folks expect these days. Flash let them easily scale a single interface (within reason) between devices of different resolutions, whereas ours was raster graphics based, so it couldn't scale like that. OTOH, with their Flash system you had to copy and past commands into a Flash editor to customize, whereas our interface editor is our own and completely integrated into the product, so it's all point and click.

A product like, say, iRule is (relatively speaking) simple enough that they can probably deal with writing it two or three times over if they need to. But, over time as they are force down the road of ever more features to widen their market, that may also begin to hurt them. One large code base is hard enough to keep solid.

Anyway, don't get me started. It's a complex situation, and everyone tries to deal with it in their own ways that they feel they can.

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post #8 of 24 Old 07-11-2013, 06:42 AM - Thread Starter
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My opinion is that CQC and MainLobby just haven't marketed themselves enough. They are not allowed to promote their products on this forum so they rely on others to do it for them. I cannot speak to the capabilities of CQC because I only had it installed briefly. What I can tell you is that I found MainLobby to be very intuitive and extremely easy to get configured. There were some commands that I needed some help with that the point and click interface didn't really provide but for the most part I was able to get it going with little intervention. I have the MainLobby UI running on multiple PCs in the home, on two different iPADs, and on my Nexus 7. For all of this I only needed to design two different interface form factors. I would really like to see a product that beats MainLobby from a price/feature/integration perspective.

iRule seemed to be more geared toward remote control type functions (not true home automation in my opinion). Command Fusion was an interesting product but their website gave me the impression you have to buy their hardware. I was trying to find a product that I could retrofit directly into my existing equipment.
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post #9 of 24 Old 07-11-2013, 12:46 PM
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Marketing is expensive. Control4, AFAIK, got something around $60M in venture capital to get started. That's a huge advantage, and also of course a huge disadvantage, since you start out in a $60M deep hole you have to get your way out of, and they haven't done so yet. And you give up a lot of your company, often the majority of it, in return.

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post #10 of 24 Old 07-12-2013, 08:40 AM
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$60M????? Holy cats! eek.gifeek.gifeek.gifeek.gifeek.gif
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post #11 of 24 Old 07-12-2013, 12:38 PM
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It's not that much when you think about it. If you are going that route, i.e. the big bang route as opposed to the bootstrap route, you have to get a product up and running within a fairly short period of time. That means, to some extent, throwing people at the problem, and people's is 'spensive. They did outsource a lot of the initial development to India initially, but still. To get a product that's not laughable (on both the hardware and software sides) with the usual sort of 12 to 18 months time frame those types of things are usually shooting for, it's not cheap. And presumably no small part of that probably went to advertising as well.

Of course I may be off on the number. Oh, maybe I'm actually low:

http://www.vcvibe.com/control4-816switches-on-25m-funding-round/

This implies they already had closed $50M before this $25M round of finance, which would put it at $75M, if they didn't get even more after that.

Oh, and don't forget that they just filed with the SEC to go public, with a goal to raise another $60M as well.

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post #12 of 24 Old 07-12-2013, 01:03 PM
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And, just for further comparison, though few people even remember Lifeware these days, an internet bubble billionaire started it around the same time we started (2000'ish), and reportedly pumped something over $100M of his own money into it, from what I'd heard at the time, and it still didn't survive. They marketed heavily as well.

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post #13 of 24 Old 07-12-2013, 02:44 PM
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Well that was my thoughts, that it would be hard to climb out of. I realize we're talking about a premium product, but it's not like it's a huge market. Nothing like developing a car or something like that smile.gif
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post #14 of 24 Old 07-13-2013, 09:37 AM
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In many cases I don't think the intent is to climb out of the hole, just to pocket as much as you can in salary and bonuses before the whole thing collapses.

Regards, Frederick C. Wilt
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post #15 of 24 Old 07-14-2013, 05:41 PM
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Command Fusion was an interesting product but their website gave me the impression you have to buy their hardware. I was trying to find a product that I could retrofit directly into my existing equipment.

Just popping in to let you know that iViewer (CommandFusion) controls any networked system. Im happy to help you out in anyway i can. Email me at aaron (at) commandfusion dot com if you like.
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post #16 of 24 Old 07-15-2013, 03:53 PM
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While Iviewer appears to have a pretty slick UI, and is a native IOS app, a big downside its its media capabilities. It dosen't have any audio or video playback engines, such as mainlobby and cqc have.

Regarding the comment on having to buy Commandfusion's hardware, every HA software platform needs a hardware interface to control lights, doors, irrigation systems etc, which can be a security panel, global cache or CommandFusions own interface modules for example. So I don't think its a case of getting locked into or having to buy CommandFusions hardware per se.

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post #17 of 24 Old 08-03-2013, 08:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

And, just for further comparison, though few people even remember Lifeware these days, an internet bubble billionaire started it around the same time we started (2000'ish), and reportedly pumped something over $100M of his own money into it, from what I'd heard at the time, and it still didn't survive. They marketed heavily as well.
IMO Lifeware was a failed business model from the beginning from another successful person from the software/computing industry who was convinced that the business model for that market was the right business model for this market.
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It's not that much when you think about it...[C4's investment]

Agreed. And the difference between them and Lifeware is that C4 was started by someone who understood the industry and understood a business model that would work in the industry. They also had previous experience of a simultaneous success/failure with PHAST (success that they sold it to AMX, failure that it had vision but was a disaster of a product) to draw from.

It remains to be seen how they will do, but I think they have already made it pretty far past the stage where a lot of start-ups get shut down after a couple of years. On the other hand, I did read that they have not achieved profitability yet. Haven't looked at the numbers though to know that that truly means, but the financials should be publicly available since they filed for an IPO.
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post #18 of 24 Old 08-04-2013, 02:07 PM
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My comments from above were based on the info they released. If you go by that information, it looks like they have effectively lost some hundreds of dollars per system so far. Their IPO just went public yesterday. If they raise what they want, then that will put them another $60M back down the debt hole. Given the pretty significant amount of loss of self-determination that goes with being a public company, you'd think that they would have opted for more private equity, and only would have done the IPO if they couldn't get it. If they couldn't get it, that sort of says something in and of itself I guess. Of course that's all speculation on my part, but it seems had to understand why they would have opted to put themselves on the public company merry-go-round if they could have raised more private equity, or why they would have felt the need to raise more at all if things were going well.

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post #19 of 24 Old 08-08-2013, 01:00 PM
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I certainly don't want to discourage anyone but both MainLobby and CQC require much more of an investment in time that the OP is showing.
I love both products and own MainLobby package since 2006. They are great products and will do anything you want with them but most folks will not have as easy process as the OP.
FWIW, I have at least 60 hours into development into my systems and at the moment I have moved to hardware only which is much less customizable but I have run out of time and energy for MainLobby.
Please, no flames. I am just trying to provide some balance here so folks don't expect to implement a full CQC or MainLobby automation in a weekend.
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post #20 of 24 Old 08-08-2013, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

My comments from above were based on the info they released. If you go by that information, it looks like they have effectively lost some hundreds of dollars per system so far. Their IPO just went public yesterday. If they raise what they want, then that will put them another $60M back down the debt hole. Given the pretty significant amount of loss of self-determination that goes with being a public company, you'd think that they would have opted for more private equity, and only would have done the IPO if they couldn't get it. If they couldn't get it, that sort of says something in and of itself I guess. Of course that's all speculation on my part, but it seems had to understand why they would have opted to put themselves on the public company merry-go-round if they could have raised more private equity, or why they would have felt the need to raise more at all if things were going well.

Private money usually entails even greater loss of control then public money.

And while they may have lost money on each system sold they may have hoped to make in up in quantity of sales tongue.gif

Regards, Frederick C. Wilt
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post #21 of 24 Old 08-08-2013, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike Walsh View Post

I certainly don't want to discourage anyone but both MainLobby and CQC require much more of an investment in time that the OP is showing.

I would agree that the flexibility that each provides comes with a cost of greater effort.

I've worked with both ML and CQC. I am always very, very reluctant to criticize such products when I know the companies are small and are working their back-ends off to produce a good product.

I would advise any potential customers to take advantage of the free trials and thoroughly explore the design and features of each before making a decision. The depth and complexity of such products makes a quick, easy and accurate analysis impossible.

I have never had any reason to doubt the integrity of either Dean or Mario.

Regards, Frederick C. Wilt
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post #22 of 24 Old 08-08-2013, 01:46 PM
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Hi, all. I do not write product support statements very often, if ever. However, I have found myself in a situation where I need to share my story and I figured this is the perfect forum to do so.

Since 2006 I have used a home automation product called Lifeware (by Exceptional Innovation). This software controlled my 6 zone Russound system with 6 sources, lighting, some appliances, etc. About a month ago my hard drive crashed on my home automation server and I replaced the system and took my backup configuration and installed it on the new server. Upon installation, my Russound configuration was working through Lifeware but my lighting was not. To keep the story short, I called Lifeware and they essentially told me that they are focused on commercial installs and couldn't help me. So... I spent thousands of dollars on software and lighting that was essentially rendered useless. Nice!

So, I spent the next couple weeks researching solutions and looked at everything from HAI, AMX, Crestron, Control4, and RTI. I was really wanting a home automation platform that could do the following: Control Russound zones/sources, control insteon lighting and appliances, have weather reporting capabilities, and provide scripting capabilities (rules). I also wanted the ability to control cameras, video, and energy management in the future. Lastly, the user interface ease of use was important and I wanted to run it on tablets as well as PCs.

I came very close to purchasing Control4 but I didn't care for the user interface and I really didn't like the idea that I had to use Control4 based hardware (unless I wanted to get into buying 3rd party drivers). I also didn't care for having to rely on a dealer for everything. With all this said, I had spent enough time researching and so I was very close to just doing Control4. At the very last minute I put in one more hour of research and found a software product called Main Lobby by Cinemar.

Upon researching Cinemar I decided to give them a call. I spoke to both owners, Dave and Mario. They were both extremely helpful. As I reviewed their technical product documentation it appeared to support ALL of my requirements out of the box. I decided to install the free trial software and I was able to use some prebuilt templates that Cinemar created. Within minutes, and I mean minutes, I was connected to my Russound and looking at my music album cover art. I then connected my lighting, again, simple. I was amazed. I ended up spending time with Dave and he helped me get my Russound zones working the way I expected. I hooked up Pandora as another source. I ended up creating user interfaces for my Android tablet and my iPad leveraging the existing templates provided by Cinemar. In a matter of a couple days I had a platform that was better than what I had previously. I was very happy.

The level of thought put into the design of this product is outstanding. Everything from their installation assistant, to the tools available on the server side, to the screen designer. It was designed for efficiency and is very easy to use. The thing I am most amazed about is the lack of awareness on this product. It is truly outstanding. Not to mention the price being very attractive. I spent about $1000 on my software and that included paying Dave for his time helping me get set up.

If you are someone looking for a robust, well designed home automation system that will not lock you into using a dealer for everything or using very specific hardware, and you want a solution that is attractively priced, give these guys a look. In my opinion, they are the ideal home automation software for small business or residential.

Thanks ccadwell for the great post. It's nice to hear that you are thoroughly enjoying the fruits of our labor. smile.gif

The software has certainly evolved over the years and we continually strive to make it even easier for users to get going with the system.

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I certainly don't want to discourage anyone but both MainLobby and CQC require much more of an investment in time that the OP is showing.
I love both products and own MainLobby package since 2006. They are great products and will do anything you want with them but most folks will not have as easy process as the OP.
FWIW, I have at least 60 hours into development into my systems and at the moment I have moved to hardware only which is much less customizable but I have run out of time and energy for MainLobby.
Please, no flames. I am just trying to provide some balance here so folks don't expect to implement a full CQC or MainLobby automation in a weekend.

Mike. Thanks for your support. It doesn't look like you've moved onto our Version 4 generation product yet. So your Version 3 experiences from back in 2008 may be completely different than ccaldwell's. We've taken great strides to simplify and unify command sets across multiple manufacturers as well as provide turnkey scenes to get even the most basic users up and running quickly. I think ccadwell is a good example of a customer who without any knowledge of past products can appreciate the new version.

With that said, it's easy to spend time tinkering with the software and expanding your system. You can spend as little or as much time on the design side and user interface as you want to make it do what you want or look the way you want. With thousands of graphics at your disposal, it's easy to get creative with it.

I personally assist users and even dealers all the time who don't want to spend their own time on it. Once we've designed the floor plans, I typically turn around a completely customized solution for the customer in around 10 - 20 hours. This includes integrating lights, thermostats, security sensors, whole house audio, matrix switchers, music, movies, internet radio, ir control and much more. Back in the days of Pronto, I'd easily spend that on creating the graphics for the IR remotes. wink.gif

With that said, you can still spend quite a bit of time designing to your hearts content.
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post #23 of 24 Old 08-08-2013, 02:11 PM
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Private money usually entails even greater loss of control then public money.

Sure, that's true. But they have already taken that hit. They used private capital to finance them to this point. And at least those private financiers are in the same boat with you and are more likely to look a little further down the road. Going public now would add any more loss of control to that, and the point I was making is that you become a whipping boy on a short leash when you go public. Those public investors can bail on you in a heartbeat, and often do, whereas the private investors at least have tied themselves to you until such time as enough profit can be made for them to bail out with ROI, and your boat would be rising as well. With public money you get stuck on the quarter to quarter popularity contest thing, and many a company has complained about what it does to their ability to take a longer term view.

Their big competitor, OTOH, is privately owned, and doesn't have to answer to anyone outside of the company other than customers. And will still be as large a valued company as C4 after the IPO, and that value is probably real value that isn't in danger of running away after a disappointing quarter.

Dean Roddey
Chairman/CTO, Charmed Quark Systems, Ltd

www.charmedquark.com

 

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post #24 of 24 Old 08-08-2013, 03:54 PM
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Seems to me once the IPO is complete and the company has the money in hand there is not too much the public can do regards that batch of money. Yes the price of the stock can be driven down but if the goal of the IPO is just to get cash it seems like a reasonable idea. Nowadays it seems investors love to put money into money losing companies. smile.gif

Regards, Frederick C. Wilt
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