3 Sources of Investment Ideas from Motley Fool Co-Founder David Gardner

Recently, health-care bureau chief Max Macaluso sat down with Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner to talk about the fear that some investors face when analyzing stocks in complex industries.

During their conversation, David explored his approach to finding new investment ideas. With a Warren Buffett quote for inspiration and a side trip into Kickstarter and next-gen tech, Gardner explains the three ways he learns about new stocks. "Invest in what you know" is part of it, as is The Motley Fool community itself. 

The full version of the interview can be seen here and a full transcript follows the video.

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Max Macaluso: Let's get back to your investing style. I'm curious, how do you generate ideas? You invest in every industry out there. Where do you find these companies?

David Gardner: I would say that there are three primary places that I find them.

In no order, I'll first go with stuff that I love, know, and use. Invest in what you know. I love a lot of things, but games. Not surprising then, that I would have video game companies, game companies, online game companies. That would be a natural place for me to find ideas.

When a new video game brand is born, I already know that ahead of time, and I'm already looking and seeing who owns that, and whether it's a big part of their business or not. That's a natural place; my own inclinations.

Number two, our community. I think that The Motley Fool has the world's greatest investing community. We're investors helping each other beat the market, and I have found any number of stocks -- great ideas, bad ideas, everything in between -- because for every day that we've had The Motley Fool, for about 21 years now, I've been on our discussion boards and I've been on CAPS, which we invented seven years ago, partly to harness this, so I am constantly exposed to ideas.

It might not even be somebody who's advocating a stock. They might just link to a good article about a new technology and, because I am kind of an early adopter type -- that's part of what I know ...

For example, I just got this yesterday. My Pebble Watch. Some people may know what this is. Some people don't know what it is, but it's basically Bluetooth to my iPhone, so when I get texted I don't have to pull out my phone. I can just see it on my watch.

Macaluso: Do you know when this product launched?

Gardner: Yeah, I do. Do you?

Macaluso: No.

Gardner: Oh, OK, got it. You probably know more than I do.

Macaluso: No, no. If it's out of health care, I probably ... these days, that's my primary focus.

Gardner: Got it. See, my working assumption is people know more than I do, truly. I've always thought that about the stock market, by the way, but that's a whole separate investment philosophy question.

This was Kickstarted. Anybody who's familiar with Kickstarter, this company a year and a half or so ago used Kickstarter to try to raise $100,000 to build this, and they raised $10 million. It's one of the great Kickstarter success stories.

These days lame, late adopters like me last night went into lame, old businesses like Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) and bought the Pebble Watch off the shelf at Best Buy -- so it's translated from an idea that occurred in someone's head, to an Internet venture cap site, to a build and a deliver to early pre-adopters, then to lame idiots like me going into Best Buy too late at night, poking around.

But I still think I'm lamely ahead of most of the rest of the world, which is often where I position myself.

Macaluso: Yeah, you're ahead of me, for sure.

Gardner: That's fine.

Macaluso: I would still call you an early adopter.

Gardner: Well, and let me just say, I have any number of these kinds of things, where I ended up not using them a week later. I probably have the proverbial closet full of tech fails.

I also don't want to put myself out as Mr. Bleeding Edge, who's trying out all tech all the time. I truly only pick up things if I think that they can solve a problem in my life or improve my life in some way, which I hope this will. I'll let you know in a month whether it was the case or not.

But I was including this because I think I probably first read about the Pebble Watch on our discussion boards at the Fool, so that's number two for me.

Number one, stuff that I already know. Number two, our community which is, I think, just an incredible assortment. Then number three would just be professional awareness.

For me, I'm an entrepreneur on the Internet. We've been running our company for 21 years online, and I feel like I can see into other Internet businesses with knowing eyes. Warren Buffett has that great line, which we have about two conference rooms over. You know it, Max, but it's, "I'm a better investor because I'm a businessman, and a better businessman because I'm an investor."

I'm going to let that simmer just for a sec, for anybody who's never heard that before.

"I'm a better investor because I'm a businessman." Well, that's really interesting, and that's what I'm saying here with category number three. It means that, whether you're in business or not, your professional life is giving you insight that you should be using to make better investment decisions.

Another sad irony is that a lot of people disconnect this from their lives. They're like, "I just give my money away to my money guy. I can't deal with that," and they're really breaking the loop -- the holistic loop -- between learning in business, becoming a better investor, and then as an investor ... the other part of Buffett's quote, then let's go to your next question.

The other part of Buffett's quote, "I'm a better businessman because I'm an investor." The act of looking, scanning the skies and looking for stars out there in the public markets -- great companies, best practices, those kinds of things -- will make you better as a professional. It's an incredibly important loop that most people have fractured because they only think of themselves as one and not the other.

I have been dramatically benefited by being an Internet entrepreneur, and that's the third area; my industry. 


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  • Report this Comment On November 23, 2013, at 8:57 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    Great article and video. Following the Peter Lynch principle (I didn't even know I was doing it until I read his book) and buying what you know (think PG and JNJ) and love (Apple, Boston Beer) has worked well for me over the past 30 years.

  • Report this Comment On November 24, 2013, at 5:23 PM, TMFMassimo wrote:

    @Mathman6577, thanks for the kind words and for being part of the Motley Fool community. Fool on!

    -Max

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