Big Bats for Big Gains

To make big bucks in growth stocks, you must invest like a venture capitalist. What does that mean? For Fool co-founder and Motley Fool Rule Breakers chief David Gardner, it means the following:

"[Growth investors] must feel comfortable occasionally losing all their investment -- possibly going belly-up three times in a row -- in pursuit of the occasional great white whale."

Or, to use a baseball -- rather than a literary -- analogy, great growth investors must be willing to accept the strikeouts that come from swinging for the fences.

Million-dollar sluggers
Why? Because, in baseball, slugging percentage -- the number of total bases collected from hits divided by the number of times a player is at bat -- matters. It measures a player's overall effectiveness at the plate better than batting average does, by taking power into account.

Big-time sluggers in the majors today include Alfonso Soriano of the Washington Nationals and David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox. Both are among the Major League leaders in slugging percentage and are feared by opposing pitchers. Yet each has become accustomed to the whiff over the course of their careers: Soriano strikes out roughly 21% of the time, while Ortiz fans 22% of the time.

Billion-dollar investors
Similarly, some of the world's richest investors boast a massive slugging percentage, despite notable strikeouts. Consider Michael Moritz, a longtime partner with Silicon Valley's Sequoia Capital and the top choice on the Forbes annual list of tech dealmakers.

Moritz boasts a long list of winners, including Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , Flextronics (Nasdaq: FLEX  ) , Saba Software (Nasdaq: SABA  ) , and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) unit PayPal. His investing savvy has catapulted him to a fortune Forbes estimates to be in excess of $900 million. And that may be conservative.

Yet, like Soriano and Ortiz, Moritz has missed a few. That list includes Webvan, eToys, PlanetRx, and RedEnvelope (Nasdaq: REDE  ) .

But that shouldn't be a news flash. Rich investors always have some strikeouts. Many of the most prolific are billionaires, or so says Forbes. The Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans includes venture capitalists John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, worth $1 billion; William Bowes of U.S. Venture Partners, worth $900 million; and Arthur Rock of Davis & Rock, who was also a very early investor in Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , also worth $1 billion.

The perfect swing
But remember that VCs don't accept strikeouts willingly. Those whiffs are simply an occasional consequence of swinging for the fences in search of great growth stocks. Of course, like Soriano or Ortiz, when they hit it, they hit it hard.

And like any good slugger, VCs try to put themselves in a position to hit every pitch out of the park. Go back to Sequoia for a moment. At its website, the legendary VC firm lists eight criteria for a promising investing situation. Among the desired attributes are a clear vision for the opportunity, an ideal customer, frugal management, and a business model that can generate massive revenue with little capital investment. Invest in enough promising situations, Sequoia's partners reason, and investment success will follow.

Invest like a venture capitalist
That's why our own resident growth guru, David Gardner, continues to invest like a venture capitalist despite recent market turmoil. And, like a league-leading slugger, his Rule Breakers squad has uncovered four multibaggers in two years. Want the skinny on those stocks, as well as our new picks? Try Rule Breakers free for 30 days. There's no obligation to subscribe, and you can step up to the plate right now by clicking here.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers only breaks the rules in his portfolio. Wimp. Tim didn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. Get the skinny on all of Tim's stock holdings by checking his Fool profile. Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. eBay and Yahoo are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is a multibagger in the making.

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