First today, a thought on our newest buy, PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP). The company reportedly made an offer to purchase Quaker Oats (NYSE: OAT), but was rejected for offering too little ($13.7 billion). Now, I realize the attraction of Quaker's Gatorade product, but I don't want Pepsi to buy Quaker's cereal products, too. So my first reaction is that I'm glad this deal didn't happen. The Fool's Lou Ann Lofton covered the story last week, and as more details emerge we might have more to say.

Now we return to our high-growth investment study. Ahhh... let's set the tone. I'm going to randomly open to a page in my 1,000-page tome, The New Oxford Book of English Verse, and we'll quote from that page, and I bet you that we can relate the poem to high-growth stocks. Here we go. I just randomly opened to page 555:

Ye Mariners of England
That guard our native seas!
Whose flag has braved a thousand years
The battle and the breeze!
Your glorious standard launch again
To match another foe;
And sweep through the deep,
While the stormy winds do blow!
While the battle rages loud and long
And the stormy winds do blow.

That verse is from the quill of Mr. Thomas Campbell, 1777-1844. Mr. Campbell, what a pleasure it is to see you online in The Motley Fool's Drip Portfolio! Did you ever predict this would happen? Surely not. As you rest right now in the gothic Westminster Abbey, you have found new readers on the Fool. (Heck, though, the poor guy's journal has already been posted online. The very first sentence is pretty glum.)

Campbell's poem applies perfectly to high-growth stock investing: It harkens the risky storms that high-growth investors face, the battle for survival that plagues most young companies, and the volatile competition from foes. Even Campbell's line, "Whose flag has braved a thousand years," is applicable to investing. The goal of all companies is to survive long and well, while the company logo waves proudly over the land (or over the airwaves, as the case may be).

Not all high-growth companies are healthy and proud, however, and our high-growth criteria are meant to weed out weaker ones. If you need a refresher, revisit our high-growth investing criteria. Then take a gander at our list of potential investments, because we'll now start cutting this list down, top to bottom.

As I wrote earlier, this stage of cuts will be more subjective than later stages. As we work to whittle our list into something manageable, at this stage we're considering each company's industry, its leadership status in the industry, the number of viable competitors (which can limit potential), and the company's ability to expand in similar or related markets.

The first companies on the list are Paychex (Nasdaq: PAYX), Network Appliance (Nasdaq: NTAP), SanDisk (Nasdaq: SNDK), Ariba (Nasdaq: ARBA), Millennium Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: MLNM), and Human Genome Sciences (Nasdaq: HGSI).

Paychex is first. It provides payroll processing, human resource, and benefits outsourcing to small and medium-sized businesses. It is a clear market leader. It only serves a small part of the overall market, though, so great potential remains. Its largest challenge may be adapting to (and with) the Internet, while still growing earnings more than 25% annually. It stays on our list.

Network Appliance makes high-performance network storage data devices. Sales have doubled year-over-year in 2000, and the stock has been hot. But, there is much competition in the industry and the 17-year outlook is anyone's guess. Network Appliance is dropped because of these factors.

Next up, SanDisk makes flash memory data storage products. It may be a great company, but we already own Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), which is in a closely enough related industry that we don't want to buy SanDisk, too.

Next, online business-to-business leader, Ariba. Ariba's lead is increasing. The potential market size: immense. Interesting. We'll keep it.

Next, Millennium Pharmaceuticals is a promising biopharmaceutical whose first drugs should make the market in 2001. Millennium has expanding market opportunities and could become a drug powerhouse. It's very different from Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ). It stays on the list.

Next up, Human Genome Sciences will be cut. Its first drug won't hit the market for at least four years. That's too much time for us to risk losing should it fail. Plus, the Rule Breaker Port bought Human Genome Sciences, so the Fool is already educating investors about this interesting company.

So, from our semifinalist list, Network Appliance, SanDisk, and Human Genome Sciences are removed. We still have the majority of the list to go through and, without poetry, we'll be efficient at it in upcoming columns. To discuss today's cuts, please harangue us on the Drip companies board! And, Mr. Campbell -- thank you for the poetry.