On this Rule Breaker Investing podcast, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner revives a theme he first used early last year, based on the classic rhyme for wedding luck: "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue." It suited the hodgepodge of points he wanted to make then and a similarly motley patchwork of ideas on his mind this week.
He opens with a short refresher course on a top educator's fundamental paradigms: Deborah Meier's five habits of mind. For something new, he offers up an essay he's been refining for the past year that speculates about the rise and fall of the strong nation-state and the two trends that will weaken and in some ways supplant it. Under the borrowed banner, he applies a trio of clever quotes to the art of investing. And for something blue, David takes matters quite literally and reviews why the Fool continues to recommend ticker BLUE, the volatile clinical-stage gene-therapy hopeful bluebird bio (NASDAQ:BLUE) and why he invests in companies like it.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on May 23, 2018.
David Gardner: Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing! I hope your May is proceeding along swimmingly. Speaking of, well, I hope not swimming, actually, but I am not in the country as I do this podcast. I am, again, probably not swimming in Norway and Iceland but having a great time there with my family. I hope you're going to get a chance sometime this summer to make some travel of your own.
As a consequence, I pre taped this podcast just a few days earlier, and it's going to be a continuation of my Old, New, Borrowed & Blue series. Now, a quick reminder. Rule Breaker Investing, the podcast, is often built on the bones of these series, where I come up with something and I decide, "That was fun. Let me do it again. Volume II. Volume III." It goes like that.
Last week, for example, we did Great Quotes, Volume VIII. I hope you had a good time with that. Well, this is going to be Old, New, Borrowed & Blue, Volume II, and it comes from that old line. I think if you've ever gotten married, especially if you were a female, you might know that something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
A traditional rhyme. Referred to, I'm seeing, in the year 1876 when it was published at one point in Britain. It was called an "ancient custom," so who knows how old this one is, and I'm going to give you immediately a cyber nickel, a virtual nickel, if you know the fifth line that actually closes that traditional rhyme. I'll give you five seconds.
So, it actually goes like this. "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe." So, give yourself -- how about this -- a virtual silver sixpence if you knew that and got that right. I have four points with something old, new, borrowed, blue. That fifth one, the silver sixpence, I hope is just the reward for listening to this podcast. Any given week I'm so appreciative of your time and your interest.
Now, why did I create this series when I first did in early 2017? The answer is that week I had a hodgepodge of points I wanted to make. I had four completely different things to say and the only way I could think to do it was to make one of them old, one of them new, one of them a borrowed point, and something blue. I sort of fit it into that framework. This is my hodgepodge series, where I just get to share some disparate thoughts, and that's what I've got cued up for you this week.
So, without further ado, Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed & Something Blue, Vol. II. Oh my gosh, I'm a poet. I need to stop this.
Point No. 1 is something old. Well, I'm going to hail back to a podcast I did about a year and a half ago and review a framework that I shared. Now, if you were listening to me on March 15th of 2017 [and I sure hope you were], then you'll remember Deborah Meier's "Habits of Mind." Or maybe you won't remember all of them. For example, if I had had to quiz myself right now on her five Habits of Mind, I wouldn't have gotten a perfect score. Things go in and go out of our minds, and sometimes I try to bring things back to my mind to be reminded of some of the fundamentals, or some of the old wisdom.
Deborah Meier's Habits of Mind struck me that way. Now Deborah Meier is an educator. She is considered the founder of the modern small-schools movement. In the prime of her career, she operated out of a very difficult neighborhood in New York City and produced spectacular gains for that district and earned her fame that way. She's gone on to write and think a lot about education, but I pulled her framework from education out of education and applied it to our subject, investing, and that's what I'm going to do right now.
With my something old, we're just going to quickly trace over her five Habits of Mind and get a little bit more educated to remind ourselves of some of the fundamental wisdoms. I hope this is helpful for you. And if you're inspired you can certainly go back and listen to the full podcast from March 15th, 2017 to go over this "something old" point in a little bit more depth.
Her five Habits of Mind are what she believes students should be taught. It's how they should be taught. They should be taught these five Habits of Mind, and if you're a teacher, you'd be preparing your lesson plans maybe with this in mind. But we're going to use this and apply it to the phrase "stock market." If you were teaching somebody about the stock market, what are the five Habits of Mind and how does this sound?
By the way, these can be done in any order. I've seen them included in different orders. I'm just going to be using my own order this week with her five Habits of Mind.
The first one I want to talk about is "significance." That's No. 1. Why is it important, you're asking your teacher or, in this case, your podcaster? Why does this thing matter? What is it, in our case, about the stock market that makes it significant?
And for me, I guess I'd want everybody to know it's a place where wealth is created. After all, every day people who use the stock market are buying or selling shares. They're shaking hands with somebody else that they'll never meet and exchanging those shares at a price that they both agree upon, and because good businesses tend to gain over time [and you and I can become part owners of those through the stock market], a huge part of the stock market's significance is that it's a great place where wealth is created.
Another thing I think that's really cool about the stock market is it puts a price on every company. You can come in and see exactly where Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is trading right now and, as I'm recording this after market close on Thursday, May 17th, I can tell you that Apple closed at $186.99 per share.
Now, that tells you just what the price per share of Apple is, but if you were to multiply that price by all of the shares of Apple [price per share times number of shares], you'd come up with a number right around $919 billion. That's right -- just $81 billion short of $1 trillion -- in which case Apple would become the first public company in history if it makes a little bit more of a gain to become $1 trillion public company.
Isn't that pretty cool, though? Isn't that a significant aspect of the stock market, and don't you get smarter about the world at large when you can look and see the values of all these different companies? I think that's also a significant point. That's significance No. 1.
Habit of mind No. 2 that Deborah Meier suggests students should learn, and teachers should use and teach to is "evidence." How do you know? Prove it to me. And when we look and think about evidence as regard to the stock market, one thing that comes quickly to mind that I'd want anybody new to the stock market to understand is that it has risen about 10% a year for the last hundred years, or so, here in the United States of America, and that is amazing.
The earlier that you and I, in our lives, can save money and get it appreciating at an average percentage of approximately 10% a year, there's virtually nothing else like it. I mean, some things will outperform that over shorter-term periods or maybe even over longer-term periods, but not all those are as accessible as clicking a button on the internet, having saved money, and investing it quickly into a public company. You can do that with the click of a mouse these days. You can also exit that investment whenever you want to. It's a lot easier than selling a house. I think you know that.
Very liquid. Combine the liquidity of the stock market in and out with that 10% annualized average return. Another bit of evidence I'd want anybody to know who's thinking about the stock market is historically two years out of every three the stock market has risen and one year out of every three the stock market drops. It loses value.
All of that is included in those 10% annualized gains -- the good years and the bad ones -- so you can see it would be pretty silly to sell out trying to avoid that one year in three, which is never predictable anyway [to me anyway], when the stock market drops. It would be pretty silly to sell out in advance of that or hoping to avoid that and time your way back in, especially when you're having to pay commissions and taxes.
The frictions of trading would be pretty silly to do that if you have any amount of time left on this Earth [let's say five, 10, 15, 50 years]. Pretty silly to play a game with that, so there's some more evidence for anybody who wanted to learn more about the stock market.
And then I guess the last bit of evidence is it does numerically express the rise and fall of companies and their values [and industries, as well], because you can just calculate, as I did earlier, the market capitalization of Apple, and you can see where that was 10 years ago or 25 years ago. In Apple's case, you can see how spectacular it has been as an investment. I'm darn glad we have it on my side of the Stock Advisor scorecard and I know a lot of you own it, too. But you can actually see numerically -- you see the evidence of the change in values of companies -- and you can look at the history of that. That's habit of mind No. 2.
Habit of mind No. 3 is "connection." How does this apply you might ask as a student? Why are we learning this? Why are we being quizzed on this next week? There will be no quiz on this podcast next week, but how does this apply? How can I connect into it? How does this matter not on the grand scheme? How does this matter to me?
I think that's a pretty obvious answer, and it's really good news. You and I can become owners of these kinds of great companies over the course of our lives and build up portfolios. It's very relevant to you. In fact, it's probably my surest route for you to financial independence.
There are certainly other ways to do it. Some people are entrepreneurs and get rich that way. Some people speculate and get crazy lucky. But for most of the rest of us in between, this feels like a really strong, dependable, occasionally scary [yes] route to financial independence, which I submit is a wonderful reason to care about the stock market.
That's our connection into this material and why I really wish that everybody globally was hearing this podcast right now and understood these benefits. You and I do, and part of our mandate is to get out there and spread them. The Motley Fool's purpose is to help the world invest better. We rely on a lot of you to help us achieve our purpose. Word of mouth is really important. Once people understand, to review briefly, the importance of the stock market, evidence about the stock market, and a connection [a personal connection] into it, you can see how powerful this topic is and why I really think it should be a course in every school.
The last two Habits of Mind [I'll just give them both at once] are "perspective" and "supposition." So, perspective. What is our point of view, here? What happens if you were to change your point of view? How does the stock market look from different points of view? Perspective -- we'll do that in a sec. And then supposition. What if it were different? Imagine if some aspect of this were different? Let's suppose some about the stock market.
Again, that fourth one, perspective. I'm going to admit my point of view, here, in a sec and then I'm going to change it three times rapidly. I'm going to say that I'm an American, so I have an American point of view. I'm going to say I'm a saver. I'm somebody who has money [many people don't], and I'm an investor. I'm somebody who acts, by definition, for the long term.
Let's change each of those rapidly. What if I were not American? Many Rule Breakers are not. I'm regularly getting notes for our mailbag -- from you, whoever you are around the world -- and I love that. I love connecting in to people who didn't start in this country or don't have a dependable stock market in many cases. So, you have to know your own market, in part, and I can't speak to that in this podcast.
Some markets have performed very admirably, like the American stock markets. Certainly, a lot of European stock markets. Some in Asia have been on fire at different points in history or more recently. But if you are not American, I guess I'd say to you that often you can invest in America with at least a portion of your savings and you should get to know your own country [its own history and performance of its stock markets] and decide if that's a good place for you.
So, we just changed one point of view. We left America. Let's change another point of view. We're not savers. We're borrowers. We're somebody who doesn't have any capital right now that we could invest in this wonderful wealth-generating machine. And to you and to that sort of Fool, because you're pretty Foolish, too, along with the rest of us [always hoping for better things], I would hope that you'd be inspired by what the stock market does and can do.
And for many people, you're near being a saver. Maybe you're still getting rid of student debt. You're in a context where you can be a saver. You can see your way to saving, and so I'd want to make sure that you knew about the stock market, even though you have a different perspective from those of us who are already invested.
And finally, that third change and point of view. Let's move away from investors. Let's be traders. Let's be people who really love to get in there and mix it up. Jumping in and jumping out. Day trading, if you will. People who follow the markets not on a day-to-day basis, but on an hour-by-hour or minute-by-minute basis.
And I guess I would say to you I hope at the end of your life you'll look back and say your time was well spent. I truly do hope that we're all spending our lives as well as possible. In my experience, many people are trading. I think the good part of it is they're having fun with it. It may not be with all, I hope, of their nest egg, but they might be retired. It's a way for you to stay in the game and have some fun with it. I have no problem with that.
But I would not want anybody to listen to Rule Breaker Investing and think [about] day trading or trading on a full-time basis [changing our perspective, here]. I would suggest not using the stock market but doing other things with your time. That's just a Foolish thought for you.
And then finally that fifth habit of mind, "supposition." What if it were different? Well, what if the stock market didn't return 10% a year? What if it were only 2%? Or what if it were 15% over the next year, changing the parameters of its performance? Or what if we changed capital gains taxes? What if you had a much higher capital gains tax? Well, it wouldn't be as attractive to invest in the stock market, would it? Or what if you had no capital gains taxes at all? I bet there would be more investors.
So, I don't have any emphatic thing to say with this habit of mind, other than supposing is an interesting thought game, and one you should be playing from time to time. There you have it. Something old. Deborah Meier's five Habits of Mind, and I did them in the order of significance, evidence, connection, perspective, and supposition. Thank you, Deborah Meier for your work and thanks, Fools, for listening to something old!
And now for something new. Well, what I'm going to be sharing with you is a short essay that I wrote. I just wrote it to myself. I wrote it, in fact, last May of 2017 and I've just kind of been sitting on it. I've tweaked it a little bit, here and there, and I've entitled it, Imagine. And I think you'll understand why I'm including this to Rule Breaker Investing and how it fits, but I guess I'd want to say that this is just the first time I've ever shared this one out. If you're interested by any of the thoughts, I welcome any thoughts back in our mailbag at the end of this month as we do every month. I hope you enjoy this. Here it is: Imagine.
We all come from a background of a world that has firm borders and sovereign governments that have been in place for about three centuries -- three hundred years -- not three thousand years. In other words, while we are inured to it, and it seems the way of things, it's really only a very recent development.
What appears to give it even more heft is the increasingly centralized power of these governments. In the U.S., our federal government has grown large. It's become a huge entity over the past 100 years. Other areas of the world that are smaller often have, ironically, even more powerful governments dominating their citizenry.
In the U.S., despite what some of us may view as an overweening-sized government, we are far freer than so many of our sisters and brothers worldwide who have little to no freedom: freedom both political and economic. Anyway, it is the way of things to think in terms of nation states. And the so-called rise of nationalism in recent years plays off this.
Before there were nation states, people seemed to have cohered, instead, around their respective languages or cultures. Religious beliefs. Race. Often more than one of these factors taken together.
In the U.S. today, interestingly, while the perception is of racial divide, far more Americans, when asked, will say that they are grateful we are a melting pot and that we are stronger for immigration, etc. Again, this is the majority. But headlines spend most of their time pitching a different message and pitching people against each other.
Now, for a second, imagine that you are not part of a nation state. Imagine. Imagine there are no nation states. It's hard to imagine. Some people might call that anarchy. Other people might just call that the way of humanity up until about the year 1700. But try to imagine it and sit with it.
I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon, but I do think there are really important countervailing forces against nation states that are ungluing the traditional power centers around centralized governments. I've thought these thoughts for some years, now, and at least from my vantage point, they're becoming more and more relevant.
So, two key forces of our time that are perhaps most in evidence in the U.S. [and this is easiest to see as an American, I should say, but they're certainly relevant for the entire world and evident, I hope, from any vantage point], and they are these two: the internet and capitalism.
I believe these are two of the greater forces of good ever created. My cards are on the table as they've always been. As an investor I'm so grateful every day for their power and their success in improving my life and the lives of all my fellow earthlings. The degree to which the internet has raised humanity is, to my thinking, incalculable.
This is not to say that it's all good. Virtually nothing ever is, and we can easily take time to create a list of the internet's negatives [from piracy to mobile phone distraction], but the gains we take for granted today, whether from e-commerce, greater transparency and accountability, [to] skyping your child halfway across the world by video for free. Some of us may remember when the only option was an expensive collect call. The gains have been and will continue to be incalculable and primarily beneficial.
And the same goes for capitalism, which is increasingly practiced more and better by more people and firms worldwide than at any point in history. Again, business has its excesses and many bad forms it takes. Crony capitalism. Or maybe what I'll call, as well, squatter capitalism. Think of the many foreign governments worldwide, these days, that are largely economies just based on their natural resources. Milking natural resources which are finite without growing their thinking economies which can be infinite.
Think of Japan as an excellent example of a country that has a huge thinking economy. Capitalism and entrepreneurship dominate. The country isn't sitting on a big mine full of diamonds or fields dripping with oil and, yet, look what Japan has become after a war-torn 20th century. Japan has the third largest nominal GDP in the world. The third largest.
So, squatter capitalism features weak economies run by governments that don't encourage entrepreneurship. That don't have a culture or a history of the benefits of trade and often foreign trade. They eschew innovation, but they rather have a history, ancient or recent, of tapping their natural resources and that's about it. As Michael Bloomberg has said, today's world is "an economy based on information. Acquire the knowledge, apply the analytics, use your creativity."
To me, that's capitalism. That's a very conscious form of capitalism, and while poorer forms like crony capitalism and squatter capitalism can give business and capitalism a bad name, they are weakening further and petering out because they don't offer better solutions, and the world will keep on getting and demanding better.
So, here's what's interesting to me. Both the internet, in taking out geography as a factor, and business, in being constructive, productive, oriented toward stakeholders, value creating, and now with a company like Apple having more than $250 billion in cash; both the internet and capitalism are outpacing, in many ways, centralized governments.
It's very evident and guess what? It's only going to speed up from here. The larger governments get, the more out of touch they can get with the benefits and the growth of the internet and capitalism. And, of course, the worst governments of all, responsible for the most repression and value destruction for all the citizens under their care, are repressive governments that attempt totally to control and/ or restrict what, exactly? That's right. They try to restrict the internet and capitalism, the two great forces of our time that I find so laudable and that these governments so attempt to repress.
These kinds of governments give privilege and almost absolute power to a tiny group of citizens who are, everyday, failing to support, invest in, help, or create any net positive value for their countrymen, and that is so very sad. The further the quality of behavior of even good governments, these days, seems at or near all-time lows if you're judging by things like the measure of approval of Congress today or the shock-jock polarization of public discourse. It's regrettable.
But, if you step away and use some systems thinking, and look at the motivations and results generated from government, from the internet, and capitalism; what is happening today seems both logical and predictable and seems likely, only further, to continue.
Again, the internet largely undermines nationalism and enables you to find your tribe anywhere. It massively increases our productivity. Capitalism creates value for all stakeholders. It lifts people out of poverty. It multiplies our choices and possibilities while also increasing our productivity as well.
Government runs on politics, which intentionally pits people against each other for votes, can attract extremists who often grab most of the media headlines and polarize people, and increasingly, it seems to me, makes an enemy of the other party, whatever that is. So, many governments today, and throughout history have, of course, a standard motivation to increase taxes understandably for all.
And oh, by the way, government does some wonderful other things besides. It keeps us safe through law enforcement and military capability. It builds roads. It runs some good schools -- some in some places.
So, as we close here, neither the internet nor capitalism are all good, and nor is government bad. I need to be very clear on that. But what I'm saying -- what I'm encouraging you to imagine -- is that take them all in all, the internet and capitalism are so much better, stronger, and faster than the way government is practiced today in many places in the world.
And really for the last 20 years, or so, the internet and capitalism have been speeding up and maybe leaving government in the dust. And there are factors in place such as where the best and brightest are headed from our schools. Where you can add the most value and gain the most value in your life. Factors that I see probably not changing anytime soon or going in reverse.
So, indeed the concept of nation states and the so-called rise of nationalism seem to me more vulnerable than at any time in our lives and meanwhile Apple, which is, though, a flawed human entity; a corporation that is wildly better and more powerful in the best way than many of the worldwide dictatorships that are in place, not repressing people but helping them. And with $250 billion plus, in cash, that's real savings. Money earned that is saved up for a rainy day. Apple is not in any meaningful debt. How many governments can you say that of?
So, this emerging model inverts the normal model for most sovereign governments. They have little cash, they have a ton of debt, they often don't create much net positive value for their people [some certainly do], but many are repressive and regressive in a way that's tragic.
Though they do have fiat power to print money, which is for many of them the most powerful financial leg they can stand on [except in some cases for a great bounty of natural resources], sometimes you wind up with a country like Venezuela, which although it's been blessed with outstanding natural resources [has], through its economical ignorance, its power structures actively now creating a dystopia before our very eyes for the very citizens it is supposed to support and protect.
So, imagine. Imagine that sovereign governments continue to have a hard time becoming more effective, less divided, less repressive. Imagine that they continue to be outpaced by the speed and growth of the internet and the best forms of capitalism. Imagine what might happen next.
I don't quite know myself, but I think we might find it surprising and, indeed, quite a bit better and more positive than the often dire or disastrous expectations harbored by people who overrate the importance of governments today. Who forget that the private sector's by far the greater employer and creator of value. And by people who are fearful and/ or who are the ones writing today's headlines.
All right, something old. That was certainly something new. Now comes something borrowed, and I'm just going to go tick through a few of my favorite thoughts, just three one-liners, each of which I've shared before on this show. Each of which is borrowed because, of course, it's a great thought or quotation, and that's so much of what I do, and I hope what you do, in your thought work. All of us are thought workers these days and an information technology world is [what] we're borrowing.
We're constantly -- if you listen to Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine fame, who I interviewed a few months ago on this show -- all sharing. We're borrowing, we're copying constantly, and there's actually a lot of good. Even though you and I were taught not to look over Johnny or Suzy's shoulder and copy their paper in grade school, the more copying and borrowing of great stuff and good stuff shared through social media, or through new business models, or by entrepreneurs, I think the better.
So, here you go. Three quick ones.
The first is William Gibson, the sci-fi novelist. His line: "The future is already here -- it's just not evenly distributed." And it's great to remember that. Right now, in some labs in different places around the world, there are things being invented and that are already known that you and I don't know about, but within three or five years we'll start hearing about them.
Think about the first time you heard about cloud computing -- probably a while ago -- and think about what cloud computing has become today. Or how about the internet? The first time you ever heard that mentioned? I remember watching Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric when they first heard the phrase "the internet" on the Today show. You can watch this on YouTube. It's pretty funny. It's about a 90-second video. Their reaction to what was, they said, "internet." They didn't say "the." They said, "What is internet?"
So, think about the gains that were made from that point, which was in the mid-1990s right through to today. "The future is already here -- it's just not evenly distributed." William Gibson reminds you and me to pay attention. To be curious. To be intellectually curious. To be poking around -- especially as investors with money to invest -- and to realize there are things happening that we should be respecting and finding out about that are innovating and be investing in that.
The second comes from the Grateful Dead. This one I think is attributed to Jerry Garcia, but it might have been another member of the band or their band manager. But here it is, and I've heard it taught in business schools. The line goes like this. "We were never trying to be the best at what we do. We were trying to be the only ones doing what we're doing."
If you think about it [even though I'm not a Deadhead myself, as I've said in the past on this podcast. I couldn't even name a couple of Grateful Dead songs], I admire the thinking. Because what was this band doing in the 1970s? They were saying, "Go ahead! Bring your cassette tape recorders. Tape our concerts. Bootleg us. We don't care."
In other words, they had figured out open source before the rest of their industry, and in many ways before many other industries that would come afterward. Open source. Go ahead, copy us! And by the time that Jerry Garcia died, sales of Grateful Dead albums that year, I think, were No. 1 worldwide. This is a band that said go ahead. Break the rules! We're going to break the rules. Let's see what happens. And I think the world saw what happened.
So, I've often used that line to think about picking stocks. I love to find companies that weren't trying to be the best at what they do, but become the only ones doing what they're doing.
And I think of a company like Amazon. If I were to say Amazon is Coca-Cola, who's Pepsi? It's hard to answer that question today. In a lot of ways Amazon, which started by selling books on the internet, has become something that is the only one doing what it's doing, and that's often true of innovators in every industry.
They're the lead huskies whose view never changes. They're that husky dog out front, and they're leading us in new, sometimes unexpected places, and that's such a powerful position to be in if you're a business, and for us as investors such a great place to be invested. So, we were never trying to be the best at what we do, but what are the companies in our world, today, that increasingly seem to be the only ones doing what they're doing?
And my last borrowed quote. This one's really easy to borrow because I'm borrowing it from myself. Here it is. I've said this a few times on this podcast. I'll say it once again. "I try to find excellence, buy excellence, and add to excellence over time. I sell mediocrity. That's how I invest."
There's the line, and I hope you can say it along with me. I won't ask you to repeat it right now, but I hope you agree. I hope this is the way that you treat your money. Of course, I was applying that to stocks, but I think going for the first-rate in whatever contexts makes sense for you in life, as opposed to settling for the tenth-rate.
I think this is why humanity has crawled up from the marshes eons ago, and why we're where we are today, and why we're continuing to progress forward, as Steven Pinker pointed out on this podcast a few months ago with his book Enlightenment Now. I think we're trying to find excellence. We should be buying it and adding to it over time. Selling mediocrity. I think that's how you should invest, and I think that's, whenever practicable, that's how you should live, too.
All right. Something old, something new, something borrowed and now, as I said, something blue. We're going to have a stock pick, here. This is not one of my five-stock samplers. I won't be checking in with this some years hence. It is an active Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation, so we're already scoring ourselves over there and I'll share our score with you right now.
But guess what the ticker symbol of this company is? Maybe BLUE? I see my producer, Heather, asking. Yeah, that's exactly right. The ticker symbol is BLUE is because this is Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed & Something Blue, so obviously I need to talk briefly about Bluebird Bio.
Bluebird Bio I first picked on January 28th of 2015. The stock was at $99.47. That day about a $4.5 billion company. $99 [just short of $100] in January of 2015. In the intervening two years it went up to about $190, so I was feeling awfully good up 90% with our gene therapy company that's working at things like beta thalassemia and sickle cell anemia. Working at cures through gene therapy. And not many months later, within that two-year period the stock swung from $190 down to below $40.
So, if you've ever heard that biotech can be volatile [I bet you've heard that before], you may well have experienced it in your own portfolio. Yes, Motley Fool Rule Breakers members watched our 90% gain fizzle to a [60%]. That didn't feel very good. But by June of 2017 [about two and a half years after I first picked it], it had bounced back. Come back on some good results and the stock was back to $114, so not really very different from that initial $100.
Since then I'm happy to say the stock closed roughly at about $187 today, so it's back near that all-time high. If you are fully accounting for this, my first pick was up 88%, second pick up 64%. The stock market behind those by 40-50%. In other words, we've racked up about 90 points of combined total scoring alpha with our love, our appreciation of BLUE, something blue.
So, what is gene therapy? Well, it's a medical procedure where you're introducing alterations to a patient's genetic make-up. That's gene therapy. It's a very promising therapy. Does this company have any official drugs approved? Not really. Does this company have meaningful revenues or profits yet? Certainly not. This is still an early development stage company, but it's worth $9 billion today. [This] shows you -- because I don't think Mister Market's an idiot -- that there's a lot of promise and belief, and this is a company partnered with Celgene and some others doing big-time stuff.
So, what I'm here mainly to convey to you is that Bluebird Bio is a stock worthy of consideration, but I'm not here to pitch this stock to you personally. I'm not sure which of my listeners this stock makes sense for, which may already own it, which may have already owned and sold it, and which should definitely not buy this stock.
I'm here more to put forward BLUE as a concept. Do you have any "blue" in your portfolio? Do you have any speculation? Do you have a small percentage of your money on developing-stage technologies, innovations, therapies? I think we all should have a little blue in our portfolio.
In fact, feel free to tweet us out @RBIPodcast and let us know what is the blue in your portfolio this week. If you like, maybe we'll grab some of those for mailbag. Again, we should all have a little [not ticker symbol blue], but a little "blue" in our portfolio. What is your blue? And do you have enough blue? Especially if you have a lot more decades left on this Earth, I think you should be thinking with William Gibson, Kevin Kelly, and me [a lot of future-thinking people] that you should have some meaningful blue in your portfolio.
And while I hope it won't be as volatile for you as Bluebird Bio has been for Rule Breakers members, that's the note I wanted to close on. Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.
Next week is the final Wednesday of the month; therefore, it is your Rule Breaker Investing Podcast mailbag. You know I read your stuff. You know I love it when you send us notes. Our email address is RBI@Fool.com. You can also tweet us out on Twitter. I'll look forward to taking the best six or eight that I can see. The most relevant, meaningful mélange of possibilities. Foolishness in its [most motley] sense next week with you and our mailbag. In the meantime, Fool on!
As always, people on this program may have interest in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don't buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. Learn more about Rule Breaker Investing at RBI.Fool.com.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. David Gardner owns shares of Amazon and Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Apple, Bluebird Bio, and Celgene. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.