Anyone who spends much time following the stock market will quickly notice that certain companies get a ton of coverage. Your Teslas, your Apples, your Amazons -- retail investors flock to them for their portfolios, and the business media piles on by reporting every minor move they make.

Then there are the lesser lights -- the companies that you probably know, but don't often think of. For example, you may have bought a few handmade items through Etsy, but you may not ever have considered it as an investment. And then...then there are those great, smallish companies that get forgotten. Ones that we, at The Fool, believe in enough to recommend, but that none of our services have put money into. So just over a year ago, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner curated a batch of stock recommendations for his Rule Breaker Investing podcast solely from that last group. His self-imposed rules were that he could only include the more obscure stocks from the Supernova universe: admirable businesses with market caps under $10 billion, that had never been part of a real-money Supernova portfolio, were long-term market beaters, and most important, names the average American wouldn't recognize.

Now, it's time for the one-year review of that "Great Stocks You've Never Heard Of" sampler, which consisted of Ultimate Software (NASDAQ:ULTI), Orbital ATK, NuVasive (NASDAQ:NUVA), Littelfuse (NASDAQ:LFUS), and Blackbaud (NASDAQ:BLKB).

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Oct. 4, 2018.

David Gardner: Part II a few weeks hence, I just want to remind you that you can email us at if you have additional questions about getting started investing, or a great story of how you've just gotten started investing or something else as a result of last week's podcast. But again, the first week of November we're going to be dedicating to answering any questions that were aroused by last week's podcast or any additional stories or pointers that we can add when we close it out in the first week of November. Well, it's time to review Five Great Stocks You've Never Heard Of.

Well, the date was September 13th, 2017. The Rule Breaker Investing podcast that published that Wednesday, slightly more than a year ago, was entitled Five Great Stocks You've Never Heard Of, and here's how I came up with that list.

I remember remarking on that podcast that I had recently submitted 10 different possible stock recommendations to my friend Simon Erickson, who helps run Motley Fool Explorer. And Motley Fool Explorer some of you will know and be subscribers to, but if you're not a member, this is a service where monthly we come up with four stocks and kind of like March Madness, a Final Four Bracket that you'd be used to if you're a college basketball fan, we'd battle them against each other to see which is the one that will be the winner that month. And we'll pick a theme, like maybe we'll say AI, or marijuana stocks, or whatever it is that seems interesting at the time and we'll find four companies that are tied into that theme in some way and then our talented group of stock pickers [some more extraordinary stock pickers] at The Motley Fool end up winnowing those four down to the final one, and then we put real money into that one stock.

And so Simon Erickson, who oversees that service, came to me and said, "Hey David, let's do one with lesser-known companies," and he said, "could you submit me 10 ideas?" I gave him my 10 ideas and he used four of them. And history will show he took Insulet, Masimo, Pegasystems, and 2U. I don't have time to talk through those companies today. I hope some of you would recognize Insulet, Masimo, Pegasystems, or 2U; but those are the four that Simon took and I'll mention at the end how the one that won has done in the intervening year.

But the six that he did not pick from I felt like I had done the work, so why wouldn't I take "five great stocks you've never heard of" from those six and feature them as my stock sampler on this podcast, and that's exactly what I did.

Now there were five traits that needed to be true of these companies and they are, in fact, true of all of them.

Trait No. 1: They needed to never have been picked by any of our Supernova missions. So Supernova, another service I'm affiliated with at The Motley Fool, has real money portfolios. They're drawn from my picks in Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers; and yet of the 210 companies that were in the Supernova Universe a year ago, 130 of them had never been previously selected in any real money portfolio, so I figured that's Trait No. 1. I want to pick something that hasn't yet gotten additional love, here, at The Motley Fool.

Trait No. 2: It had to have a market cap of under $10 billion, because probably if it's a great stock you've never heard of, it's not going to have a market cap that's really big. And now that I can say "market cap" and know that all of my listeners know what that is every week without having to explain it, because we have a game show that we play on a quarterly basis, you understand that when we go for smaller companies with market caps below $10 billion, we're looking in more of the "hidden gems" of this kind of a universe.

Trait No. 3: The brand name must be one you and I wouldn't recognize. So earlier when I said that Simon took Insulet, Masimo, Pegasystems, and 2U, I'm thinking most of the people [well, maybe not listeners of this podcast], but anybody that you might talk to on the street probably haven't heard of Insulet or Pegasystems. Am I right? So that needed to be true of these five stocks I'm going to share with you as well.

Trait No. 4: They had to have already been long-term market beaters. That's right. Usually in my experience the winners keep on winning. One of my ultra-themes -- one of my uber themes of this podcast -- and so I wanted to find companies that had already done well, thinking they're going to continue to do well.

Trait No. 5: And then finally No. 5, the fifth trait is, I told Simon, "I'm going to select for you, in the list I give you, companies that I admire in some way, shape, or form. There's some special affinity I have with them. Usually it's just I like what they do in this world."

So those are the stocks. Simon took his four from the 10. He left me with six and I took five of those six and I made them Five Great Stocks You've Never Heard Of. And this is odd for me. I said, "Let's do them in reverse alphabetical order that particular podcast, so I'm going to now present the results in that same order, reverse alphabetical order.

Longtime listeners of this podcast know that we're always trying to beat the stock market averages with our five-stock samplers. And you'll also know, if you're a longtime listener, that we've had a great deal of success with these. Out of the roughly 15 of these we've done over three-plus years, we've barely ever lost with any of them; so always, when I bring back a review, the big question is can we keep the music going. Well, let's see.

Stock No. 1: Remember, reverse alphabetical order. The ticker symbol is ULTI. The company is Ultimate Software. This is a company that does talented human resource management using the cloud, cloud services through its UltiPro platform. This is a company with recurring revenue. One I like a lot. And I'm happy to say I like it even more because of its performance lo these last 12 months. So spoiler alert! This is the best performer in the group.

ULTI was at $187 at market close on September 13th a year ago, and today it's at $311. So quick math -- it's up 66%. Now, we're always comparing ourselves to the S&P 500 to the market's average. How has the market done over the last year? Well, the market is up 16% since that podcast on September 13th, so plus 66 for ULTI, for Ultimate Software, minus 16 from the market gives us a plus 50. We're beating the market by 50% to start off this five-stock sampler.

Stock No. 2: I'm happy to say it's going to help out, as well and this was probably, of the five companies, the most interesting one and the best story that I have for you, because five days after this podcast aired a year ago, this company got bought out. Shocker! Just five days after our podcast. I didn't even get a chance to do my next podcast before this company had already been bought out or, at least, announced as having been bought out. The ticker symbol is OA. The company was Orbital Atk. This is an aerospace and defense company. Orbital Atk operating not far from Fool Headquarters here in Northern Virginia. A long time Rule Breakers holding and a market beater for us.

At the time that I did the podcast, it closed that day at $108 and five days later Northrop Grumman said, "We're going to pay all cash $134.50 a share for that company." And so yup, Orbital ATK has been a winner for us.

Now, there is some question how to score this because right away the stock went up to about $130 or so, and probably in real life you might have considered closing it out at that point. But I'll just point out that it wasn't until June of this year that the final deal was consummated. Yes, it was at $134.50 from Northrop Grumman, but we'll go ahead and score it that way. So the stock went from $108 to $134.50 this past June. That's up 25%. And the market over that period of time [from last year's podcast to June, when this one disappeared] was up 11%. So we're going to give ourselves a plus 14 in the win column for Stock No. 2. 50 plus 14 is plus 64. We're off to a hellaciously good start with Five Great Stocks You've Never Heard Of.

Stock No. 3: Well, I'm happy to say this is a contributor to positive score, as well. Stock No. 3 is NuVasive. The ticker symbol is [NUVA]. NuVasive, the company behind spinal surgery. Minimally invasive solution of its own kind. Coming in through the side of your body if you're going to have spinal surgery. It's an innovative procedure. And I'm happy to say NuVasive has been a winner over the last year.

The stock, right after the podcast, was at $58.50 a share. Today it is at $69. We're talking about a stock that is up 18%. Again, the market up 16%. So just a minor outperformance, but outperformance nonetheless, so that's a plus 2. That puts us plus 66 in the win column after three of our five stocks.

Now, here's some bad news. The rest are losers, so the question is are we going to stay above water after I go through Stocks No. 4 and 5? And before I present Stocks No. 4 and 5, again in reverse alphabetical order, I should mention that typically when you pick five stocks, you're going to have probably a few losers. It's very rare that we're going to get five stocks out of five beating the market.

But I'm happy to say often it's one great stock, or one or two, that has consistently propelled us to outstanding performance, not just in these five-stock samplers, but it's often a smaller minority of stocks in Motley Fool Stock Advisor or Motley Fool Rule Breakers that provide tremendous amounts of outperformance. And, in fact, a single big winner, in my experience, wipes out all of your losers combined and then leaves some profit on top of that. A company like Netflix. Or a company like Intuitive Surgical in Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers respectively. These are tremendous long-term winners.

Of course, the only way you're ever going to get great performance is by holding over long periods of time. You heard Jean Marc Ayas, my new friend, double underline that earlier in my conversation with him. So I guess I'm not surprised that I have a couple of losers. I'm always disappointed, but let's see how much they lost.

Stock No. 4: And of these five companies, this is probably the least well-known of all. Littelfuse. Little not even spelled like small, but L-I-T-T-E-L. Maybe a German name. Littelfuse. Yup, it's kind of a fuse company. It makes circuit protection products. It's one of those companies that has just thousands of different products. Lots of little gizmos. Lots of little different fuses and ways to protect surges in your house if there's a lightning storm. This is certainly a company that does sell in some cases to consumers but a lot of them B2B industrial sales. Business to business. So that's Littelfuse.

I'm sorry to say Littelfuse has underperformed since I picked it a year ago on this podcast. It was at $185 a share then. Today it's at $193. So it's up 4%. It's not down. But with the market up 16%, that has been an underperformer, so we have to deduct 12 points from our plus 66 score. That gets us down to plus 54 as we hit our fifth and final stock, also an underperformer.

Stock No. 5: Which brings us to our fifth and final stock, as I already mentioned, also an underperformer. The real question is just how badly. Well, let's see. The ticker symbol of Stock No. 5 is BLKB. The company name is Blackbaud. And Blackbaud is a cloud-based platform and services company serving a lot of the not-for-profits that you know and love in this world.

That's right. If you have a friend who runs a not-for-profit, or works for one, or maybe that friend is you. Maybe you do it. You may well know Blackbaud as a company that for a few decades, now, has been enabling you to manage and oversee your business, the donations you're taking in, and to help manage a not-for-profit. And it is a leader within its industry.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a leader vs. the stock market. A year ago Blackbaud was at $84 a share when I picked it on this podcast. These days it's at $96. So I will say that it is up, and that does make me happy. It did underperform. It's up 14% -- the market up 16% -- so it's only a minus two that we take away from our 54% of outperformance for 52% overall, as we now wrap up the numbers for this five-stock sampler review.

That's right. These five stocks picked a year ago, the market was up 16%. On average, these companies are up 26%. And so that's not bad for a group of companies that you've never heard of and they were picked out of the scraps of unclaimed picks by my friend Simon Erickson as he continues to do the good work he does in Motley Fool Explorer.

Now, I did mention earlier that he took those other four and from those four, Masimo was the one that our team in Motley Fool Explorer selected and put real money in. So you might be wondering. My stocks, that I've just shared with you are up 26% on average. The market was up 16%. How did Masimo do in Motley Fool Explorer, picked at the same time?

Well, Masimo was at $84.35 when The Motley Fool put its own real money into it. The theme that month was called Hidden in Plain Sight, which is kind of the same idea of Great Stocks You've Never Heard of. And Masimo, today, has gone from $84 to $119. It's up 45%. So I want to congratulate Simon Erickson and The Motley Fool Explorer team for their outstanding outperformance which Motley Fool Explorer has generated months and months and years now; but it's fun to notice in closing that their stock actually outperformed my basket of five stocks, and yet I was still pretty happy with our basket of five stocks.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.