If you've been around this podcast for a while, you already know Foolish superstars Emily Flippen and Rick Munarriz. In this episode of Rule Breaker Investing: Telling Their Stories, Volume One, we're bringing them back to tell their own stories: the highs and lows, the volatility, and the events that shaped them into the investors they are today.
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This video was recorded on March 10, 2021.
David Gardner: "Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?" runs that poignant lyric from the American hit musical Hamilton. Who tells your story? While storytelling has been at the heart of this podcast for six years and counting, it hadn't occurred to me until a few weeks ago to start a new series that will feature some of your favorite Motley Fool personalities telling their story. Because regardless of who lives, who dies, and the truth is we all do, the unanswered question is, who tells your story? I thought, "Well, why not have them do so?" Why not have you do so this week? Emily Flippen, Rick Munarriz, where did you come from? If you had to tell your story in just exactly 150 words, that's about 10 sentences, how would you tell it? What does the stock graph of your life look like? What were the three key moments that made you into the investor you are today? Telling Their Stories: Episode One kicks off this week, only on Rule Breaker Investing.
Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. A delight to have you with me this week, after a week of reviewing two final five-stock samplers. That's what was on offer for Rule Breaker Investing listeners last week, I hope you enjoyed that. It did run a little long. I noticed it came in at 75 minutes. That's probably the longest review we've ever done on this podcast. But after all, we were reviewing two different five-stock samplers, both of them finished for good as we detailed them last week. Seven years of investment returns to plow through. Thanks again to Tim Beyers and Toby Bordelon for helping us review those.
I should mention, next week's show, I guess it will be special in some way, shape, or form. I'll try to dial it up a little bit, but it's our 300th consecutive weekly podcast for Rule Breaker Investing -- 300, that will be the show next week. But let's get back to the here and now, Telling Their Stories: Volume One. I'm really delighted shortly to be joined by Emily Flippen and by Rick Munarriz after her. I talked about over the weekend with Emily and Rick, this is a new series and I thought, "What's a fun way to tell your story? What's a format that we can use and then reuse in future episodes?" We settled on three building blocks. First, Emily and Rick are going to share exactly 150 words of the story of them. We'll hear in their own words how they would summarize their lives up to this point in approximately 10 sentences. That's a good initial building block.
Building block No. 2, I've asked them each, and again this is in audio medium; while this is a visual, we'll be talking through the visual just in audio form. But I've asked them each to graph, just like you'd graph a stock over the years with highs and lows, I've asked them to graph their lives thus far. With some highs and some lows and they can speak to whatever they want to on their graph, but we're going to talk through the stock graph of their lives. I once did this as an exercise, that kind of get-to-know-you exercise in a small group years ago, and it's stuck with me since. It fits so well for an investing podcast as well, the stock graph of your life. Dear listener, whoever you are, wherever you are, consider doing that yourself sometime and think through what have been the highs and lows. It's a fun way to explain yourself, at least to fellow investors [laughs] who would get it.
Then finally, the third building block is how you became an investor. What were the three key moments for Emily and for Rick, and again for you by extension, that had you becoming the investor that you are today? The closest analogue I've done thus far on this podcast, just looking back to history, I see on Sept. 21, 2016, I did this a little bit myself. The title of that podcast, if you're interested in how I developed as an investor, is Portrait of the Investor as a Young Man. Again, it was Sept. 21, 2016. I was alluding to a James Joyce title there a little bit, but it's a 32-minute-long podcast where I talk about some of the key building blocks that helped develop me as a teenager and a young adult as an investor. In fact, I've asked Rich Engdahl, my producer, to put that one into the show notes, a link to it. You can also just Google Portrait of the Investor as a Young Man, Rule Breaker Investing, which is a little bit more unwieldy I think. Less wieldy than just clicking on a link in our show notes, but that's there for you if you want to hear me interview myself.
But enough about me. I'm much more excited to welcome back multiple-time guests on this podcast, longtime Fools. Certainly Rick has been around a lot longer than Emily, but Emily has her own great story of approximately five years' vintage to talk about, and that's what we're going to do this week. Telling Their Stories: Episode One. Emily, great to be with you again.
Emily Flippen: Thanks for having me.
Gardner: I'm seeing you of course on Zoom, and there's some visual aspects to the stock graph of your life, which you and I will enjoy and our many listeners will just have to listen to, so we're going to do our best to be as visual as we can as we go through that portion. But for now, the visuals I see, you look comfortable; it looks like a studio apartment. I'm assuming you're still in and around Alexandria, Virginia?
Flippen: I'm in Maryland, actually, but close enough.
Gardner: Excellent, in the DMV. We've had a little bit of a diaspora here over the last year, ever since our company announced that you can work from home. My very generous brother, our CEO, Tom Gardner, said you can work from home in many different places. You don't just have to stay near the offices that you were before. I know Texas, Emily, which might be a word you use once or twice in the next 20 minutes or so. I know Texas has been a lure for some of our employees returning home. Emily, that is not you -- so far, anyway.
Flippen: So far, my boyfriend works out here in Maryland, and he's still an essential worker, so he's for the most part going into an office. But as I think about where my life could take me over the next decade or so, as much as I enjoy Maryland, I can't say Greenbelt, Maryland, is the place where I want to spend the next two decades of my life. Regardless of if it's Texas or not, I expect I'll be taking advantage of some of the remote and flexible work environment that we've been given.
Gardner: Emily Flippen, all the places you'll go, which I hope, by the way, is still readable out there. But I do want to say that that was a hard moment for the Greenbelt, Maryland Chamber of Commerce, so we'll ask their forgiveness. Thank you, Emily. What a delight again to have you tell your story here. You're the first one ever to do it on this podcast, and good on you, I say. Emily, you and I talked about three building blocks. You've even maybe prepared a little bit over the weekend. I hope this isn't purely spontaneous in respect of view. The first building block we talked about was your story of your life thus far, of course, in exactly 150 words. I think without further ado, we should start right there. So, Emily Flippen, tell your story.
Flippen: Of course. [laughs] I was raised in Texas by a family that contrasted the American traditional structure in many ways. I was taught to value healthy competition and independence. I grew up with the idea that I would land somewhere really far away, measuring success and happiness and experiences. At 18, I booked an international flight, followed the finance road to China, and attended university. I traveled often, reaching over two dozen countries, before the world began to lockdown, but also quickly became disillusioned by my introduction into the finance industry. Disappointed by my jobs and internships, I am relieved to say that all roads ultimately led to the Fool, the very best corner of the finance world that I have ever found. Along the way, I managed to keep my high school boyfriend and adopt a cat. Today, I live like many of us do, riding a stationary bike in my living room.
Gardner: Emily, well done. Exactly 150 words.
Flippen: To the T.
Gardner: I'm thinking back to what you talked about, healthy competition. Could you just describe for me a little bit maybe your family life or family values that caused you to use that phrase in your 150 words?
Flippen: I didn't have nearly enough time to get into it, but I owe a lot of that to my older sister. I grew up with a sister who is two years older than me. From my naive perspective, perfect in every regard. I was the sibling that would constantly follow and mess up behind her. It did stir the sense of competition. I think it came to a peak in high school. Both of us were competitive debaters, and in order to qualify for nationals, we at one point had to go up against each other, so that level of competition, I think. I was definitely encouraged not only by my parents, which were some naturally competitive people, but specifically by my older sister. [laughs]
Gardner: Remarkable. Emily, to whatever extent you want to share, what are the professions or callings, professions of either of your parents or both?
Flippen: Sure thing. My dad's actually a history professor. Lectured my entire life about how I should never go into the liberal arts. [laughs] Because he had struggled so much with his career, just trying to find jobs, that led my family to Durant, Oklahoma, when I was just a toddler, which was not, at the time, the most pleasant place to be living for a history professor, but my mom actually is a lawyer as well. When I talked about having a traditional family structure, that inverted structure, my mom was very much the matriarch of my household, where my dad, being a history professor, having more flexibility in his schedule, became my daily go-to parent in a way that I think a lot of people probably experienced with their moms, with their dads at work a lot of the time.
Gardner: Do you think that shaped you differently than another little girl that would've been very much like you that had a more patriarchal setup?
Flippen: Definitely. I felt a lot of pressure to have achievements in my career, to set myself up well in a way that my mom did, and it's funny because hindsight being 2020, looking back on that relationship, I see now that I take very much after my dad, my sister after my mom, and myself after my dad. Valuing a lot more flexibility, free time, relationships, and happiness outside of just my career in a way that I didn't quite see when I was growing up.
Gardner: I know debating was such a big thing for you. Anybody who competes at a national level of anything probably spends a lot of time at it. Emily, I'm curious, did you keep up debating in college? Are you a debater today? Or did it fall by the wayside at some point? If so, why?
Flippen: I went to the first joint Sino-American university in China, so a lot of the opportunities for debating, we simply didn't have; however, I believe it was my sophomore year, we had decided that we're going to make a debate team. I did qualify for the international roles debate. I forgot the exact title of it, but I remember it was in Thessaloniki -- I'm going to horribly mispronounce that -- Greece. I qualified for it but unfortunately couldn't afford to go because we had zero funding at my tiny university, so I did do some of that in college, but not to the level I would have if I had gone to a U.S. university.
Gardner: Before we move to the stock graph of your life, and I bet we may have already talked through portions of that stock graph a little bit, but I have to ask you about China and your impression now thinking back some years later, four years spent in China as a university student and how that must have shaped you.
Flippen: It shaped me a lot of ways. I definitely plan on talking about it a little bit further when we get to the stock graph of my life and some of the qualities that made me the investor I am today. But I think more than anything, it just lets me see people on a side of the world that I never would've had the opportunity to otherwise. Growing up in Texas, I loved it. It's still very close to my heart as home today. At the same time, I would've never had the opportunity to meet the people I did, have the friendships that I do today, if I had stayed there.
Gardner: Well, thank you for that, Emily. Now, I know you spent some time, at least in your head, thinking through your 26 years as a stock graph, which makes so much sense for this podcast. I don't know of any other podcasts where we could combine investing in life in quite so visual a manner and yet not even have visuals for our listeners. Emily, we're going to have fun with this. Let's get started as you talk us through the stock graph of your life.
Flippen: Well, let me kick off by describing what type of company I would be to give you some perspective about what we're dealing with here. I'm not Zoom, I'm not a tech company; but I'm also not Exxon. I'm not slow-degrading into nothing. If I had to describe [laughs] myself as a company, I'd probably describe myself as a consumer-goods business. I would say my life, overall, looking at it as a stock graph to 26 where I am today, has been pretty steady. Right out of the gate, my IPO, I'm not debuting as a penny stock, and I'm fortunate in that regard. I'm coming out pretty strong. I have a lot of things already going for my business at this point. I had a family that really put a lot of emphasis on education, and had saved up money for my education. Those aspects are pretty figured out. My sister could've been improved but all in all probably [laughs] supported by development. [laughs]
Right out of the gate, I'm already a pretty large company in terms of market cap, which maybe limits the growth opportunities the way you'd get with the more rags-to-riches story if you will. But I was fortunate to have that going for me, at least initially, when I hit the public markets. [laughs] I will say this, though. If you look over there, after I hit the public market, I'm going a little bit strong. Things went downhill before they got better. I was born, actually, in D.C., where we are, similar to today.
Gardner: Oh, really? I didn't know that.
Flippen: I was. I was in D.C. until I was about 2 years old. I had my father, who is, as I mentioned before, a history professor trying to finish up his Ph.D., could not find a job anywhere, which led my family, when I was 2 years old, to Durant, Oklahoma, to a one-bedroom apartment with a mom who could not find work. A dad who is working at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Maybe there are some listeners out there who just heard their university, their alma mater, and are very excited. But I'd venture to say that's probably a new university to a lot of listeners. Things there probably could've been improved.
I think if there's a 52-week low, it probably happened when I was 2 or 3 years old as my family struggled financially, had some personal issues on my parents' side that were a little bit less than ideal for a 3-year-old. But from the periods of probably 3, 4, 5 years old through my teens, moving back down to Texas, really being lucky with the timing of which we moved into what was at the time a very rural area of Texas, now becoming a certified suburb of the Dallas Metroplex. It was a situation of the right place, right timing. Really benefited me in terms of just the IP out of the gate right down there. Fifteen years, still performing somewhat well.
Gardner: Outstanding. I had to Google it, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, which was established in 1909, by the way, in Durant, Oklahoma. You may or may not know the colors, blue and gold. Let's give a shout out to their nickname, one of the better ones in college sports, Savage Storm.
Flippen: I actually didn't know that.
Gardner: The Southeastern Oklahoma State University Savage Storm. All right, Emily, so you've been carried into your teens here, and I think I'm hearing about a stock graph that is just steadily rising over the course of that time. I'm guessing you were getting pretty good grades as a student. You were excelling. You had parents very well educated, probably high standards, your sister setting some high standards for you as well. Did you ever get a B-minus?
Flippen: Oh, well, I will say this. If you look at probably the most formative year for me in terms of education. it was maybe I'd say 8th grade, 9th grade, entering high school. Particularly challenging years. If you were an investor in Emily Flippen during those years, you suffered some losses. Hopefully, you held, but you certainly suffered some losses. Unlike my overachieving older sister, I was actually kicked out of the advanced math classes. I was struggling a lot with the concept of negative numbers. I still struggle [laughs] with the concept of negative numbers.
Gardner: We don't like to see those at the Fool.
Flippen: I just ignore them altogether. You want to look for the positive numbers anyway. But that concept, my parents said, was pretty characteristic of what became a few challenging years in terms of my education. That, alongside being terrible languages, having to go to detention because of how poorly I was doing in my Spanish class, all things that were probably less than ideal for Emily Flippen investors. Luckily, that all changed though in my sophomore year of high school when I heard about NYU Shanghai for the first time. Really realized that's where I wanted to go to school, and then also reflected on my experiences with Spanish and negative numbers and realized, I would not reach that goal unless I start to turn some things around.
Gardner: What was it about China per se, or Shanghai, or was it even that, or was it NYU, Emily, what was the allure?
Flippen: The allure was it was not Texas. The next few years it was head down, studying, the light at the end of the tunnel. Was thinking to myself that I could leave this tiny town of, at the time, McKinney, Texas, and go to China, never look back, and I chuckle, looking back at my stock price now, thinking about the challenges that come both of China, but also how maybe I undervalued how much Texas was worth at that aspect of my life. Getting a little bit older, I think I definitely undervalued that area of the world.
Gardner: Now to college, Emily, and I'm picturing you probably at new highs overall. It sounds like this is a great move for you. I know a surprise for you was that you were expecting, as I recall, to spend your freshman year abroad in Shanghai as an NYU, a New York University student, and yet I think that it all changed and became not just one, but all four years?
Flippen: Yes. I went in with the expectation that it would be four years, knowing that at any point I hated it, I wasn't adjusting well to China, I could come back to the home campus of New York University, but I absolutely loved Shanghai. I would not say, though, that was really reflected in my stock graph, despite how much I was enjoying that period of my life, despite how much fun I was having. I would say it was a volatile time to be an Emily Flippen investor. Lots of new experiences. Again, with the schooling, I struggled greatly in my Chinese classes. I tried to take a semester of Italian and also struggled. I failed more than one accounting course. I failed more than one economics course. It was extremely volatile. But I would say after those four years, I came out maybe slightly higher than what I came in. I think I would have appreciated the level of inflation over those four years. Well, it may not show in my stock price per se. As a management team, as somebody who is managing my life, I gained invaluable experience.
Gardner: You learned a lot, which indeed most people try to do during college. But, wow, when you're abroad and you're managing that, too. There is a huge amount of learning, and I know that that's helped shaped you into the young woman that you are today, and the five-year-or-so Fool, because part of what happened, I think for you, Emily, is that you had an internship with The Motley Fool. I don't know if that's part of the stock graph or not, so I'll back off of that. But I have to ask you, did you actually ever set foot on campus at New York University, or did you graduate from there, or was this all straight back and forth, McKinney, Texas, Shanghai, back and forth?
Flippen: I did a semester abroad during my period in China at the NYU D.C. campus, which during that period I was an intern at The Motley Fool. I would describe that as a high period, and that was also probably the closest I got to stepping foot on the NYU, New York, campus, was their campus in D.C.
Gardner: That is hilarious. That makes you probably one of the rarified few in the history of New York University to never really spend [laughs] any time on campus at New York University.
Flippen: Yeah, you can't say that out loud, though. They'll kick me out, take my degree. [laughs]
Gardner: All right, Emily, so bring us home on where the stock graph has moved since college.
Flippen: Yes. Really, two big momentous occasions post-college. The first one was my first job. After I graduated, I got a job very fortunately leaving China at GE, which was a wonderful environment. I greatly enjoyed the people. But if anybody who is familiar with GE in 2017, I would say my stock very closely followed that of GE, which was to say, oof. That's a great word, David.
Flippen: We were cutting the dividends at Flippen Corporation. Investors were sustaining a decent amount of losses. There was some management reshuffling, trying to get our footing a little bit more. It was a challenging period to be an Emily Flippen investor, and perhaps my parents are the best example of the Emily Flippen investors in the world, because there was a period at which point they thought, "Man, maybe our 22-year-old daughter is going to have to move home [laughs] if things continue like they are."
Gardner: Well, of course, that's before I really got to know you. Emily, share maybe a snapshot or an example. Sounds like you're a little boat, not to start mixing metaphors, and I am, was hitting some whitewater. What were you feeling or seeing at the time?
Flippen: It was extremely scary. I had spent what was the better period of six to seven months applying for jobs in China and the United States, which meant staying up till 2 or 3 a.m. to take these interviews. Only one company was risky enough to hire somebody they had never met in person. That was GE. I took the opportunity. I was blessed to have a job, and on my first day, a comment made to me by another analyst was, "I wonder when they're going to fire us." Because that's about a period of struggling the company was going through. Lots of cost-cutting, lots of layoffs, our division in particular struggling. It went from excitement for my first day of work ever as an adult to immediately being fearful for my job.
Gardner: Feels a little bit like a bear market. How long did that bear market last?
Flippen: Luckily, the bear market lasted only about a year, which in the grand scheme of my life and markets as a whole, is a pretty short period of time and I was fortunate that The Motley Fool was also hiring during this period. I got the opportunity to apply to the Fool among a number of other positions. Things, I will say this -- after coming back to the Fool, I had an internship previously. Coming back on full-time, it has only been up and up for my stock graph since then.
Gardner: I'm really delighted to hear that. If you were to identify a factor or reason behind that, I can imagine having other Fool analysts, advisors, and personalities in future in the series. I don't want anybody to feel any pressure to say that the Fool years have been the best years of their life. But I guess, Emily, when you've just had one year at GE, [laughs] and then your next job is at the Fool, got to hope that you feel like your stock has --
Flippen: The bar was low. I was at 52-week lows at GE, so anything was an improvement over that.
Gardner: What do you think has had you thriving, which indeed you have, at the Fool? What's a factor or two that you reflect on?
Flippen: That's the easiest question. Despite the fact that I enjoyed my role at GE, I wasn't waking up every day doing what I loved. I can say since I've been a Fool, every single day when I wake up, I get the opportunity to do what I love and what I'm best at. To me, it feels like I'm getting paid to just do something fun every day, and that's just, I can't imagine anything getting better than that. So I'd venture to say, I would not invest in me if you're a growth investor at this point, because I think probably that 52-week low to the 52-week high I'm sitting at today with the Fool might be the significant gains in Flippen Corporation.
Gardner: Don't we love it when management sandbags and says, "We're probably overvalued right now; [laughs] don't invest." Those are usually the management teams that we love to buy the shares when we hear that. So well done, Emily Flippen.
Flippen: The key to expectation is keeping the expectations low.
Gardner: Indeed. Well, thank you for the delight of that and some empathy and some learning from all of us. Emily, wonderful, and I'm looking forward to the next 26 years or so of your stock graph, and we're invested in you. Thank you and keep up the great work.
Let's shift now to close to the three key moments to becoming the investor that you are. I just want you to look back -- we're going to ask Rick Munarriz to do the same in a little while -- and see what were the most important building-block moments to you becoming the investor that you are today. What's No. 1?
Flippen: No. 1, you may not be able to guess it. It's actually my mom getting laid off from her job. When I was in college, following the low points when I mentioned the volatility that we experienced, was my mom being laid off from her job at J.C. Penney, where she was a lawyer for their corporate headquarters. The reason why that really framed up how I think about investment is because my mom, who had invested 25 years of her life in this corporation, as well as a decent amount of her money and pure J.C. Penney stock, experienced double the loss as a result, loss of her job and loss of her investments. And it was interesting to me at the time, because as somebody who hadn't spent a lot of time picking individual companies, I thought to myself, well, I guess I should have seen that coming.
It was interesting to me that despite what felt like very much a shock to my family all at once, very suddenly, you could also, just from an outside perspective, have seen what was happening to the retail landscape, have seen management at J.C. Penney that my mom experienced firsthand, not adjusting to the new normal, shifting blame, shifting responsibility. I thought to myself, I want to set up my life, and I want to set up my portfolio so that I can see these events happening before they do and to ensure that I don't experience that loss. It's a little bit ironic that my first job out of college was then, of course, GE, but I did manage to not invest my money into GE stock during these periods, so I consider that within itself a victory.
Gardner: Wow, that's a beautiful first key moment. I'm sorry to hear that. Thank you for sharing that, and I can appreciate both viewpoints here. Somebody who's been alive for the company, who probably loves that company, lots of relationships within that company, lots of great times, and then the company is on hard times, and it's not as easy to see, and part of what we do as stock analysts is, you're right, Emily, we try to think through the balance sheet and we try to play things forward a little bit and ask, is that a stock I'd buy, and why or why not? Well, thank you. That's an amazing key moment. What's No. 2?
Flippen: No. 2 is moving to China. When I had moved to China, I was very interested in pursuing a career on Wall Street, and it took all of maybe a couple of months realizing who was working in that field, and granted, China was a special subset of people in finance, but it didn't take me very long to realize that the industry wasn't quite as ethical as you maybe thought it was. It instilled in me a natural level of skepticism in my investments, I wouldn't say it's the healthiest mentality to always have. I think Jim Mueller told me best when the Fool hired me that you should always try to be optimistic with your investments. But I do tend to take a level of skepticism when I'm researching, learning about and investing in the company for the first time because of my experiences in China.
Gardner: While this is intended to be more of a timeless series, and rightly so, because telling your story is much more at that level, I briefly want to just double-click on a stock that's down today, Emily, you and I have talked about this one before. I can't not think of Stitch Fix. You mentioned that because I think you've been a real skeptic in general about Stitch Fix. It's the stock that's had some big highs and some big lows. It's down around 25% the day we are taping, which happens to be Tuesday, March 9. We'll see where things play out over the next few years, but it would've been easy for you to be a rah-rah fan, and that's an online business, it's a fashion business, which a lot of us can appreciate. It has a talented female CEO, etc., and yet you've often made a voice questioning Stitch Fix. I don't know if you want to add anything to that, or we could move on to No. 3.
Flippen: Just that skeptics always look smart when something like that happens, but what's worth noting is that I think skeptics, if you approach everything with too much skepticism, as I sometimes do, you're wrong more often than you're right. You look smart. You look like you knew something nobody else did when you're right. But when push comes to shove, I'm more often a skeptic of great businesses than I'm a skeptic of bad ones.
That's actually a good lead into my third point as an investor, which is actually reflecting on my time at the Fool and looking at my time on the Odyssey One portfolio, a legacy portfolio in the Supernova universe at The Motley Fool that Aaron Bush kindly reached out to me, had me come on to the team for, and probably the biggest investing mistake I made with that was being a skeptic of Tesla and pushing for sell of Tesla in Odyssey One. Admittedly, it was a small position. But when you talk about inherent skepticism, that skepticism I gained from seeing these defunct businesses and poor managers in China, I took it over to my experiences investing in the U.S. as well. There were a lot of things hyped up against the business of Tesla back in 2018 that I bought into as a natural skeptic, and I think that decision has probably cost the Odyssey One portfolio a lot more, that one sell decision than any of our buys.
Gardner: Well, that's a humble one to conclude on. Speaking of concluding, let's conclude this, Emily, with two things. First of all, I want to thank you very much. You've been the first one ever to appear on the series, and you did a beautiful job modeling and exemplifying what we want out of Telling Their Stories: Episode One. Thank you very much, Emily Flippen. No. 2, I was just thinking about it, Emily -- we started The Motley Fool, I was 27 years old, and boy, did I learn a lot those first few years that really changed my investment perspective. I'm speaking as somebody who's 26 and you already have those learnings and that reflection and some really good integrated thinking around skepticism. Boy, have you already learned a lot, and yet I'm getting back in my own 27-year-old shoes and I'm thinking, Emily hasn't put those shoes on yet, and I can't wait to see what happens next.
Flippen: That's very kind of you. Maybe I should push in my own stock on people a little bit more than I am. But what I will say is going back to IPOing high, there's a lot of things in my life that have worked for my benefit, both with luck and skill. I will say I'm very lucky to have found The Motley Fool pretty young in my investing journey.
Gardner: Emily Flippen, thank you for telling your story. Fool on.
Flippen: Thanks for having me.
Gardner: If Emily has been at The Fool for five years, this Fool has been around 5 times five years. My good friend, longtime partner in Rule Breakers, Rick Munarriz. Rick, great to have you on telling your story.
Rick Munarriz: Thank you. It's great to have an opportunity to tell it. It gives you a good chance to reflect on all these fun years here at the Fool and beyond, in my life and beyond.
Gardner: Wonderful. Well, I hope it didn't feel like homework, and we did give you a weekend to do it, Rick. The first building block of telling our story is the story of you in exactly 150 words. Emily, by the way, threatened before she ever came on the air to do it all as limericks. You and I and Emily talked about that briefly, and then she decided not to go there. But spoiler alert, Rick, is it fair to say that you start with a limerick?
Munarriz: I start with one, but I definitely don't end with one, so yes.
Gardner: Rick Aristotle Munarriz, tell your story.
Munarriz: There once was a Fool named Munarriz,
Who grew up on Amiga and Ataris.
Unafraid of rubble
Baked in the dot-com bubble,
Now a fan of the market safaris.
Jersey born to Cuban immigrants, pronounced dead at birth, so every life anecdote pales in comparison. Puerto Rico, Miami, celebration. Traveled the world as a teen but regrettably failed to appreciate it. An MBA from the U, his band Paris By Air was signed to Sony's Columbia Records. Never heard of PBA? An MBA from the U came in handy. Told his parents he just met the girl he was going to marry one night in 1985. Rick and Maria married five years later. Celebrating a 30-year wedding anniversary in a pandemic is no fun. Two sons. Nicolas is a software engineer at Google. Kevin is a miracle, a survivor. A Fool since 1995. Celebrating a 25-year work anniversary in the pandemic is everything.
Gardner: Wow, in exactly 150 words and so much packed in there. Rick, I have to ask you naturally a few follow-ups. Do you want to share anymore about what sounds like the miracle of your birth?
Munarriz: I will. That is one point that I will get to later, and I'll elaborate more then. I think that it's, my graph in my life starts at a very interesting point in my life, I guess, so I will lead there. Something I don't elaborate on, how I met my wife. I was supposed to be at a "Weird Al" Yankovic concert. Instead, right before I'm ready to go, I was a UM freshman. I'm so excited to do these college things, and then a friend of mine from a band calls up and says, "Hey, Rick, we're playing at the Columbus High School like a freshman sock hop, something, not a freshman thing. It's like a dance. You want to come hang with us and we just could talk and hang out?" I said, you know what, I'll do it. Sure enough, there, my wife was there because her friend was dating the drummer in this band. "Weird Al" Yankovic almost stopped us from getting together, [laughs] but instead, we met and we got together. Then it's just that whole night.
Again, it's not I was so worldly and I know everything. But basically, I just felt right just that whole time. We were just there for three, four hours, just dancing, talking, exchanging phone numbers, like people did back [laughs] in the 1980s. Then before going home, actually my parents are chaperoning at my younger sister's high school party, they were there. I'm there and I told them, "Mom, Dad, you're not going to believe this. I met the girl was going to marry." I'm glad it worked out, because that's the kind of line you can only tell your parents once. [laughs] Yes. That did work out quite well. Now, I'm 35 years and almost a half after that, and 30 years after we were married, so yes.
Gardner: It's funny what a parallel I feel with you, because we also celebrated our 30-year honeymoon last year, and we also knew each other for five years ahead of time. Rick, similar to you, we always usually add five to whatever our honeymoon is, because that's how long and it's just both shaking our heads, leading parallel lives. In this case, one thing we didn't share parallel lives, although we're both ACC teams, is the University of Miami, and in my case University of North Carolina, which compete really well and often quite equally out there in various arenas. But one thing I wanted to ask you about, Rick, you referenced this briefly, and you've never talked that much about it in my presence, but the Cuban immigrant part, being Cuban, what is your reflection on how that has shaped you either as a little guy, or an older guy years and years later?
Munarriz: It's obviously a part of me. Even though basically I've lived my whole life in the U.S., I was in Puerto Rico for about three, four years when I was really little. But obviously, it's something that shapes the way my parents view things. Initially skeptical of things, I mean, to be in a country where everything is taken away from you, and then you just go to another country and start from scratch, and in my parents' case, succeed, obviously it was very inspiring to me.
But I grew up watching American television. I grew up listening to American music. I don't feel the Cuban calling that maybe some of the older Cuban immigrants who came from Cuba and had time in the island. I've never been to Cuba and I guess I may never go to Cuba to visit. I don't know. I'm living in Miami, which, it's like mini-Cuba. You go places and sometimes you hear more people talking Spanish than English. It almost feels like where Cuba should've been or would have been under normal circumstances.
But yeah, it is something that obviously I take pride in, but I definitely feel like a Cuban American, and sometimes I feel American Cuban. I don't know where I draw the hyphen, which word comes first, but I'm definitely equal parts of each.
Gardner: Well said. Rick, let me ask you about the city of Miami. I've spent most of my life in and around the city of Washington, D.C. Similarly, you spend most of your life in and around the City of Miami. I don't know, let's play word association. Is this too lame? Rick, if I were to ask you for three words or phrases that come to mind when you think life in and around Miami, when you think of Miami, what comes to mind?
Munarriz: Great for tourists. Because I think it's a different experience when you're coming to visit Miami, and the beaches, and the nightlife. It's a different story to live in it. Obviously I love Miami because I live in it, but it is not this place where LeBron goes to South Beach; it's not this place for all these Silicon Valley bankers. VC firms are moving to Miami for their tax breaks. It is a vibrant city with so many things happening beyond just the pretty beaches and basically the hard bodies that come in as models for tourists and stuff like that. Definitely a very interesting place to live.
Gardner: One distinctive thing that I understand about Miami, having traveled there a few times myself, is it not true that every neighborhood is its own jurisdiction? There are basically numerous, I'm going to say, dozens of mini-governments in and around making up the Greater Miami area, which is very different from most cities. Is that right?
Munarriz: Oh, definitely. I lived in Coral Gables, which is where the University of Miami is, located in Coral Gables for about 16, 17 years. There it's very strict, where there's only so many house colors you can use to paint your house. Now, basically just a couple of blocks away in South Miami, again, its own small little district with its own government. It's just completely different, the regulations and everything. But yeah, Miami, it's just walk a few blocks if you don't like what's happening. You'll find a different flavor.
Gardner: Very interesting. Rick, Emily talked to us through the stock graph of her life. She did something I wasn't really expecting. She imagined this Flippen Corporation, and we were buying or selling shares at different points. I was just thinking of a stock graph of your life, though, Rick. Don't feel like you need to talk us through Munarriz Enterprises, which, by the way, I typed your name online earlier into my browser, and it tried to text-correct. Maybe you've seen this before, "Munarriz" into "moonrise," which is a beautiful word, but I'm just thinking that would be the ticker symbol, maybe, MOON for Munarriz Enterprises. But no need to go there at all. Rick Munarriz, let's talk through the stock graph of your life. Where do you want to start?
Munarriz: I'll start at the beginning. Unlike Emily's story, I'm not publicly held. I'm a privately held company [laughs] waiting for the right SPAC to come along [laughs] and take me to market. Let's start at the beginning, since I sort of hinted that I was born under these weird circumstances. What I have in my graph is basically something that seems like lows that are really highs, and some things that are highs, then become lows, then become highs again. But right when I was born, let's just say that the VIX was pretty much off the charts when I hit the ground running, because I was fine. It's not like I passed out and was dead for a few minutes or anything like that. But there was a confusion at the hospital. I guess this happens in New Jersey a lot [laughs] in the '60s. But a doctor came into the waiting room and asked to speak to my family, and my dad, and other relatives that were there. Basically, he just said, look, I'm sorry to tell you that your son, he was born dead; your wife is fine.
Gardner: Oh, my gosh.
Munarriz: He's fine. Obviously, as you can imagine, everyone's just pretty much crestfallen at that point. They're all just sort of trying to take it in and see what happens, and then a friend of my father's who worked at the hospital who is an orderly or something comes behind and is like, "Oh, I saw your son, congratulations." At that point, my dad's like, "What's going on here?"
The doctor comes back with representation because they're saying, well, this is going to be a big thing and they said, "Look, we are really sorry. Unfortunately, it was someone else that had passed away." But they let basically my whole family back in the '60s at the Margaret Hague in Jersey City, let everybody in to go check on the baby, me and my mom. Basically, my dad says that I was the ugliest baby he'd ever seen, but he couldn't be happier at that. [laughs] It's true, my baby picture is pretty bad. But I went through a lot without knowing I went through a lot. But so yes, I started with our chart, basically just a lot of volatility right at the first timeline, year to date. So yes.
Gardner: I have never heard such a story. The closest thing I can imagine, really, is La La Land being announced as Best Picture and then retracted. But that's not a matter of life and death. I cannot imagine that. But happy ending, and Rick, I got to believe you're a better-looking baby-pic guy than you're letting on, but I appreciate the humility.
Munarriz: I'm going to find it, David, and I'll post it somewhere for you to see. You will see. I was not a compelling baby at all. It would definitely be a sell on the baby picture if there was such a market.
Gardner: It feels like the stock graph briefly nose-dived, but there was confusion and misreporting of earnings, and so I'm feeling like it went up from there. Where should we stop next along the graph line?
Munarriz: Yes. After the after-hours recovery, we get to a few years later in life, I'll say about 11 years later in my life, when I started having an appreciation for music. I was in a band called Paris By Air, and I grew up like you, David, in the '80s. It was the dawning of MTV and John Hughes movies. When I was in first grade, my mom had made me take classical piano for about a year and a half, mostly because my older sister and my younger sister -- I have two sisters -- they were taking piano. It was just easier to drop us off at one place and then pick us all up together than have to do different things. But I eventually got rid of it.
But then, basically, once I started watching MTV and shows like Don Kirshner's Rock Concerts and stuff like that in the late '70s, I wanted the guitar, I wanted the synthesizer, and I wanted to be famous. Basically from the time I was 11 till right through the end of high school and a little beyond every weekend, I spent it in some form of garage band. I was not a good musician. I'm still not a musician, and I haven't even picked up a guitar in years. But I was decent as a songwriter and at least ambitious enough that I wound up in different bands along the way.
At one point, right when I basically graduated from high school, I started a band called Paris By Air. And at the time we got the attention of a guy by the name of Lewis Martinee, who is the producer and songwriter for a band called Expose, which back then in the mid-1980s wasn't a big deal, but they would blow up. They had top 10 hits on their first album, which is something that was very rare, and Lewis Martinee was behind all that.
We got in, we managed to get in at the right time. In the late '80s, a lot of major record labels were signing bands from Miami for the Miami sound, so to speak. We got lucky to sign with Sony's Columbia Records, which at the time was CBS records. But this was back in '87. They sat on us. Finally, like in 1989, 1990, they finally put out a pair of singles and they charted on Billboard. We had a holiday song called "This Is Another Holiday" that basically was on the Muzak rotation. When I got my royalty checks for a couple of years, I was actually getting Muzak royalties, and it was for a song that we really didn't really officially release, but it happened to catch some appeal that way.
But the only reason that this is on my chart was because at that time, it seemed like that was all that I really just wanted in my life. I was at UM and I was studying journalism, so basically, I was either going to be writing the cover story of a Rolling Stone story or I was going to be in Rolling Stone. While none of that happened, the greater good that happened from that is that because I was chasing this dream, when I got my bachelor's degree, I was ready to take a job as assistant manager at a sporting-goods store. It was, like, it seemed like the right next step for me. But the business dean offered me a GA, which basically means that they pay for me to go get my MBA and just help the professors with research, and I jumped on that. I was able to delay and get smarter.
In that process, instead of hitting reality and getting a job, a real job, I worked at my dad's frozen-food distributorship for a little while, and that gave me time to be online. I was co-sysop of GEnie's Investors Roundtable. It was owned by General Electric for a while.
Gardner: I remember.
Munarriz: You and I remember GEnie, but just to frame this for everyone who is wondering, "What's a genie? Is this a bottle thing or something?" GEnie is a poor man's CompuServe, and CompuServe is a poor man's Prodigy, and Prodigy is a poor man's America Online. But by being basically the co-sysop, the co-system operator of the Investors' Roundtable with the guy who worked for Schwab, the two of us basically just ran a very modest discussion there. I was so envious of what was happening on America Online and obviously of what The Motley Fool was doing. I was there really early, and I think if it wasn't for music, I would've been maybe so caught up in work and trying to be a businessman that I may have forgotten to just be online and be at the right place at the right time when you guys were starting out.
That was a point where I had the music highs when I thought I was going to be famous, crashing lows when Columbia said, we don't want you anymore and let us go, then basically just clawing my way back to, "Hey, there's a career path in the failure of what happened to me musically, and it turns into what is now 25 years with The Motley Fool.
Gardner: That is just a remarkable story. I knew some of it, Rick, but I had never heard you tell the Paris By Air story. How did it all end? Was there a final cake that was lit, blew out, and enjoyed the cake together? Did the band get angry with each other and everyone went their separate ways? Did the men come from corporate and shut it all down? What was the close-out for Paris By Air?
Munarriz: It's almost like it's never fully broken up. Our singer, there were three of us in the band, and our singer, after we got dropped by Columbia, just moved to New York. She was like, "I want to be where the energy is, where the music is." She just left and did her own solo thing. We got a different singer, put out another song, got released with a European label and a third single in 1993, '95, something like that. But by then, pretty much the writing was on the wall. But just a few years ago, we still got together. We played a benefit concert to Sandee, a local musician that passed away a few years ago. Technically it's still there, but it's not something that works. The band never broke up, but it's not like anyone really noticed that we didn't have to make an announcement on that.
Gardner: That's great. Well, thank you for sharing that, Rick. I especially appreciate your move into business. It sounds like your family had a business, so you grew up in and around a business.
Munarriz: Yes. My dad retired basically five years ago, so it's a long time ago he retired. But he had a company called Pan-American Frozen Foods, which is a frozen-food distributorship, and it was a great place to grow up because in Miami there was a place with this really big freezer and my dad owned it, where he would basically ship about 6 million pounds of French fries through the Caribbean and other markets. So yeah, it was a Hispanic Business 500 company for a while, which is a testament to what he was able to build as a Cuban immigrant. But I was definitely proud of being a part of that, having that so I could fall back and say, "Dad, can I just come into work two or three days a week because I think I am going to be famous the other four?" He didn't flinch. He was supportive about that.
Yes, there was a family business, basically from scratch, my father built and his partner built and turned it into what supported me and put me through UM, and helped me have a down payment on my first house when my wife and I got married. So yes, it was good to have.
Gardner: What a great dad. Well, the temptation, Rick, since you and I are a little bit older than Emily, is just to imagine that those next 25 years are just straight up. I will certainly say your career at The Motley Fool has been pretty much up and to the right all the way through. We've seen some hard times as stock-pickers -- 2009 comes to mind; 2001 also comes to mind. You and I have lived through those some together. Is there anything else you'd like to share along the lines of your personal stock graph before we get to the three key moments to becoming the investor that you are?
Munarriz: Yes, sure. I mean, I said that I had some lows that become highs. This starts off as a low, and maybe it doesn't start off as low as it's going to get in about a minute, but I promise there was more uplifting at the end of this. This is the day that my wife and I stopped being Rick and Maria and we started becoming Kevin's parents. Kevin was our second son, and when he was born, technically before he was even born, they did a scan and they said he has hydrocephalus, which is water on the brain. At the time, this was like the most devastating news we could hear, even though it happens in one every 500 kids. They just inserted a ventricular shunt to ease some of the water in the brain. It is a very seamless and a very effective solution. It's a shock you hear when you think, "My son is not this perfect thing; there's one thing wrong with him," and we thought, "OK, well we'll get past this," but we find out the story gets worse, because a year later, it turns out that he didn't have hydrocephalus at all. The hydrocephalus was actually symptomatic of brain cancer. He's 22 right now, so clearly, he made it through this. But at the time, this was a rare form of medulloblastoma with a lousy survival rate.
We were stuck in a situation where we're thinking, "We don't know how this is going to end." But we were basically crushed, as any parent would be, told that basically, their 1-year-old child has brain cancer. Because it was brain cancer, it was also tricky to tackle. We went through chemotherapy for a couple of rounds. They did go in and they removed most of the tumor. But we waited until he was 2 and a half to apply radiation, because the chemo didn't stick, the surgery didn't really take all the cancer away. Basically, with radiation, knowing that there were some issues when you basically radiate so close to the brain, we knew he was going to have developmental issues. And he does have sensory issues. But for the most part, it was either that or the worst case. We're very happy that he is with us and he's a very happy person living a very happy life.
Basically, the rest of my graph is basic living up to the happiness that all four of us, my family are still here. But early on, Maria and I realized that we're no longer saving and investing for two people; we're really investing for three. Expecting Kevin to be a part of us to some extent, basically and hopefully, prepare enough so that when he outlives us, as he hopefully will, we'll have prepared for him that way.
Gardner: Wow. Thank you very much for sharing that, Rick. I really never know what anyone's going to bring to telling his or her story in a stock graph. I especially appreciate you sharing something which is so meaningful that has a beautiful story to it. I can only imagine as a young parent, how hard that would be. I always love hearing stories of resilience, which for me is one of America's core values and the efforts that we make to do the best we can with whatever hand we're dealt with. Whether it's the hand we're dealt or a beloved family member, or us all as a family because we're, of course, all connected. Rick Munarriz and Kevin and family, that's a beautiful story, and keep up the great work. I love the idea that you are investing not just for you. A lot of us just think about our own retirement, but you realize it's all about what comes after.
Munarriz: Yeah. We're ultimately so happy. Again, it was obvious as far as the stock chart goes. You don't get any lower than spending almost two years in a pediatric cancer ward, where so many horror stories happen in the rooms next door and some couples just don't make it. The fact that we emerged as a complete family is something that, obviously, my heart goes out to everybody that suffers any kind of childhood affliction, but it clearly made us stronger, and I think it made us better people as a family. I did not mind being Kevin's parents after that.
Gardner: I was going to say, it's almost hard to transition from that to talk about the three key moments to becoming the investor that you are, except that this is why we do invest, so that we can build up capital and we can be ready for whatever the world throws at us. I think all of us globally have discovered that the world can throw big surprises your way over the last 18 months, something that is universally shared. While it seems a little bit superficial compared to what you just shared, Rick, I think it actually makes a lot of sense. Let's go there. Let's go to the three key moments to becoming the investor that you are. Rick Munarriz, what's No. 1?
Munarriz: No. 1, it's the summer of 1986, and my then-girlfriend, basically just nine months as a girlfriend, surprises me with a very interesting birthday present. She gives me a share, one share of Disney stock. Now, keep in mind that she knows, obviously, that Disney played a very big part of me just growing up. It was a big part of my family growing up. We routinely made the trip from Miami up to Orlando over and over again, and now I even own a place in Orlando. It's obviously very special to me even then. But it's not that she's an investor necessarily, and this is 1986, when you don't necessarily have an online broker. This is before [laughs]. You've got companies where you can have one share of certificate basically framed and mounted and sent to you as a keepsake. She basically had to go to a full-service broker -- I don't know if it was Morgan Stanley or J.P. Morgan, whoever it was at the time -- and basically say, "I just want one stock, one certificate. I don't want anything else," and someone actually paid attention to her. I know full-service brokers sometimes get a bad wrap, but this one time they actually helped her out.
I do have this one share of Disney. Again, I didn't own any stock at the time. Again, I mentioned stuff basically about my family, since they came from Cuba. My father and my mother, but my father more than anything, didn't really trust the markets. It was something like, if the government could take your house away, if the government could take your business away, why do I want to own a company that I don't even have a direct say in and it can get taken away from me?
I did not grow up in an investing family. But at the end of the day, I said, "Well, I now own a piece of a company," and to me that was exciting. Especially since I was moving as a journalism major to a business major, to me, it was like, "Well, OK, now I have a purpose." I got more interested in stocks, and I got more interested in everything, and then in a couple of years later, I was basically just doing that.
The whole irony of this is that my father, when we moved to the U.S. in 1966, a year before I was born, his first job, because had accounting experiences, was in New York at the Chase Manhattan stock transfer department. [laughs] Obviously, he loved capitalism but didn't trust the stock system, but here he was working in a stock transfer department of a bank.
Gardner: What a wonderful gift to receive from a girlfriend at the time. Clearly, it was made to be. That's a great alpha-and-omega story. Well, the omega was maybe her completing the cycle of giving you a share when your dad had been in the department years before. That was itself a new alpha launching you, it sounds like, Rick, into, in part, the investor that you are today. That's a great story. Reminds me how stocks weave themselves into our lives when you are an investor and you make a lifetime commitment to the markets. Some of your stories become stock stories and vice versa.
Rick, what's key moment No. 2 to becoming the investor that you are?
Munarriz: I want to talk about Netflix. This is a story that I've told before, and it's one of these painful yet uplifting stories, because everybody has that one stock that they got just at the right moment, almost as it hit the bottom. For me, it happened to be one of the best stocks to get at the bottom. I became a Netflix investor in October of 2002. This was five months after it went public. The company was a broken IPO, so I got it for basically less than half of what the IPO was. At the time when it first came public, I was critical of the company. Back in May, I don't know if I can locate it in the archives, but there's a Fool.com article out there somewhere that I'm saying that Blockbuster is going to eat Netflix's lunch, it has no purpose or anything, whatever it was. Five months later, thankfully, I became a member, along the way I became a subscriber to the service where you get DVDs by mail. I know, Netflix, you think of DVDs by mail? That is their model, how it started, as you and I both know, David.
Munarriz: In this case, by October I became an investor and I invested less than $3,000 in 500 shares. Three thousand dollars was a lot of money for me back then, so I was a little nervous making that big investment back then in my investing life. Just basically, a few weeks, months later, I sold 80% of those shares, moved up a little bit, and I said, "You know what, I mean, I got lucky; let me move on." Obviously, that was a colossal mistake. The last few years, I have sold off some of my Netflix because it became a very large part of my portfolio. I'm actually down to just 2% of my original stake, 2% of that 100%. But I always work the math because there was a 2-for-1 and then a 7-for-1 split. So those 500 shares would've been 7,000 shares if I held them. I now have 140 shares, which is 2% of that 7,000. If I would've held that, it would've been $3.5 million worth of Netflix in my hands.
The worst part of this is that this was all in a Roth IRA. So I would've been paying taxes on these gains when it would've happened. I just basically pulled the trigger too early and sold way too soon. Clearly, one of the most amazing stocks over the last two decades.
Gardner: Well, Rick, it does obviously hurt all of us to hear you say that. I think in part because we can all relate, probably, to one or another stocks in our past where we did that. I sure can think about that, and yet I'm so glad that you've shared that. That's one of your most popular. You are perhaps our most decorated, longest-term, most prolific writer on Fool.com. That, among all of your articles, I think may reign supreme as your No. 1. It really is a great testament to the world. I'm sure it's added value.
Probably a lot of people clicked on and saw that article in the last week or so, on the internet, just because it's a week on the internet and it's out there. So thank you for sharing that. I think you're saying it with a smile on your face, because you probably use some of the funds that you sold Netflix and you probably invested those in something else and it may or may not have worked out as well as Netflix, but you stayed in the game, and I know your game has grown and grown ever since.
Munarriz: Yeah. I'm more upset about the 80% I sold. I mean, the other 18% I've sold in the last few years, I have put that money to work in stocks that in some cases have actually outperformed Netflix, so I don't feel so bad about that. But I just think if I would've just decided to forget it, been a long-term buy-and-hold investor, as you and your brother [laughs] have always said, I would've been in much better shape for the future. I'm very happy where I am now, but obviously, every little one trade that I regret making is selling 80% of my Netflix shares back in the late 2002, early 2003 whenever that was.
Gardner: I mean, I think you've got to include that on your list of three, so that's great, Rick. Take us to No. 3.
Munarriz: All right. I was tempted to go with Rainforest Cafe in 1997, only because that led to me meeting you for the first time at the Rainforest Cafe grand opening in Orlando. But I think I have a better, stronger investing takeaway with Roku.
In life, you should always trust your first instincts. Usually, I think like most people. When I meet someone right away, I have a good feel whether that person and I are compatible. If it's someone I want to ask to join my fantasy football league or someone I just want to avoid and just respectfully move on. I think stocks are different, because I think some of my best stocks have been stocks that I initially do not like, that irked me a little bit. I mentioned Netflix, of course. FuboTV, which is a recent wreck, was one that my first Motley Fool article was actually negative on the company, and then I turned on it.
With Roku, Roku IPOed in September of 2017 at $14, and basically the day after the IPO, and you could find this; it's in the article. I looked at it this morning just to make sure it's still there -- "3 Reasons Roku Stock May Be Peaking," an article by Rick Aristotle Munarriz, the day after the IPO. I talk about how the company's growth is slow. It has lack of profitability, and it doesn't seem like it's going to be profitable anytime soon. Basically, it's competing against Amazon, Apple, and Google, in a duel of dongles to get into your TV. I just basically said, this is not a good time to buy it. But in the four weeks after that, I got to take a closer look at Roku. And I saw that it wasn't a hardware story at all. It was a platform story. It was a software story. I bought it at $18.84 in late October of 2017.
A few weeks after I bashed it, I came in with a fresh set of eyes and looked at it, and I guess the most interesting thing about that is that every time I would bring up Roku to fellow Fools or to even non-Fools, any investors, they all said, "Roku?" They all thought it would be like, "I got burned by TiVo. Roku is still the same thing. Who wants to get involved in hardware and all this?" They failed. They basically were stuck in that same page where the first instinct is, "Roku? Gross." Where the more you were able to dig, the closer you saw this company that was this thriving platform, this thriving ecosystem, this agnostic platform that was going to be able to be compelling to consumers and to TV manufacturers, more importantly, to be able to get into so many homes, 50-plus-million homes now, growing their average revenue per user ridiculously, on amazing stock that you have to get past that first instinct. Sometimes you can't judge a stock by its book cover.
Gardner: Really well put. I want to say a couple of more things about that, because it's so instructive and one of the things we're trying to do, always, every week on this podcast, whether we're doing a five-stock sampler or having Rick and Emily tell their stories. We're trying to teach and learn. I think about that story right there, Rick, and I can absolutely appreciate the same point myself, which is, when I encountered both Netflix and Roku for the first time, I did not believe in them. I didn't believe in the stores. It didn't make sense to me. It seemed silly to me that I was mailing, back and forth, DVDs when I could just drop it off at my local Blockbuster. Why would that business model work? Similarly, my PlayStation 4 was basically able to play other streaming stations, and so I was like, "Well, the PlayStation does what Roku does. Why would I need a Roku?"
In both cases, I'm happy to say, upon further review -- I know you and I are both NFL fans -- upon further review, I started to realize, "No, it's actually the opposite of how I was thinking." Boy, are those important moments for all of us in terms of our intellectual progression.
I want to close the Roku story by pointing out that Rick brought Roku to Motley Fool Rule Breakers two years ago this month. It was March of 2019. His initial skepticism and my initial doubt, we both overcame. The stock, record will show, was at $61.82. So these days it's tipping the scale closer to $360 two years later. Nearly a six-bagger. Rick, it is you who brought that stock to Rule Breakers to anybody who is a Rule Breakers member, who may own it happily today despite some of its volatility. What an incredible two-year run. To think that the Motley Fool made it possible for a lit candle that you had.
This is the beauty of ideas and stock recommendations. You were able to light our candle at Rule Breakers and the candles of many worldwide who've benefited from Roku stock. You turned it into a big win. By the way, when you light somebody else's candle, yours doesn't dim any, either. Part of the beauty of viral, part of the beauty of ideas and stock recommendations.
Rick, thank you for lighting many candles with Roku and many stocks besides Roku, just being one near-term winner.
Munarriz: If I could go with that metaphor, don't be afraid to light ugly candles. You'll be surprised at what it illuminates.
Gardner: [laughs] Really well put, although I'm now trying to figure out if an ugly candle is one that just on the face of it is ill-shaped and is a horrible color. Or if it's just, the wick doesn't quite work like those little summertime candles that I drop into my glass bowls and they don't stay lit for more than three or four times, then you have to toss them out. Anyway, ugly candles too. Well, Rick Munarriz, I want to thank you for taking the time out to join with us all this week and tell your story. Rick, Fool on.
Munarriz: Thank you for the opportunity, David.
Gardner: Well, again, thanks to Emily Flippen and Rick Munarriz for their stories. I think I want to reiterate one thing at close. If you are an investor, and the truth is we are all investors, whether we know ourselves by that name or not, we're all investing our time and our money in things throughout the day, every week, every day. So I should say that if you've switched on to that and you recognize that you are an investor and maybe it took your girlfriend to give you your first year of stock, you will realize that your story will inevitably be shaped by the investing that you do. The stock stories and our stories become intertwined. Weave their way through our lives.
And here's one more key insight. Boy, if it is not so true that the more investing you do and the more care you take with and the better you do, that story of your creation has a better and better chance of being a story with more and more possibilities, all the places you'll go, and one, I hope, with a very happy ending.
Which harkens back at close to another lyric from the song we let off with. "And When you're gone, Who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame? Who tells your story?"