It's April! The days are warming, the cherry trees are in peak bloom, and in this episode of Rule Breaker Investing, Motley Fool Co-Founder David Gardner is back with an A-list of stocks that spell out the six traits of a Rule Breaker. Find out what they are, why they are set up for success, and how you can become a better Rule Breaker investor.
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This video was recorded on April 7, 2021.
David Gardner: Every 10 weeks on this podcast, I pick five stocks. I call them a sampler, a five stock sampler because I'm always drawing just a few stocks from a large base. A universe which I've always called the Supernova universe, constituting the 200+ stocks that are all of my present day active recommendations between Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers, the two services for which I pick stocks every month since their inception in 2002 and 2004 respectively. So, a lot of stocks; just like your Whole Foods or local grocery store might put out a sample for something for you to try for free in the wine and cheese department, well, that's what I do here. From many, many stocks, I put out a sampler of a few; five stocks each time to a theme. Five stocks again, this week for the 29th time, only on this week's Rule Breaker Investing.
Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. Happy April. We're going to start April off with a bang because it's time to pick some stocks, five stocks. If you've seen the title of this podcast, then you already know, spoiler, where we're headed. It's Five Stocks To Teach You Rule Breakers. I'm going to explain a little bit about that in a minute, but I have a few housekeeping items I want to introduce in the first place. I want to mention next week's show. I'm excited to continue with a second episode of Telling Their Stories. Now, we did this about a month ago with Emily Flippen and Rick Munarriz. While I'm still getting a couple of analysts together looking for acceptances, I already have a yes from Jason Moser. Jason Moser will be telling his story on next week's Rule Breaker Investing. Really looking forward to that. Speaking of the month ahead, we will be reviewing some past five stock samplers with a review-a-palooza episode, two weeks from today. Because April is one of those months where I do my samplers and we have three April samplers of the past to review and see how they've done. That's always, of course, part of the deal. I pick the stocks but we also review them and see how they're doing. Now, I have a sad note to share, and for this I want to welcome my longtime producer, Rick Engdahl. Rick, welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing.
Rick Engdahl: Thanks. Always found to be here. I mean, I'm always here. [laughs]
Gardner: Good point. [laughs] Yet I don't nearly have you on enough, so it's always a delight to have you on. You had pushed me a link earlier today that I want to speak to in the sec, but in the now 29 with this week's five stock samplers all have been named with different themes. Sometimes I come in knowing my theme and my name, but other times I need a little help from you. It was a few years ago, in fact, it was four years ago this month that I picked five stocks for April. The conceit for that one was that the only thing that really linked those five stocks together is that one started with the letter A, another one with letter P, and it spelled out April. But Rick, what do we end up naming that particular podcast? It was your call.
Engdahl: We ended up naming it Five Stocks For April The Giraffe because by way of coincidence, right around the time that that podcast came out, there was a hubbub on the Internet. Internet meme gone wild of April The Giraffe who was giving birth live on YouTube, and everybody was all watching it. We were there to keep that meme alive for four more [laughs] years at least.
Gardner: We were and I will say that Five Stocks for April The Giraffe was a wonderful five stock sampler. Now, looking back at the history of it, it was picked on April 19th, 2017. It was a three-year game, usually the game that we play with these samplers, and happy to say that Axon Enterprise (AXON -4.33%), Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacifico, ResMed, Intuitive Surgical, and Live Nation Entertainment, if you look at the first letters of each of their ticker symbol, you will see it spells A-P-R-I-L. They were up 90.6% over those three years versus the market's 22.8%. A spectacular performance. Rick, what is the sad news?
Engdahl: The sad news is that April The Giraffe has passed. Again, I guess it's coincidental that it should happen right around the same time as we're doing another April stock pick. But we can mourn the loss of April The Giraffe. She did live to a ripe 20-years, which is what one would expect for a giraffe in captivity.
Gardner: I did not know that. I would not have expected that. It is sad to think that April is no longer with us. I hope that what she gave birth to is doing well. It's never a story we knew that well, it was a fun conceit for the five stock sampler, but it is sad to note that April The Giraffe is no longer with us. Her stocks will always be there with us though, and I'm really happy to say four years later, in other words just continuing the same five stocks simpler and looking at it today, those five stocks are now up to 221% versus the market 74%. Good on you April and thanks for what you did. Yes, when I think of Rule Breaker Investing and I think of the month of April, I'll always think of five stock samplers and I'll always think of April The Giraffe. Rick, thank you for sharing that. Never great to have you on sharing bad news. We never shoot the messenger on this show though, so Rick, please continue being my producer.
Engdahl: I'm happy to stick my neck out every once in a while. [laughs].
Gardner: Well said. Before we start with this podcast's sampler, I thought it would be fun just briefly to review what we've done with the 28 previous one. We've done 28 five stock samplers roughly every 10 weeks, over almost six years now. As of this afternoon, we are recording on Tuesday, April 6th. I'm really happy to say that we've now picked 28 samplers that would be 140 stock picks. Those 140 stock picks taken all together, average a gain of 105.6%. That is pretty spectacular when you consider that the S&P 500 averages directly comparably 38.2%. In other words, we're up 67.4% per stock across 140 stocks that generate a total Alpha for free on this podcast of +9,436. Keep in mind a lot of people think that it would just be luck to beat the market averages. What does feel a little lucky to me because I'm not this good and I've said it a number of times before, is out of the 28 samplers we've done historically, only four of them have lost to the market. Two of those are done, so I will never be able to win with those, but two of them remain active and I still have my fingers crossed that they can beat the market. But as of today, 28 samplers with a batting average of 0.857. If you're a baseball fan, that means 86% of our samplers are beating the market. Some of those stocks are really wamping it usually, and it's the case for these five stocks samplers as well. Our numbers are helped by some mega winners, and I'll talk about that a little bit later.
Well, Five Stocks to Teach You Rule Breakers. As I thought about what to do with this samplers theme, I thought, why not go back to basics? Why not use this as an opportunity to teach and remind whether you're a newer listener or a longtime Fool to teach and remind you of what are the traits of Rule Breaker stocks. Now, if you are a student of this game and I hope you are, you'll know there are six traits, but of course, I only ever pick Five-Stock Samplers. What I've decided is, using the first five traits, I'm going to pick one stock emblematic of each of those, and then the 6th trait is, of course, that Rule Breaker stocks be considered overvalued. I'll just say that most, if not all of these stocks are generally considered overvalued by many people, so that 6th trait is still implicit in this sampler. If I do this well, you're going to get a short course in Rule Breaker Investing while I pick stocks live in front of you and we track and watch them together in the years ahead. Without further ado, let us get started.
Trait No. 1 of Rule Breaker stocks, probably the most important, that's why I've always led off with it since I've first invented Rule Breaker Investing in the 1990s, and that would be top dog and first-mover in an important emerging industry. I've often had the opportunity to say in this podcast and other places besides that if you only used one trait from all of our Rule Breaker Investing methodologies, this would be the one to focus on. If you could stock a pond just with fish that were top fish and first movers in important emerging industries, if those were the only fish in the pond that you are fishing from to build your portfolio, darn it, you're going to do really well as an investor because while we will have some flameouts and we will have some bad fish, I can assure you that the good fish in this pod are truly great and can carry your portfolio to market-beating heights of the sort I have just detailed for you in our previous 28 Five-Stocks Sampler. Top dog and first mover in an important emerging industry. Now, this will not describe every single stock I pick, not every stock I pick as a Rule Breaker, some of the stocks that I pick in Stock Advisor are old-time railroad companies and I love the dividend for those stocks. There are lots of different reasons and types of companies I pick even just within the Rule Breaker service itself. But when I think of recent picks that I've made of top dogs, first movers in important emerging industries, I think of Airbnb (ABNB -1.10%), ticker symbol ABNB. This is one I just picked a few months ago for the first time in Motley Fool Stock Advisor.
Of course, a lot of us have watched this company grow up over the better part of more than a decade right now, but it only came public recently. Therefore, as public market investors, you and I didn't really have an opportunity to get Airbnb as a much smaller company, which I really would've loved, and yet I still like this stock. It slightly underperforming the market for me, three months later, in Stock Advisor, it's up 4%, the market is up 6% but that's the past, all we really care about is the future and in this Five-Stock Samplers case, of course, the next three years, so we will hope and keep our fingers crossed that Airbnb can beat the market. But, of course, Airbnb operates an online marketplace for lodging, homestays, for vacation rentals, tourists use this. The company is based in San Francisco, California. I had forgotten/not known this, I've never actually used Airbnb myself, I'm sure a lot of you will already know the story, but the name comes from the air bed that the founders blew up in their San Francisco apartment noting that there weren't a lot of cheap places to stay in San Francisco, they inflated an air bed and listed themselves online as air bed and breakfast and it's gone from there. Today it is, of course, a worldwide phenomenon with billions of dollars in revenues, by the way, billions in losses. This is not a present profitable company, although this is a very strong performer, it is a top dog and a first-mover in an important emerging industry, very disruptive to the lodging industry in the same ways that Amazon was very disruptive to lots of bricks-and-mortar retail companies. Airbnb, top dog and first-mover in an important emerging industry that is stock No. 1.
Now, longtime followers of my Five-Stock Samplers will know just like we had fun with April the Giraffe, playing with language using ticker symbols that spelled out April, sometimes in the past, I've also just picked stocks that all start with the letter M, that would be the Five Stocks That Are Mm Mmm Good, five Ms, or Five Stocks That Got Trouble, five stocks that start with T. Well, sure enough, I'm having a little fun with this one as well. We're not going to do M, we've done M before, we're not going to do T, we've done T before, we're obviously doing A with this Five-Stock Sampler. So Airbnb, one of my A stocks, the other four companies all also start with the letter A.
Let's move on to stock No. 2. Well, before I say stock No. 2's name, I have to reacquaint you with trait No. 2 of Rule Breaker Investing the stocks and it would be having a sustainable competitive advantage. Because after all, when we're going to buy stocks and hold them for as long as we do as Rule Breaker investors, you know it's going to be important for our companies to have strong, sustainable, competitive advantages. That's one of the real keys to our investment approach. After all, if these companies were built on sand instead of foundations of stone, it's very unlikely we would hold them for very long. If we're going to hold for a long period of time, we are looking for a deep, sustainable advantage. Stock No. 2 is Axon Enterprise, the ticker symbol is AXON. This is a stock that came to Rule Breakers in its present incarnation in October of 2015. It's been a multi recommendation for me, three times it appears presently on the Rule Breaker scorecard. Its first position was up 523% versus the market's 117%. Yes, Axon Enterprise has been a big winner. Now, many of you will remember this company initially as Taser. That was indeed the name of the company back in the day, Taser. Of course, it is the company that has outfitted so many police departments across the United States with the non-lethal weaponry that I personally would prefer being shot with than live bullets.
While taser has sometimes been controversial because in rare circumstances somebody sadly has lost his or her life after being tased, usually there were extraneous circumstances in those cases, which we don't need to talk about right now. But it did give Taser some bad headlines from time to time. Some people came away with the idea that it's just not a good weapon. I disagree and 15,000 police departments across the U.S. also disagree. This is used to save lives every day in law enforcement. You talked about having that many police departments in the U.S. and with the international possibilities that this business has, and we're not even done talking about sustainable competitive advantage yet because we haven't talked about the name of the company today, Axon Enterprise, which is the Axon police body cameras, which are a big part of the hardware offering of Axon Enterprise today. Once again, this company is truly dominant. If they are Coca-Cola, there is no real evident Pepsi in this market. Part of this sustainable advantage, yeah, 90% of the market share of all body cams in the United States, and this is a big growth market. More and more of these are being deployed both domestically and certainly in time, internationally.
Let's talk about the software complement should these two hardware businesses, the taser and the Axon police body camera and the software complement is Evidence.com. All of that footage that's being taken with police body cameras has to live somewhere and as it turns out, that lives in a great big video vault in the skies owned by Axon Enterprise. It gives this company a Software-as-a-Service subscription model. By the way, even with taser weapons these days, a lot of them are sold on a subscription basis. I really like the business model of this company that's part of it is sustainable competitive advantage. I really don't see any company unseating this company anytime soon in the United States, and I hope increasingly around the world. So yes, Rule Breaker attribute No. 2 a sustainable competitive advantage, and Axon Enterprise is highly demonstrative of trait No. 2. That stock No. 2 again, ticker symbol AXON.
Onto trait No. 3. This is the first of the traits for Rule Breaker investors that's just about the stock. The first two are so much more about the business. Are you the top dog and first mover? Is your industry important? Is an emerging that's all about the business, so as the sustainable competitive advantage, but strong past price appreciation. Well, that's all about the stock. The reason I think this works is because, I thought Sir Isaac Newton was a pretty smart guy in his first law of motion that objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and objects in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted upon by some other force. Well, this in a lot of ways is abbreviated to the phrase I've used so many times before on this podcast, a theme of this podcast a year or two ago, "winners win." In my experience, things that are doing well tend to keep doing well. Things that are doing poorly tend to keep doing poorly. It's certainly not true all the time and if you're not doing so well right now, I have a lot of hope that you can do better. It's not like all of these things are inevitable. But in my experience, watching the things that work and win and the people that work and win, usually by investing in them, we can count on them to continue to do that. All other things remaining equal, which they never really do. But for strong past price depreciation, especially for Rule Breakers, this is an important attribute because we want our companies to be doing well, to be winning, and we love it when the market recognizes that and rewards investors for holding the stock, and I am fine recommending a stock after it has doubled.
Many of my best recommendations had substantially beaten the market before I ever picked them, whether it's for Rule Breakers or Stock Advisor. Strong past price appreciation is very contrary to most people who are looking to buy low and sell high. I don't like those four words I say instead, buy high, that means buy great companies that probably are doing really well with their stocks and try not to sell. In a world that's looking to buy low and sell high, I'm encouraging you to buy high and try not to sell. Strong past price depreciation puts me in mind of many Rule Breakers stocks, but the one I have selected is stock No. 3. Of course, another one that starts with a letter A is AeroVironment (AVAV -0.49%), the ticker symbol is AVAV. This is a company that was making drones before making drones was cool and AeroVironment was doing other things besides when I first picked it in August of 2008. Now, so often stocks that I pick have been winners and I'm showing you by picking them again that I still believe they'll win. This is an interesting one in that it's been a loser. Well, by one definition anyway, here we are 13 years after I picked the stock and it's losing to the market over this 13-year period for Rule Breaker members. I apologize, dear members, the stock is up 269%, which I will never sneeze out, it's more than a triple. But the market is up 317%. The market has quadrupled. AeroVironment has been long term, a market loser and yet, over the last year, as drones have increasingly become recognized as an important technology, I admit we were probably really too early with the stock, but I'd always rather be too early than too late with our Rule Breakers stocks. This stock is up 110% in the past year. Doubling the market is a 55% return from the loss of last April. A market doubler in the last year and over the last five years, with the market up about 100%, the stock is up 333%.
In other words, this stock has been crushing the market, both measured over one and five years. It was the eight years before that they were pretty mediocre. I like AeroVironment for where it is right now. It is an example of trait No. 3, strong past price appreciation. Past in this case defined or like past year or so, which is usually how I think about it. In this case, the past five years are pretty great, past 13, not so much. Next three though, well, let's hope so and we will move on to trait and stock No. 4. Well, trait No. 4 for Rule Breaker Investing has always been will always be good management and smart backing. It's all about the people. Yes, I care a lot about products and services. I care about industry dynamics. I care about the balance sheet and the income statement. But in addition to all these things actually what powers them, are human beings. People like you and me, but really special and gifted people that you can invest in through the miracle of the stock market and so it's about the people. Silly, I often think, and I'm always looking for really good people.
Well, for stock No. 4 again another A stock, we go back to Motley Fool Stock Advisor, August 2002. This one is almost a 19-year hold for me and I'm going to hold off for a moment before saying the company name because some years ago I wrote up a story when I first met the CEO of this company and I'm going to share that story with you now. Maybe have you guess, and then I will tell you the stock at the end. Let's, let's do a little story together. 19 years ago, I attended the 2002 Allen & Company investment conference. It was in Scottsdale, Arizona following the Internet crash of 2001, Tom and I had found ourselves five years after we'd been on the cover of Fortune Magazine, at a point of near failure. With tens of millions in losses and dwindling millions in the bank, the Motley Fool was in crisis. We weren't the only ones, by the way, the Nasdaq had lost 80% of its value in 18 months, while even Amazon.com had dropped from $95-$7. Our own venture backed a plan to overspend our means and then mushroom in size look more like a mushroom cloud. We quietly shopped our company around using the best firm that we knew, Allen and Company and they had invited me to their conference. Well I flew into Scottsdale badly humbled. I still felt good about our company mission, our 10-year investment track record, and many products and relationships built over time, but we had failed to adopt a strong business model. You can get a lot of other things right in business, but your business model will ultimately determine how far you go.
The potential failure of our enterprise was a brutal way to learn that lesson. Back then, we were largely a free ad-supported site and the idea of a subscription business was only starting to reenter our minds after initially starting as a subscription newsletter for our parents' friends. But in the go-go years of the Internet shifting to free, hoping you would click the ad next to our stock recommendations. Well, fortunately, I was about to meet a host of people who were a lot better at business than I was. One of them was the CEO of a company that I admired as a big fan of its products. This gentleman accosted me, "Hey, David Gardner, Motley Fool." Pointing me out to two of his friends who were sitting nearby Motley Fool. He said again, "These guys are right. You guys know that?" He said to his friends, "They were saying the market was overheated and stay out of the crummy me to Internet companies. Congratulations, Fool." He said to me and I have to say, certainly didn't feel right about most things during those dark times. To have this successful older guy call this debatably successful younger guy out to his friends at a time of low morale for me, and say these guys were right, that made a big difference to me and I'll never forget that. In months later, I went on to buy what I knew and added his stock to our new service, Motley Fool Stock Advisor and our scorecard, which had launched that same year of 2002. Then by the way, six months after I first picked that stock in a rare moment of adding to a loser rather than my winners, I rerecommended his stock after it was cut in half in the winter of 2002. Those positions are now up 3,039% and 6,014% respectively. That's right. They have made patient, long time Stock Advisor members 31 times and 61 times our money. Well, 10 years ago this company hit its own tough times. Its business and markets were changing and the world began favoring upstarts in its industry of video games.
The market began favoring $0.99 mobile games, which was not really the strategy or style of this CEO at the time and his business, and he began to take some heat, but not for me by the way. Each of us can look back and think of those people who brought us some light during our darkest times. They are invariably people of quality. The stock market, good news here, provides us a great way to generate quality profit, from quality people, doing quality business. Though Activision Blizzard (ATVI -0.50%) CEO, Bobby Kotick, often takes heat for being the CEO of a game company when he's not really a gamer or perceived to be greedy by gamers who want games to be free or who think making a new version of Call of Duty every year is a wallet squeeze, I continue both to buy and play many Activision Blizzard games myself here in the year 2021, including, of course, my most played game over the last few years, which would be Hearthstone. All right. Well, that's the end of my tale getting to meet Bobby Kotick for the first time. Going on to recommend Activision Blizzard stock, which has made a lot of Fools, a lot of money, and it remains yet an active recommendation in Stock Advisor today, 19 years later from when it was first picked. Here I am in this five stock sampler saying, I like it right now for the next 3+ years.
By the way, on a fun side note, since it is the baseball time of year, the first week of baseball, some of you will remember, I'm a big baseball fan and certainly a big Bill James fan. We won't talk about Sabermetrics right now. Some of you will already know that I remember my love of money ball, but the movie Moneyball, the Brad Pitt vehicle from the Michael Lewis book Moneyball. In the movie, Moneyball, in a brief scene early on, Bobby Kotick the CEO of Activision Blizzard makes a cameo in that movie as the owner of the Oakland Athletics. He is not in real life, but it was fun to see him asked to do that. He said yes in that movie. If you ever go back and watch the movie, Moneyball, again, you can see Bobby Kotick make his cameo. Activision Blizzard is making a cameo in this five stock sampler as stock No. 4, illustrative of good management and smart backing. All right.
Well, let's close it out with Rule Breaker trait No. 5, and that is a strong brand. Now, why does brand matter to me and I think it matters to you so much? Well, I think in a world where there are so many consumer choices and we're asked to make so many decisions on a daily basis as adults, we love the brands that just make it an easy choice for us. I told the story some years ago. I don't think I did on this podcast. I think I wrote it up in an old stock advisor but I told the story of going in one day in New York city. I was there to do some media that morning and I just wanted a quick bottle of orange juice, so I ducked into a convenience store somewhere on the Island of Manhattan, and I just mechanically reached in and grabbed Tropicana orange juice. I checked myself, actually, after purchasing, as I walked out, I looked back and I realized there were like four or five different orange juice brands, but most of them just meant nothing to me. For example, there was one called Just Pikt. It wasn't even spelled P-I-C-K-E-D, it was P-I-K-T. I just immediately discounted it, I didn't care about it. I recognized Tropicana, it was all I needed at the time. Tropicana. Here is an example of a brand.
How about Starbucks? Well, that doesn't start with letter A, so we won't be using that one but brands, let us make quick, trusted decisions as consumers. Great companies have to build that trust up to make us willing to do that. Boy, in a time starved world, am I not grateful, I bet you are too, for brands you can trust and let you make quick decisions. That's the reason that it works in business. The reason it works in investing and why I made it one of our six Rule Breaker traits is because a lot of people discount it. So many people, especially institutional traders, don't even care about what the company does, let alone what their brand is or who is running it. They're looking at patterns on charts, so they're trying to make a quick buck with their trading. By extreme contrast, those of us who are actually in it to win it over, the only term that accounts for me, which is the long term, we particularly should treasure brands because there is no real way to account for brands on the financial statements. Therefore, most of the best branded companies in the world end up being considered overvalued because a brand doesn't really live there unless it's a goodwill line on the balance sheet.
For the most part, people are not running numbers thinking about the power of brands, and so consistently the best brands in the world look overvalued because their stock price accepts that that's really important, but their financial statements don't show it. Meanwhile, a lot of people aren't even looking at or thinking about brands as they trade their way in and out of the market. As a fellow Rule Breakers, I hope you recognize the power and importance of a brand. Well, there are some really powerful A brands out there, that is brands that start with the letter A, but the world's most valuable brand consistently is Apple (AAPL -0.09%), ticker symbol AAPL. Apple is widely considered the most valuable brand in the world. Guess what? These things are linked together in my mind, it's also generally the world's largest public company, weighing in at about $2.1 trillion. These things, again, are connected. It's not surprising to me, I don't think it should be surprising to you, that the biggest market cap is also the biggest brand. That's illustrative of why we should be looking for brands when we invest. In the case of this five stocks sampler, how could I not pick Apple to illustrate the strong brands? That is stock No. 5 for this five stocks sampler. Five Stocks To Teach You Rule Breaker, Apple. Again, the sixth trait of Rule Breakers stock is that they be considered overvalued by many people who are observing them. I've often called that sixth trait, the special sauce of Motley Fool Rule Breakers. A lot of people will tell you that Apple is pretty overvalued today. After all, the world's largest company has doubled in just the last year. A lot of people will also say Airbnb is not making money. They seem to be overvalued. While that might not be quite as true of companies like Axon Enterprise, although I saw it seeking out for an article recently, but the guy liked everything about the stock except he said it was overvalued, so check there AeroVironment, Activision Blizzard.
I like it when my stocks are considered overvalued because, to summarize, if you can find the top dog and fast-mover in an important emerging industry that has a sustainable competitive advantage, strong pass price appreciation, good management, smart backing, and a strong brand, people think that is overvalued? Well, even if it is, in the short term you and I are going to be rewarded and usually rewarded grandly over the more meaningful longer-term by finding these companies. We'll keep our fingers crossed that these five stocks will beat the market over the next three years. I will mention, of course, we're having a little bit of fun. I'm intentionally picking all letter A stocks. I could have picked a lot of other stocks in place of these this week. Really, almost every letter of the alphabet, I've gotten some great companies in the supernova universe for Stock Advisor and Rule Breaker members over the years, these five are just a sampling of that. There you have it again, Five Stocks To Teach You Rule Breaker, they are in order: Airbnb, Axon Enterprise, AeroVironment, Activision Blizzard, and Apple. Again, I want to mention that we are going to cover three past April five stock samplers two weeks from today. By the way, one of them has done very poorly, I won't say which one until then, but we will be reviewing five stocks for the age of miracles, Five Stocks For The Coronavirus, and Five Stocks I Own That You Should Too, that's two weeks hence. Next week we'll have Jason Moser and another pal on for Telling Their Stories, Volume 2. In the meantime, I hope your April has started as beautifully as mine has. Fool on!