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How to Buy and Hold in a Sector That’s Changing Fast

By David Gardner and Alison Southwick - Feb 12, 2016 at 8:12AM

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Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner explains how long-term investors can think about the technology sector.

Wise investors know that one of the best investment strategies is to buy and hold for the long term, but does that dictum apply in the tech sector, where changes happen at breakneck speed?

In this clip, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner explains that yes, it does. Listen in for advice on how to pick a stock that you can be comfortable holding for 10 years or more, even in the whiplash world of technology; and how to keep a cool head when, inevitably, one of your stocks takes a dip.

See the full podcast by clicking here. A transcript follows the video.


This podcast was recorded on Jan. 15, 2016.

Robert Brokamp: We talk a lot at The Motley Fool about buy-and-hold investing, being a long-term investor. If things change fast, and it's getting faster, how does that change that investing mindset? If you have a company that has come up with a certain technology, but management changes, the technology could be obsolete. Do you think differently in terms of how long you can hold on to a stock?

David Gardner: It's profound, Robert. I'm glad we're having this conversation. I don't have firm answers. I would say that I continue to believe that buying to hold is the best way to invest. It does mean that maybe you're not chasing the latest thing, unless that thing truly has huge buy-in. So, when Facebook became public, we did recommended shortly after the IPO, because at the time, it was considered a failed IPO. But they were on their way to a billion users.

So it's a lot safer when you find those kinds of situations. Even though Facebook was considered very risky at the time that we recommended it, five years ago or so. So, I think making sure that you're investing in companies that have real heft, real consumer buy-in. I was talking with the now-increasingly famous Chris Hill, earlier today in the office, and Chris was talking about which I value more, Amazon Prime or Amazon Web Services -- which I would pick if I could only have one -- and I said I would take Amazon Prime, because I much favor the portion of the company that has 38% of America's households buying as customers than Web Services, where it's just a B2B business with many fewer buyers.

So, I love companies that have tons of buyers. That's why I liked Amazon (AMZN 3.15%) very early on as a stock, because even though it was just books online at the time, they had such traction for what they were doing. So, I think that's important, Robert. Think about something like Etsy (ETSY 9.02%). Etsy, it's something that's kind of borderline. Is it here to stay or not? It came out of nowhere, it built very organically and impressively quickly, it IPO-ed about a year ago, it's down about 80% from where it IPO-ed. It's still about an $800 million company. But these are the kind of companies where it's kind of caught in the middle. I can't tell. I haven't recommended Etsy.

I've recommended some other stocks that have gotten crushed like that. GoPro is an example in Rule Breakers. But, I think the Googles, the Netflixes (NFLX 2.90%), the Amazons -- increasingly, finding the ones that will definitely be around in 10 years makes me comfortable for my buy to hold approach.

Brokamp: I remember when Netflix was down around 70%, a few years ago.

Alison Southwick: Qwikster. It was Qwikster.

Brokamp: It was around that time. And I remember asking you, "Do you have any doubts, concerns, anything like that?" And you were as cool as a cucumber. You had your analytical concerns, but it did not bother you at all, it seemed to me, that it was down so much.

Gardner: Yeah. Well, first of all, I'm not really ever cool as a cucumber.

Southwick: You fake it very well.

Gardner: I take that as a compliment, but I don't think I deserve it. If I were really cool, I would have been saying, "Buy buy buy!" And I usually don't do that. When stocks that I have that have lost 50% or more of their value, when that happens, I usually have my head under a pillow and I'm thinking that I got it wrong. But the one thing I will say in my defense is that I tend to just hold if I still like the company just as much.

I was disappointed by the Qwikster announcement. The idea, as a frequent Netflix user, that I would have to divide my queue now between the ones that were DVD and ... those totally separate user histories, that was just a bad decision. It obviously wasn't sustainable. It did create a great buying opportunity for braver people than me. But we had recommended it seven years before that, and we were just patiently holding, and our cost today is about $2 a share. So, with the stock at $109, we've done really well by being incredibly lazy.

Southwick: Well, I remember when that Qwikster thing happened, because the whole office was abuzz, because this is a stock that we love at The Motley Fool, and I was surprised. There were a few analysts who were like, "No, Netflix is done. This is it." I was like, "What?! How is this possible?" Some people were ready to turn tail and abandon Netflix just because of that Qwikster thing.

Gardner: Well, it wasn't just our analysts. There were a lot of people outside Fool HQ who thought that, and certainly, the stock lost 75% of its value in less than a year.

Southwick: Oh, yeah.

Gardner: So, I mean, that can happen, and sometimes those don't come back. If you really looked at what was happening when Netflix had -- I'm making this up slightly -- about 25 million customers at that point, and during that really difficult time when they were being hammered in the press, and rightly so, I think they lost about 800,000 customers net. In other words, they went from about 25 million to 24.2 million at the bottom of what they were doing, when sentiment was as bad as it could be. It's a tiny real loss for a growing business.

Southwick: Yeah, nothing.

Gardner: And if you looked at the future and asked, "Will online streaming be big, and who's the leader, and who can go global?" The Comcasts, most of these regulated domestic entities -- there was no competition for what Netflix was doing, globally. So, I just think, obviously, we've gotten that one right, and it continues to be a good pick.

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Stocks Mentioned

Netflix, Inc. Stock Quote
Netflix, Inc.
$179.95 (2.90%) $5.08, Inc. Stock Quote, Inc.
$109.56 (3.15%) $3.35
Etsy, Inc. Stock Quote
Etsy, Inc.
$79.81 (9.02%) $6.60

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