In late January, I had the great experience of visiting Google in Mountain View, California, where I had the chance to do meet with some Google employees to discuss investing (here are the slides from the talk).
The timing was fortunate, as it was my good friend Saurabh Madaan’s last week as a Googler. In addition to his post as a senior data scientist at Google, the value investing community knows him for his side gig: hosting the Investing Talks at Google series. Saurabh did brilliant work organizing that series, preparing quality questions and engaging in thoughtful discussions with his guests, and his selfless efforts and contributions will be missed (although we hope that a certain insurance company headquartered in Richmond will begin their own series of investing talks under his direction). Saurabh is a major asset for any company that has the good fortune of employing his services, and Tom Gayner added a meaningful amount of intangible value to Markel when he made the decision to offer Saurabh a position at his firm.
During my visit to Google, I had the chance to talk with a number of employees at Google as well as some of the other leading firms in Silicon Valley. It was a great experience, and my overall takeaway is that the culture (and more specifically, the incredible talent) of these firms is somewhat under appreciated, despite being cited often. Google has an unusually large number of employees who are not just super smart, but also very humble. There is an introspective focus on continuous improvement and long-term thinking that is very palpable there. I think it is also very unique.
Culture, employee talent, and workplace satisfaction are three things that don’t show up in the numbers, and thus they are difficult to quantify and difficult to value, but they are extremely important to the long-term earning power of the company (especially in the fast-moving world of technology).
I believe these intangible qualities, when combined with powerful network effects, can create a durable position that makes some of these firms very difficult to beat in their respective areas of dominance.
In my presentation, I described a couple key points that are helpful to keep in mind as an investor, and I also briefly summarized the investment case for one of the stocks in our portfolio.
Here are the slides to my presentation: Investing Discussion with Googlers
Also, congratulations to Eagles fans. 15 of the last 17 Super Bowls have seen the AFC represented by either a Brady, a Manning, or a Roethlisberger led team. It’s nice to see an upset by a team that has never won it all, led by a backup quarterback who stepped up and went toe to toe with the greatest of all-time. It’s noteworthy that all eight Super Bowls that Brady/Belichick have been in have been close, one-possession games. There were some incredible games in that stretch with some epic Super Bowl moments, but yesterday’s game was one of the greatest (at least if you like offense).
Have a great week!
John Huber is the portfolio manager of Saber Capital Management, LLC, an investment firm that manages separate accounts for clients. Saber employs a value investing strategy with a primary goal of patiently compounding capital for the long-term.