How I Built a $300,000 Stock Portfolio Before 30 (And How You Can Too). My 8-Step Wealth Building Journey



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Welcome! If this is your first time on my blog, check out these top blog posts, too:

  1. My Interview with Francis Chou
  2. 22 Investing Lessons From Jason Donville
  3. How to Find Tenbaggers
  4. Beating the TSX (BTSX)
  5. How I Pick Winning Stocks
  6. Canadian Capital Compounders

***PLUS Email Me Now for a FREE copy of my new book – Capital Compounders***


How I Built a $300,000 Stock Portfolio Before 30 (And How You Can Too). My 8-Step Wealth Building Journey

youtube_32 >>>You can also listen to my 8-Step Wealth Building Journey on My YouTube Channel

When I was 12 years old I made a decision. I was going to be rich. I looked up to successful people and wanted what they had: financial freedom. They seemed to be happier than everyone else. But who was I kidding? Becoming rich would be an uphill battle. I was from a middle-class family of humble means. There was no trust fund. And my parents didn’t have work connections to land me my first job. The odds were stacked against me. But I still made the decision to be rich and started on my wealth-building journey. And the path I chose to get me there: do-it-yourself investing “DIY Investing”.

Today, I manage a $300,000 stock portfolio. I’m 29 (almost 30). And my stock portfolio grows by the day. My goal is $1,000,000 in stocks by the time I’m 35 years old. I’ll show you my 8-step wealth building journey and share how you can build wealth by investing in stocks too. Read on…

When I was 12 years old I made a decision. I was going to be rich

How I Became a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Investor:

1) Study Successful Investors

I realized that if I wanted to make money by investing in stocks I had to study successful stock investors. Common sense, right? Isaac Newton said it best:

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”

So, from age 12 to 18, I read around 50 books on the topic.

These were the six most important investing books for me:

  • The Intelligent Investor – It was through Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor that I was introduced to value investing, and the important concepts of Margin of Safety, Mr. Market, and Intrinsic Value. Warren Buffett called it “the best book on investing ever written”.
  • Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits – Philip Fisher opened up my world to growth stocks. It was after I read Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits that I started paying more for stakes in higher quality, and faster growing businesses.
  • One Up On Wall Street – There are so many easy-to-implement lessons shared in One Up On Wall Street. But what really stuck with me was Peter Lynch’s focus on ‘buying what you know’. That has saved me from many dog stocks in the market.
  • Market Wizards – Jack D. Schwager introduced me to some of America’s top traders in Market Wizards. But instead of telling us their favourite stock picks (what they buy) he explained their investment frameworks (why/how they buy).
  • Buffettology – There are many books that endeavor to explain how Warren Buffett invests in stocks but most come up short. Buffettology is the book that gets it right.
  • The Money Masters – A classic that is fun to read. The Money Masters shares winning strategies from some of the world’s best investors who ever lived. It’s a book that I’ll read every couple of years to brush up on investing essentials.

I would also study Forbes’ list of the 500 Richest People in the World and Canadian Business’ Richest Canadians. It then all became very clear to me. I could become rich by earning money, saving the proceeds, and investing in stocks as other rich people, such as Warren Buffett, had done before me.

It then all became very clear to me. I could become rich by earning money, saving the proceeds, and investing in stocks

2) Earn and Save Money When You Are Young

I had opened my first bank account when I was about 8 years old. As you can imagine there wasn’t much there; cash from birthdays, Christmas, and some chores. Maybe $500 in total from what I can remember. I had to earn/save more money fast! So I did what Warren Buffett had done at my age – delivered newspapers. At 12, I joined PennySaver and became a paperboy for three neighborhoods in my hometown of Mississauga. I deposited each paycheque, along with any other money, straight into my savings account.

3) Understand How to Compound Money

Once I turned 14, and just started high school, my savings account had grown to about $5,000. At that point, I wanted to invest in stocks. But because of my age I wasn’t eligible to open a brokerage account. So I started with bonds. After returning home from the bank, I placed those newly purchased Canadian Savings Bonds into a small but sturdy wooden box, hiding it safely under my bed. I was so proud. I knew that my bonds would generate interest for me on the principal amount ($5,000). “Compound interest is like magic”, I thought. “And the earlier I started investing money the longer my money would compound (‘work’) for me”. Throughout high school, I would work several odd-jobs (mechanic shop janitor, meat department clerk, and Best Buy associate), all the while saving money from each paycheque, and then buying more bonds to further compound my money.

“Compound interest is like magic”, I thought. “And the earlier I started investing money the longer my money would compound (‘work’) for me”

4) Invest in Stocks for the Long Run

I turned 18, and was ready to enter University (party time! — NOT). In September, 2005, I moved into my “cozy” on-campus dorm room at the University of Waterloo. But even more exciting was that I finally opened my first brokerage account. By investing in stocks I could compound returns through both capital appreciation (i.e., stock price goes up) and dividend income (i.e., quarterly dividends from companies). I had already cashed out of my bonds; $10,000. So I invested that money evenly into 5 stocks, owning a $2,000 stake in each company. I felt like a true capitalist. This is how my idols, Benjamin Graham, Philip Fisher, Peter Lynch, and Warren Buffett, got rich; by investing in stocks. As I earned money though UW co-op job placements (which I recommend to every young person!), and bought more stocks, my portfolio grew, and grew, and grew. I was on top of the world. And then the financial crisis (’08) happened…

By investing in stocks I could compound returns through both capital appreciation (i.e., stock price goes up) and dividend income (i.e., quarterly dividends from companies)

5) Capitalize on Crises in the Market (i.e., Buy Low When You Can)

I was 21 years old when the entire world ended in 2008 (or so most people thought at the time). The financial crisis thrust economies around the world into recession. Stock markets collapsed. And my stock portfolio imploded. I suffered around a 50% decline from peak to trough. The financial press was all doom and gloom. “Sell! Sell! Sell!” Most people were scared and converted their stocks to cash. So I invested all of my savings into my existing stock holdings (crazy, right?). When I pulled the trigger I was scared stiff. But I’m glad I made that move as my stocks would soon rebound, pushing above pre-financial crisis highs into the years to come. I bought quality stocks on sale. 50% off! Was I a young genius; able to time the market? Nope. I simply learned from Benjamin Graham, the father of value investing, that economies and markets operate in cycles. Therefore, an investor could capitalize on manic markets, rather than become fearful and flee.

When I pulled the trigger I was scared stiff. But I’m glad I made that move as my stocks would soon rebound, pushing above pre-financial crisis highs

Indeed, 2009 was a great year to be a value investor. I would make a similar move in February, 2016 to capitalize on a bear market in Canadian stocks where the TSX declined close to -25% from its high in September, 2014. Why so confident? I know that the average bear market (on the TSX) has declined -28%, lasting 9 months, while the average bull market has advanced +124%, lasting 50 months. Based on this historical evidence then since 1956, I should eventually be rewarded in the long run when I take on “risk” (i.e., investing in cheaper stocks) during bear markets. As Warren Buffett said:

“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”

6) Manage and Refine Your Stock Portfolio

In 2010, upon graduating from the University of Waterloo, I had about $50,000 in my stock portfolio. More money than any of my friends. This was certainly an inflection point for me as the magic of compounding started to take real effect and I was just about to enter a full time career and earn a much bigger paycheque (plus bonus), which meant more money for stocks. By 2013, three years into my first full time job, my portfolio had grown to about $125,000. However, I realized that I could build wealth faster if I compounded returns at a greater rate. So, at 25, I made it my mission to build a portfolio that actually beat the market. I started watching BNN Market Call, re-reading the best investing books, and magazines (Money Sense, Canadian MoneySaver, and Canadian Business) and following the top investors from around the world. From that I re-structured my portfolio into one that I’ve comfortably maintained since.

Here’s how my stock portfolio breaks-down:

  • Mispriced Large Caps
  • Speculative Takeovers
  • Small/Mid-Cap Capital Compounders

Mispriced Large Caps

For example, I started loading up on Starbucks stock in 2008 at around $15/share, at a time when Starbucks was oversaturating themselves in the market, with most “experts” doubting their strategy of selling high-priced coffee, especially with the financial crisis looming, and new entrants in the coffee business, such as McDonalds. However, when I bought Starbucks stock, after their huge decline on the market, I never witnessed a drop in traffic among the stores nearby me. Starbucks had huge competitive advantage then and now. I thought, “If Starbucks goes out of business, that’s probably when the world will end”. And, seriously, do you think business people would ever switch their coffee meetings from Starbucks to McDonalds?

Speculative Takeovers

I also dabble in speculative takeovers. When Lowe’s first bid for Rona fell through, I bought a stake in Rona, and just sat on the position. I speculated that Lowe’s, or another company (maybe Home Depot), would eventually scoop up Rona, with the Quebec Government’s approval of course. When Lowe’s came back years later, bid on Rona a second time, and won approval to buy them out, my Rona shares shot up ~100% in one day. Well worth the wait.

Small/Mid-Cap Capital Compounders

But the most successful ‘bucket’ in my portfolio is the Small/Mid-Cap Capital Compounders. Why? I find that as long as the intrinsic value of these businesses grow every year, so does the price of the stock. I’m actually upset when one of my ‘capital compounder’ stocks get bought out, because most of the time there’s so much more potential for growth. It forces me to go out hunting for an equally remarkable capital compounder to replace the buy-outs. You can learn more about the criteria I look for in capital compounder stocks by reading How I Pick Winning Stocks.

7) Stick to Your Investment Strategy

From my ‘quarter life crisis’ (age 25) and onwards, I continue to earn, save, and invest in stocks using the same strategy. Now, at age 29, I have built a $300,000 stock portfolio. With a bigger capital base, it’s amazing how much more rapidly my portfolio can compound. For example, a 10% return will thrust my portfolio to $330,000 next year, without adding additional capital. I say “10%” because over the long run (since 1934), the TSX has delivered a 9.8% annual compound return, despite recessions, bear markets, and world crises. But there’s no guarantee. Nevertheless, $1,000 invested in the Canadian index in 1934 would have grown to $1,595,965 by 2014 with 9.8% compound returns. That’s “magic”, in my world.

$1,000 invested in the Canadian index in 1934 would have grown to $1,595,965 by 2014 with 9.8% compound returns. That’s “magic”, in my world.

8) Always Learn and Grow as An Investor

My DIY investing journey has been fulfilling so far. But I also know that I can further improve my odds of success by continuously learning, and improving my investing craft. This is why I recently met with some of Canada’s Top Investors. 28 in total. Those Top Investors told me how they invest in stocks, bonds, and options; sharing their proven investing strategies. It was enlightening. So I decided to put all of their investment advice into a book – Market Masters. You can now purchase Market Masters in Chapters, Indigo, and Coles stores across Canada as well as online on and

I recently met with some of Canada’s Top Investors. 28 in total. Those Top Investors told me how they invest in stocks, bonds, and options; sharing their proven investing strategies.

My 8-Step Wealth Building Journey (Re-cap):

1) Study Successful Investors

2) Earn and Save Money When You Are Young

3) Understand How to Compound Money

4) Invest in Stocks for the Long Run

5) Capitalize on Crises in the Market (i.e., Buy Low When You Can)

6) Manage and Refine Your Stock Portfolio

7) Stick to Your Investment Strategy

8) Always Learn and Grow as An Investor


If this is your first time on my blog, check out these top blog posts, too:

  1. My Interview with Francis Chou
  2. 22 Investing Lessons From Jason Donville
  3. How to Find Tenbaggers
  4. Beating the TSX (BTSX)
  5. How I Pick Winning Stocks
  6. Canadian Capital Compounders

***PLUS Email Me Now for a FREE copy of my new book – Capital Compounders***



Robin Speziale is the national bestselling author of Market Masters, which is available at Chapters, Indigo, and Coles as well as Costco and He lives in Toronto, Ontario. Learn more about Market Masters.


20 Chinese Technology Stocks and their American Equivalents (All Companies Listed on U.S. Exchanges)


I obsessively researched Chinese Technology Companies this weekend. Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent (aka BAT) are widely known in the North American investor community, but these others (below), not as much. I’ve mapped my list of Chinese Tech Stocks (all U.S. exchange listed NYSE, NASDAQ) to their North American equivalent companies (e.g. Alibaba / Amazon)…

Chinese Technology Stocks:

Alibaba $BABA / JD $JD (Amazon)
Tencent $TCEHY (Facebook)
Baidu $BIDU / Sogou $SOGO (Google)
IQiyi $IQ (Netflix)
Weibo $WB (Twitter)
BYD $BYDDY (Tesla)
Momo $MOMO (Match Group)
YY Inc. $YY / Bilibili $BILI (YouTube)
CTrip $CTRP (Expedia Group)
Baozun $BZUN (Shopify)
Huami $HMI (Fitbit)
51Job $JOBS (Monster Worldwide) $WUBA (eBay)
Cheetah Mobile $CMCM (Zynga)
NetEase $NTES (Activision Blizzard)
Huya $HUYA (Twitch)
AutoHome $ATHM (CarMax)

Robin Speziale Net Worth: $545,000 – January 2018



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Robin Speziale’s Net Worth: $545,000 (Jan, 2018)

I’m updating my blog with Net Worth Updates. You can see my past net worth updates: here. Currently, (January, 2018) this is my Net Worth: $545,000.

I’ve built my net worth over time through working – part-time and full-time, investing in stocks, real estate (primary residence), dabbling in online opportunities (eBay, websites, etc.) and receiving book royalty payments from my publisher (ECW Press; Market Masters), and Smashwords (other eBooks).

I’m 30 now. But my plan is to build my net worth up to $1,000,000 within the next decade (i.e., before 2028) by the time I’m 40, but preferably to build a stock portfolio that’s worth $1,000,000 (I like liquid assets). Lots can happen between now and then, so we’ll see.

Assets –

  • Condo: $430,000
  • Stocks: $385,000
  • TOTAL ASSETS: $815,000

Liabilities –

  • Mortgage: $270,000

Robin Speziale Net Worth (January, 2018) –


My Top 10 Stocks in 2017



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My portfolio gained 22% in 2017, beating both the S&P 500 (+19%) and S&P/TSX (+6%).

Here are my Top 10 Stocks in 2017:

Company Ticker Return

Year in Review; My Stock Portfolio Update for 2017


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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful holiday season with your family, and friends. Thank you all for being readers of my booksblog, and newsletter. I’m really looking forward to writing more in 2018 (don’t forget to read My Top 15 Best Ideas for the New Year), and updating you on my stock portfolio, top stocks, and watchlist.

I’m proud to be involved with such a big community of DIY investors 🙂

On top of my market-beating return in 2017, and new portfolio high (which I’ll get to soon), there’s a bunch of other things I’d like to share with you…

Here’s My 2017 Milestones:

– 1,850 Newsletter subscribers (always free!) – 42 issues to-date
– 40,000+ Books sold-to-date (including Market MastersCapital CompoundersMy 72 Rules, + others)
– Won the Gold Award from IPPY for the Finance/Investment book category
– 21 New Patreon Members (who receive my monthly portfolio updates, top stocks, & more – join now)
– 450 Capital Compounders Club members – become a member!
– 13,000 Blog visitors (w/ 26,000 views) – the top 3 posts; here,here, and here
– 302 YouTube Channel subscribers (w/ 24,000 views of my videos)
– 20 Speeches given-to-date, including my speech at the Fairfax Financial Annual Dinner
– 1,800 Twitter Followers

It was certainly a solid wealth-building year for me in 2017 as I’m sure it was for you. My stock portfolio was up +22% (not including dividends), beating the S&P 500 (+19%), and S&P/TSX (+6%) for the year. I’m always content if I beat the S&P 500 over the long run. That’s my objective; generate ‘alpha’ by picking my own stocks. Otherwise, I’d just dump all of my stock holdings and invest in an ETF that tracks the S&P 500. Brutal honesty. The cherry on top this year was that my winners (i.e., stocks that went up) made up 80% of my portfolio, meaning only 20% of my stocks went down (the losers). I like it when I’m right more often than I’m wrong. Also, that my predominantly Canadian portfolio (75% of holdings) beat the S&P 500 – a U.S. index.

I’ve been investing in the stock market for over 12 years. I started when I was 18, in 2005, with $10,000 (money earned through part-time jobs back then) and have now built a $375,000 portfolio, which I plan to grow to $1,000,000 by 35. I’m 30 now. If you’ve read about my story, you’ll know that I don’t come from a rich family. No trust fund. And no easy access to a cushy job. It’s taken a lot of work, and perseverance to get here. And it’ll take more focus on my investment strategy to get to my goal; though, the power of compounding helps (as my ‘snowball’ gets bigger). You can read about How I Pick Winning Stocks here. Hopefully we don’t suffer a huge market crash in the near-term. But if that does happen, I’ll just buy stocks on sale, and push my $1 million goal a bit further down the road. Ultimately, I want to achieve financial independence, and do more of the things that I love… freedom of choice.

My portfolio got a big jolt in Q4-2017; the last couple of months leading up to the end of the year (October-December). As I shared in “My Bad Quarter“, that while Q3 (July – September) showed general weakness in the small/mid-cap segments, and many of the new micro-caps in my portfolio, I excepted some strength to return soon. Indeed, many of these stocks revived in the 4th Quarter, with a bunch of micro-caps showing new signs of life in the last month of the year – December. I suspect that a lot of capital in 2017 flowed out of quality micro-caps to chase momentum in Blockchain, Lithium, and Marijuana stocks on the TSX Venture. However, some of that capital might be returning to quality micro-caps. Wild parties can’t last forever. Anyways, I’ll talk about my Q4 Top 10 Stocks (see table below) in this newsletter, but if you want a full Portfolio Update, with my Top Stocks, and Watchlist in 2017, check out how to become a member on Patreon. There’s over 20 members now – woohoo!

Canopy Growth (WEED, +177%) was the clear winner in my portfolio in Q4 (Oct – Dec). In fact, WEED has now become my first 30-bagger ever. Some of you know that in my book Market Masters, I revealed that I was investing in Tweed (former name of Canopy Growth), predicting that it would become the leader in the Marijuana market. That was all the way back in 2015. Since then, WEED has gone from ~$1 to $30. But, here’s the problem. WEED’s rapid price appreciation has defied enormously its underlying growth, and intrinsic value. I’m now seriously considering WEED’s future in my portfolio. But I also don’t want to be that guy who leaves the party early..

Match Group (MTCH, +35%) was another Q4 outperformer, and ‘no-brainer’ for me. Match owns Tinder, POF, OKCupid, and a bunch of other dating apps. This is how everyone dates (errr ‘hook-ups’) now. Plus, the Return on Equity (ROE) is amazingly high. I love my Capital Compounders, like Match Group, which is also among my Top Ideas for 2018.

Clairvest Group (CVG, +32%) was the surprise for me here. While I expected CVG, a private equity company with the prestigious Rotman family on the leadership team, to be a strong performer, I didn’t forecast their partnership with Great Canadian Gaming (GC) to operate and develop four Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. facilities west of Toronto. Though, this is exactly what I want to see; positive business developments, and pleasant surprises. I’ll be allocating more capital to Clairvest Group in 2018.

Savaria (SIS, +31%), Tucows (ATC, +21%), and Photon Control (PHO, +21%) have been long term holdings in my portfolio, and continue to perform very nicely over time. All three stocks represent some of my biggest stakes. Finally, Amazon’s (AMZN, +21%) continued ascent was really no surprise (although as an aside, Wal-Mart’s mega-rebound, which I don’t own, was a surprise).

My Top 10 Performers – Q4 (Oct – Dec), 2017:

Company Ticker  Q3 Return

Do you want to see my full results for 2017? Become a Patreon Member

January, 2, 2018 will sound the opening bell for the new year. In my last newsletter issue, I shared my Top 15 Best Ideas for 2018; all stocks that I currently hold in my portfolio. I really do hope that 2018 is another solid wealth-creating year in the stock market. Although, we will never know. What’s important to me is continuing to beat the indexes, especially the S&P 500, and achieve a ~15% compound annual return over time.

What about you? Tell me about your big winners in 2017, and also your top picks for 2018.

I wish you all the best in 2018! Have a Happy, Healthy New Year, and talk soon 🙂

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Top 3 Best Ideas (Stocks) for 2018


In the Capital Compounders Club (Facebook Group) I asked all the members to share their Top 3 Best Ideas (Stocks) for 2018. There’s a bunch of ideas there now, and more will be shared leading up to December 31st.

Join the Club on Facebook to see members’ Best Ideas for 2018.

I launched the Capital Compounders Club in 2017 to bring together DIY growth investors, as a platform to share new growth investing ideas.

My Watchlist (Nov, 2017)



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Below you’ll find My Watchlist (November, 2017), but only a portion of my full list (i.e., the high-interest stocks).

You can learn more about my FULL Portfolio, Top Performers, and Watchlist by becoming an exclusive Patreon member. There’s currently over 20 members. Starting at $5.00, I’ll send you 12 issues / year. As a BONUS to all of my members, I’ll also be sending out my Portfolio Year-End Review on an annual basis. Learn more here.

My Watchlist – High Interest Stocks (Nov, 2017):

Company Ticker Date Added to Watchlist
Square SQ 10/15/2017
Nvidia NVDA 10/15/2017
Patrick Industries PATK 10/15/2017
Middleby MIDD 10/15/2017
Fonar FONR 10/29/2017
AlignTech ALGN 11/18/2017
Mettler-Toledo MTD 11/18/2017
Toro TTC 11/18/2017
Simulations Plus SLP 11/18/2017
Intuitive Surgical ISRG 11/18/2017
Arista Networks ANET 11/18/2017
Lexagene Holdings LXG 10/12/2017

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My Small Cap Stock Holdings (Nov, 2017)



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Below you’ll find My Small-Cap Stocks (November, 2017). There’s currently 18 holdings, ranging from $100M – $10B in market capitalization. All of my small cap stocks are Canadian companies. In the list below, I also include Return on Equity (ROE) for each company. The average ROE for my small cap stocks is 25.44%

You can learn more about my FULL Portfolio (I don’t just invest in these 18 stocks), Top Performers, and Watchlist by becoming an exclusive Patreon member. There’s currently over 20 members. Starting at $5.00, I’ll send you 12 issues / year. As a BONUS to all of my members, I’ll also be sending out my Portfolio Year-End Review on an annual basis. Learn more here.

My Small Cap Stock Holdings (Nov, 2017)

Company Ticker ROE (Latest QTR ’17)

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My Top 10 Stocks – Nov, 2017



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Below you’ll find My Top 10 Stocks for the month of November, 2017, based on performance (i.e., capital appreciation).

You can learn more about my FULL Portfolio (I don’t just invest in these 10 stocks), and Watchlist by becoming an exclusive Patreon member. There’s currently over 20 members. Starting at $5.00, I’ll send you 12 issues / year. As a BONUS to all of my members, I’ll also be sending out my Portfolio Year-End Review on an annual basis. Learn more here.

My Top 10 Stock Performers (Nov, 2017)

Company Ticker Return

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My Top 15 Stock Ideas for 2018



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Who would’ve thought? Some of 2017’s best ideas: Bitcoin, FAANG (again), and Marijuana. These were the 3 areas investors poured money into en masse in 2017. For the record, I’m not a big believer in Bitcoin, or any other cryptocurrency for that matter (it’s gotta be a bubble), but I own 4/5 of the FAANG stocks, and one of the pot stocks – Canopy Growth (WEED).

2018 might look very different…

Market trends come and go. There’s always going to be those ‘hot’ areas that everyone wants to invest in to “get rich quick!”. But if you’ve followed me for the past 2+ years I’ve been publishing this newsletter (which has 1,700 subscribers now), and have read my various books – Market Masters, Capital Compounders, and My 72 Rules – you’ll know that I stick to a clear portfolio strategy. And I’ve been investing in the stock market for 12 years. My strategy is pretty basic but it works for me…

Here’s how I segment my stock portfolio (learn more here):

1) Small-to-Mid-Cap Capital Compounders;
2) Mis-priced Large Caps (at the initial purchase);
3) Speculative Takeovers (Micro Caps)

I allocate a big chunk of my capital to the ‘Capital Compounders’, where I look to identify, and then invest in companies ranging from $100M – $10B (Small-Caps -> Mid-Caps) in size that have a long runway to grow. But there’s thousands of stocks to choose from on the various stock exchanges. So, my criteria is clear, and the hurdles are high. Not only must my stock holdings have a large addressable market, but also outstanding management teams that effectively operate their companies, and deploy cash flow to new opportunities with high rates of return to compound shareholders’ capital over time. These are also predictable, non-cyclical companies with durable competitive advantages (i.e., moats) which are more common in these sectors; Consumer, Technology, and Diversified Industries (e.g. Media, etc.). Return on Equity (ROE) is my key benchmark for these ‘Capital Compounder’ stocks. My Capital Compounder ‘Best Ideas’ for 2018 average 52% ROE (latest quarter).

You can learn more about my FULL Portfolio (I don’t just invest in these 15 ‘Best Idea’ stocks), Top Stocks, and Watchlist by becoming an exclusive Patreon member. There’s currently 20 members. Starting at $5.00, I’ll send you 12 issues / year. If you become a member now, you’ll get the next issue (December) at the beginning of January. And as a BONUS to all of my members, I’ll also be sending out my Portfolio Year-End Review in the next couple of weeks. Learn more here.

Anyways, I’m probably shooting myself in the foot by releasing my Best Ideas for 2018, but it’s all in good fun. Don’t do anything crazy and put all of your money into these 15 stocks 😛 (and for that matter, Bitcoin *shudder*). Always conduct your own research, and due diligence.

My 15 Best Stock Ideas for the New Year – 2018

 1) Capital Compounders (Small and Mid-Cap Stocks; $100M – $10B)
– National Beverage (FIZZ)
– Tucows (TC)
– MTY Food Group (MTY)
– Premium Brands Holdings (PBH)
– Savaria (SIS)
– Pollard Banknote (PBL)
– Spin Master (TOY)
– Match Group (MTCH)
– Photon Control (PHO)
– Richelieu Hardware (RCH)

2) Mis-priced (Large-Cap Stocks; $10B+)
– Yum China (YUMC)
– Alimentation Couche-Tard (ATD.B)
– Netflix (NFLX)

3) Speculative Takeovers (Micro-Cap Stocks; < $100M)
– Ten Peaks Coffee Company (TPK)
– Intrinsyc Technologies (ITC)

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Chasing Stocks



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I gave away a bunch of copies of Market Masters in my last newsletter, but I’m still in the giving mood. Christmas is right around the corner! So, grab my latest mini-book, My 72 Rules for Investing in Stocks, for free here. Hurry, because the book will only be there until Nov 20th. (I also announced my partnership with Patreon that gives you exclusive access to my top stock performers, portfolio, watchlist and more. Learn about all the offers here.)

My 72 Rules is a really quick read (under 1 hour), revealing my thoughts on investing in the stock market for the past 12 years. It’s also being featured on the newly re-launched, which boasts 150,000 visitors per month. That traffic combined with 500,000 page views / month make Stockchase one of the top Canadian personal finance sites on the internet.

I started visiting Stockchase in 2005, at the beginning of my investing journey. The site gave me access to other investors, and their opinions on stocks. For example, Hedge Fund Manger, Jason Donville, and his top pick in 2010: Constellation Software. You can see on that Donville recommended Constellation Software (TSE:CSU) at $39.75/share on 2010-02-24. Today, CSU is $738/share. You’d have done pretty well by investing in Constellation Software back in 2010…

Jason Donville [on Constellation Software, 2010-02-24]:
“Big company without a huge profile. 30-40 companies under it to do all kinds of things in Canada and the US. Able to buy companies at a very good valuation. Single digit P/E. Thinks stock is worth double.”

Btw, Jason Donville, and 27 other Top Investors are also featured in my National Bestselling Book, Market Masters, which contains exclusive interviews on stock-picking strategies.

Anyway, the history of Stockchase is interesting. Founder Bill Bruner had a habit of watching stock opinion shows [notably BNN] and taking notes about everything that was said. His son, Chris, had the idea of publishing his father’s notes online. The Bruner family ran the site for almost 17 years (2000-2017). That’s a pretty incredible thing for a part time family business. You can learn more about the new ownership of Stockchase here.

Ok, so I made the announcement last week but I’d like to mention again that I’ve recently partnered with this cool, new platform called Patreon to offer some of you exclusive content. Many of you know that I provide quarterly updates on My Top 10 Stock Performers through this newsletter. However, I don’t ever reveal my full stock portfolio, or watchlist, and only provide updates every three months – never on a monthly basis. Well, with Patreon, that’s all going to change. I’ll still release quarterly updates (i.e., My Top 10 Stocks) through this email-newsletter, but if you want more, you need to visit, and become a member on my Patreon page.

Here’s what I’m offering exclusively on Patreon:

  • My Top 10 Stock Performers (Monthly)
  • My Portfolio Snapshot + Watchlist (Monthly)
  • Investment Coaching + Portfolio Review (Anytime)
  • VIP Package (All + Market Masters Book, Signed by Me)

Learn More Here. (I’m releasing my first exclusive content in December)

My Big Error of Omission



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I’m starting to feel that Christmas spirit. Malls are getting busier. Amazon is getting more clicks. Office productivity is dropping to seasonal lows. My waistline is getting bigger. And I think it might even start snowing soon here in Toronto where I live.

Around this time of the year I also start to reflect… Yesterday I was thinking about my old job at Best Buy, and how I committed one of the biggest errors of omission in my investment career. The year was 2005, and I had just finished my exams (1st Year, University of Waterloo). I moved back to Mississauga with my parents for the Christmas holiday break, and resumed a part-time job at the Best Buy in Oakville, that spanned a couple of weeks. I worked in the camera department lol (who buys cameras anymore!?). Anyways, I’d also walk the floor at Best Buy to help other customers, and noticed that the new Apple iPods always sold out soon after the store received a new shipment. The product was hot, hot, hot. I was 18 at the time, and if you’ve read about my investing journey, you will know that I only held 5 stocks in my portfolio at that time. But while I was always seeking and researching new stock ideas, I didn’t invest in Apple. The opportunity was literally right there in front of me. Doh! Big error of omission.

In hindsight, investing in Apple (AAPL) was a no-brainer, but looking back at it logically, Apple still hadn’t released its uber-product – the iPhone – which catapulted the company into the big leagues. I invested in Apple years later, but obviously didn’t capture a big chunk of its price appreciation. I missed a couple of ‘baggers’ there. You live n’ learn. Now, I like to plant seeds in stocks if I have a strong gut-feeling. But then if things don’t work out with the company, the inner-debate becomes, “What’s worse; errors of omission (i.e., I failed to pull the trigger on an eventual winner) or errors of commission(i.e., I pulled the trigger but then lost money on a loser)”?

I certainly didn’t commit an error of omission on Canopy Growth Corp (formerly “Tweed”). If you’ve read my book, Market Masters, you might remember that I wrote in 2015 about first buying into Tweed while it was trading around $1/share. Now Canopy Growth Corp (TSE: WEED) is trading around $20/share. It might soon become my first 20-Bagger (up 20x). We’ll see.

Ok – now I’d like to make an announcement. I’ve recently partnered with this cool, new platform called Patreon to offer some of you exclusive content. Many of you know that I provide quarterly updates on My Top 10 Stock Performers through this newsletter. However, I don’t ever reveal my full stock portfolio, or watchlist, and only provide updates every three months – never on a monthly basis. Well, with Patreon, that’s all going to change. I’ll still release quarterly updates (i.e., my top 10 stocks) through this email-newsletter, but if you want more, you need to visit, and become a member on my Patreon page now. Who knows; maybe I’ll find another 20-bagger early just like Canopy Growth Corp (TSE:WEED). But mostly you’ll get to see ALL of my well-researched small/mid-cap Capital Compounders for the first time.

Anyways, check it out. If 100 members sign up before Christmas, I’ll donate another $500 CAD to the SickKids Foundation. I’ve already donated $1,000+ to-date through the release of Market Masters.

Giving is a wonderful thing 🙂

Robin Speziale

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Hi DIY Investors & Readers!

If you don’t already know me, I’m Robin Speziale, the National Bestselling Author of Market Masters, featuring exclusive conversations with Canada’s Top Investors, as well as Capital Compounders, and Lessons From the Successful Investor. I love the stock market. I’ve been saving, investing, and building my stock portfolio since 18. I built a $300,000+ Stock Portfolio Before 30 (and would love to show you how you can too!) I live in Toronto, and am a Proud Canadian 🙂 Don’t forget to Subscribe to my Investment Newsletter (it’s free!).

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I created a Patreon account to give DIY Investors & My Readers the VIP Experience. Please have a look at all the ‘Rewards’ that you can pick n’ choose from to unlock exclusive content on my Top Stock Performers, Portfolio Snapshot, Stock Watchlist, and More that I hope can add value to your own stock portfolio and boost investment returns. Plus, Subscribe to my Investment Newsletter (it’s free!)

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Cheers, and Happy Investing,
Robin R. Speziale

Peter Lynch’s Investing Mistakes; “Cutting the Flowers and Watering the Weeds”



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I didn’t know about this Lynch/Buffett story. It’s in the latest Forbes 100th Anniversary Edition. Can you guys relate to Peter Lynch’s regret(s) selling great stocks too early? (e.g. Home Depot, Dunkin’ Donuts). I do… Stupid me sold out of SXC Health Solutions , before it became Catamaran Corporation. BIG winner, but I missed its significant later gains. DOH!


My Bad Quarter; Portfolio Update – Q3, 2017



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Things don’t always work out in life. It’s no different in the stock market. The bad news is that the indexes (S&P 500 and DJIA) beat me this recent 3rd Quarter (July – September). But the good news is that I’m still beating the indexes (TSX; +2.94%, S&P 500; +13.08%, and DJIA; +14.48%) Year-to-Date (January – September) with a 17.42% YTD return. I attribute my bad quarter to weakness in the small/mid-cap segments (or maybe I’m just losing my touch? :P). Many of you know that a large portion of my portfolio is concentrated in small-cap and mid-cap stocks, and more recently, micro-caps (read more about my “MicroCap Experiment” here).

Others have written about this general weakness herehere, and here. However, things might be looking up. Gerry Wimmer, who I’ve featured in this newsletter in the past, concluded, “today many of the small cap stocks that were priced for perfection just six months ago have seen their share value decline significantly. On a valuation basis now may be the perfect time to buy them!”. Note: I should add that the summer months tend to see lower activity across the market (…”Sell in May and Go Away”, as they say).

Ok, let’s get to My Top 10 Performers for Q3 – 2017 (see table below). Two (2) takeover announcements were made in my portfolio in the 3rd quarter – Pacific Insight Electronics (+89.3%), and Jean Coutu (+22.1%). If you’ve followed me since the beginning of this newsletter, you’ll know that I allocate money to what I call “speculative takeovers”. You can read about my Rona case study here (another speculative takeover), where you’ll also learn about all the ways in which I pick winners based on my three portfolio ‘buckets’.

Canopy Growth (+34.5%), which I initially started buying at around $1/share, has been rebounding after some weakness. I still hold the thesis that Canopy Growth (aka Tweed) will be a leader in Consumer Weed products.

I initiated two new positions at the beginning of Q3 that appear in the top 10 – Match Group (+33.4%) and Tencent (+22.1%). Match Group is a consolidator, and operator of popular dating apps; POF, OkCupid, Tinder, and more. Their financials, and growth numbers are pretty good, and let’s face the facts – online dating is now the norm. I was recently talking with my cousin about this shift. I remember when in 2005, maybe 20% of girls were on online dating sites and apps. Now 10+ years later, I’d say 80%+ of girls are on dating apps, especially Tinder. Guys just go to where the girls are; that’s how it works… In 2005, most girls would say, “dating sites are for losers, and creepers”. But now, it’s “fun”! I will say, though, that even with this ‘shift’, I’m still always told, “Sorry, I have a boyfriend”, when I approach girls in bars. Some things never change lol.

No surprises with National Beverage (+32.6%) and Spin Master (+24.5%) – both stocks have performed very well for me over a long period, and so I hope they remain exceptional “capital compounders“. And now that Alibaba (+22.6%) and Amazon have similar market caps, $459 vs. $463 billion respectively, it’ll be fun to see which company reaches the $1 trillion mark first! (my money is on Alibaba). In my Q2 Portfolio Update, I listed some stocks on my watchlist. However, since then, I’ve only initiated a position in one stock from that list – Fairfax India (TSE:FIH.U).

My Top 10 Performers – Q3, 2017:

Top 10 Performers Ticker Q3 Returns

The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy for me. I’ve given speeches at Queen’s Masters Finance Program, Brock’s Goodman Business Student Association, and coming up – UofT’s Institution of Management and Innovation Finance Competition.

And I’m sure you were all busy too during the summer months. Lots to do! Please check out my newsletter archive in case you missed any issues during the summer.

If you want to grab a coffee and talk stocks – pick a Starbucks downtown, and email me –

Pub Night #1 in Toronto: Capital Compounders Club


Here’s a photo from the 1st Pub Night last Thurs (Sept 14, 2017) at Duke of York in Toronto. Thanks for coming out everyone!! I’m planning on Pub Night #2 in November.


After a couple of beers that night, we thought it would be interesting to start a mock portfolio – the “Duke Fund” – which we’ll track indefinitely through our meetups. Here are the holdings (each of us picked one stock):

Ultra Clean Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:UCTT)
Square Inc (NYSE:SQ)
Canopy Growth Corp (TSE:WEED)
Greenspace Brands Inc (CVE:JTR)
MedReleaf Corp (TSE:LEAF)
Mercadolibre Inc (NASDAQ:MELI)
RediShred Capital Corp. (CVE:KUT)
Medicure Inc (CVE:MPH)
Photon Control Inc (CVE:PHO)

Toronto Money Show 2017



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As some of you know, I was at the Toronto Money Show this year (2017). Pretty good. But not the high turnout I’ve seen in the past.

The highlight for me, to my surprise, was Gordon Pape’s presentation. Pape’s an old guy; 81. But one his of Best Ideas was Shopify, Why was I so intrigued? Well, Pape’s invested through tons of market cycles, ups / downs, since 1957 (~60 years) , and most importantly through the tech bust in 2000. So, he’s seen speculative dog-sh*t tech stocks (e.g.,,, and Webvan, to name a few). And yet, he likes Shopify (which I also own), even though it isn’t currently generating a profit.

Pape originally reccomended in Feb, 2016 @ $28/share, and now it’s $147/share. Shopify’s a multi-bagger, and he’s still reccomending the stock. I love it.

Who else owns I know Jonathan Kennedy does (from the Capital Compounders Club on Facebook), and he orginally got me interested in the company, and it’s huge addressable market + long runway to grow.

Conversely, who thinks Shopify is purely speculative, with too high a valuation, and should be avoided? And/or do you think the entire tech sector is currently overvalued?

I also attended three other presentations, with Derek Foster, Keith Richards, and Ryan Modesto.

Cheers, Robin

Warren Buffett, Benjamin Graham, and GEICO; Growth Story



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One of Warren Buffett’s, and Benjamin Graham’s best investments, GEICO, was a growth stock! How ironic that two “value investors” invested in a growth company. The blog, Base Hit Investing, explained that “Graham invested nearly 25% of his partner’s capital into GEICO in 1948, acquiring 50% of the growing enterprise for the small sum of just $712,000. This would eventually grow to over $400 million 25 years later!! … a 500-bagger”. Warren would increasingly evolve away from his value investing roots, with Charlie Munger’s influence, and Benjamin would later admit that he was “no longer an advocate of elaborate techniques of Security Analysis in order to find superior value opportunities. This was a rewarding activity, say, 40 years ago, when our textbook ‘Graham and Dodd’ was first published; but the situation has changed a great deal since then”.

Photo: (Warren Buffett (far left) and Ben Graham (third from left)

Back to School; Conversations with Ryan Modesto, Aaron Dunn, and Paul Andreola



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I don’t know about you, but this is my favourite time of year; autumn. Summer’s over and it’s back to “school”. The change in weather brings cooler days/nights, and that means more time inside. In the autumn, I read more, and thus learn more, with a warm cup of coffee, latte, or tea by my side, whether that be at home or at my local Starbucks.

Now, I wasn’t a particularly good student through my school years; my teachers would often tell me that I was inconsistent, and didn’t pay attention in class or to detail on assignments. But that’s because I was more interested in other things, and not what was mostly taught in science, math, or english class. And while other kids were completely immersed in the world of Harry Potter, pouring over every book in the series, I was on the internet, and in the local library, researching Warren Buffett, and the world of business/investing, as well as conceiving every which way to make money at a young age. Now that I’m older, I definitely agree with Mark Twain when he said, “I never let my schooling interfere with my education”.

So, I’d like to kick off the season with a special 3-in-1 issue. I asked Ryan Modesto (5i Research), Aaron Dunn (KeyStone Financial) and Paul Andreola (Small Cap Discoveries), to educate us about their journeys into the investment world (i.e., their “education”), including their thought processes, as well as provide some exclusive, and tailored content for you all. Ryan – insights on 25 Canadian small-cap stocks (sourced from members of the Capital Compounders Club), Aaron – thoughts on when to sell a stock (and when to buy more). Paul – explanation of “reverse engineering the perfect stock”. I know all three guys; they’re great people, and experienced investors. Our stock picks have some overlaps because we approach the markets, and construct our portfolios with a similar framework; leaving no rock un-turned to find growth stocks in the micro-cap, small-call, and mid-cap space.

Hopefully, all of this content will build on what you already know and help you become better investors. “The more you learn, the more you earn” as they say. I even encourage you to email Ryan, Aaron, and Paul if you have any questions or comments based on what you read. I’ve included their email addresses in each respective section below.

(By the way, Aaron Dunn and Ryan Modesto are both presenting at the Toronto Money Show this weekend; Sept 8/9. And I’ll be attending on Sept 9th. Let me know if you’re going too…)

Ryan Modesto (5i Research), 

At a young age, I was always interested in the concept of money: What is, how it worked, and how the value of something was determined. It first manifested itself through the discovery that I could loan out my personal savings from my piggy bank to my older siblings and magically make more money off of what I already had. Seeing dividend cheques to family members in the mail and the concept of owning a business and making money while doing ‘nothing’ immediately grabbed my attention and encouraged me to learn more about businesses, how they operate and how they make money.

It was this interest in how money and businesses work that led to my affinity for fundamental investing. Out of interest over any conscious choice, I would always find myself looking into companies: How do they operate, what’s their strategy, what do they do better, and how do they make a profit on a particular good or service. Naturally, this progressed into gaining an education in business/finance and eventually working in the field of high net worth portfolio management while investing for myself all the while.

When first starting out investing, I quickly realized that where someone could truly add value was in the less followed small to mid-cap space. In my opinion, most individuals don’t need a professional to tell them that BCE Inc., Bank of Nova Scotia or Enbridge will likely make good investments. It is the smaller names with less coverage where the help is needed (and is the niche we try to fill at 5i Research) and where great opportunities can be found. This is especially the case in Canada where many great Canadian companies operate outside of energy and metals but simply do not get the time of day from the broader investment community.

As is probably apparent, I take a bottom-up fundamental approach to investing with a focus on small to mid-cap names. Typically I will not bother with companies below a $100 million market-cap as this acts as a low-bar type of filter. If a company is really on to something and goes from a $50 million market-cap to $100 million, chances are that the growth potential will still exist and it is also significantly de-risked in terms of proving out the business model and that there is a demand for the goods and services the company provides.

Fundamentally, I try not to limit the metrics we look at but if we were to focus on a few metrics, it would likely be:

•    Revenue growth expectations
•    Strong balance sheet (debt load, cash, financial flexibility)
•    Insider ownership
•    Return on Equity
•    Past growth trends of top and bottom lines
•    Attractive margins relative to the industry
•    Qualitative factors – Company strategy, competitive advantage, shareholder friendly (no dilution, dividend raises, share buybacks, etc.)
•    Valuation relative to growth and peers

As far as the process goes, I run various stock screens that filter out companies that rank well on metrics we are looking for. This helps with idea generation. I also like to look at 52-week highs to find companies for adding to a watch list. Otherwise, the process involves reading as much as possible for new ideas and then diving into the fundamentals when an idea piques my interest. Whether it is news items, quarterly reports, management commentary or signals (such as ZCL composites signaling investors), I try to take in as much as possible within time constraints to help find the best possible opportunities, some of which are included in the list below.

Ryan’s Insights on 25 Canadian Small Caps (sourced from members of the Capital Compounders Club) – 

Covalon Technologies

A bit small for our tastes but revenue has more than doubled in the last two quarters and it looks interesting for a higher risk investor. Except for 2014, the company has ad negative operating cash flows all the way back to 2002 and it is low on cash so it may be due for a financing sooner than later. Insiders own a large amount of shares.


Insiders own over 50% of shares. The recent quarter was strong with revenue up 32.3% to $24.1 million and they gained an additional contract for Shine and Ripe, which is a key area to watch. At 13 times’ next years earning expectations, IFX is worth a closer look.


This is a company that has been a bit of a wild ride for investors. Revenues are expected to grow at 16% for the next three years but the valuation is taking a lot of that growth into consideration it seems already, with shares trading at nearly 5 times sales. The balance sheet is strong, however. It is not a company that ranks too high on our list, but does have potential.

Terravest Capital

With 69% of revenues coming out of Canada and a focus on the energy sector, it is difficult to be overly excited about TVK. Debt has been growing while cash flows are a shadow of what they were compared to the last two years.


Investors that want to gain exposure to the e-commerce trend could be well served by a company like Cargojet. Our main issue with CJT is that it is on the expensive side with only mid-single digit growth and a lot of debt. So if the economy hits a bump, names like CJT could see a lot of volatility.

Pure Multi Family REIT

RUF is doing well and we like the US exposure, which offers a bit of a stronger economy for investors. With the recent sad events in Texas and the allocation this company has to the geography, an investor may want to wait a little here in case there are some damages that occur.

Lite Access Technologies

Between a $50 million market-cap, negative momentum and the company hitting new lows, we would see little reason to own a name like this at this stage.

Savaria Corporation

We have covered SIS since it was just $5.16 and are very happy with the returns. But we think the company is just getting started. The recent purchase of Span-America has good synergy potential and strong tailwinds (aging demographics) should support the company longer-term. We have recently updated our report on SIS which can be accessed through a free trial.


This is another name that we have covered since it was at $7.40 and operates as EasyHome. The company has been seeing a lot of success in the small personal loan space and is growing its customer base at a good rate while having a cheap valuation and good dividend. It is economically sensitive, so there is more risk in a name like this inherently, but we like what we are seeing here.

Nemaska Lithium

We like the lithium space in general, so as a proxy to demand for lithium, we think Nemaska is interesting. While it is speculative, we think it can have a place in a high-risk investors portfolio.

Pioneering Technology

This is a name we recently added to our growth model portfolio. While small, PTE posts solid margins and is profitable already. Insiders own a good chunk of shares, the balance sheet is strong and not a whole lot of debt is on the balance sheet. Revenue has grown at a rate of 25% annually over the last five years and 50% over the last two years.

Redishred Capital

At a $32 million market-cap and some very volatile trading, it is hard to like KUT too much at this stage and it is a name we would give time.

Ten Peaks Coffee

We have included our recent report update on TPK as a bonus to readers. TPK is a name we want to like, but with such a long lead time until their expansion is underway and risks that exist as the build out progresses, it is a name we think an investor can come back to in a year or two.

Bellatrix Exploration

Between the high debt and share consolidation coupled with a weak energy market, we find it hard to like BXE.

Intrinsyc Technologies

ITC is an interesting name that could see some growth through the Internet of Things trend. They are getting contracts and growing the top line. This is a company that will see volatile results quarter to quarter as they still rely on relatively large single contracts that can skew results any given quarter. The key is to look at the longer-term trends in results. They also have a sizable contract that could be signed in the near-term as a catalyst.


Good ROE, high insider ownership, strong balance sheet. Its still a bit small for our tastes and while growth is good, it is from a small base. Could be a name to watch but a little too soon in our view.

Diversified Royalty

Up 11.8% as we write this due to the purchase of Air Miles Trademarks. DIV paid $53.75 million for the trademarks and DIV is looking much better after this deal. It raises DIV’s revenue by $8.5M and increases distributable cash per share by 50%. The dividend is being maintained, but the dividend payout ratio drops from above 150% to 107% and should drop under 100% with time.

Symbility Solutions

With SY trading at above a $100 million market-cap, we think it is getting interesting. Management expects $40 million in revenue this year. Context is helpful here though: SY has been around for some time now and the share price is only up 45% since 2001 or 2.8% per year, not exactly a great investment relative to the volatility and not one of our favourite names.

Avante Logixx

A lot of the growth is coming from past acquisitions but not much of this flowing to the bottom lines in the form of higher EPS. The company did note there could be an acquisition by them on the way which could act as a short-term catalyst but overall XX is a company that ranks lower on the list for us.

Siyata Mobile

Our issue with Siyata is getting our heads around the business potential. They are getting attention and making some good moves but at the end of the day we are not confident yet in the size of the market potential and the differentiation of the offering that exists. We would give this name a few quarters before considering a position.

ZCL Composites

We like ZCL. They have been a solid capital allocator, have been increasing dividends materially and buying back shares. So management is trying to get investors’ attention. Add in a decent dividend yield and fair-to-cheap valuation and we think ZCL is a solid name.

Automotive Property REIT

This company comes down to the distribution and how sustainable it is. Based on cash flows, the distribution is more or less 100% which is ok given the business model but does not leave a whole lot of wiggle room. A bit more cash n the balance sheet to act as a cushion would probably make us more comfortable here. For high risk but outsized income, we think APR looks ok.

Highliner Foods

HLF is getting quite interesting from a value investors point of view. We are not fans of the negative momentum but with a 5% yield and trading at 9 times earnings, HLF is likely getting a little oversold at this stage. The company likely fell asleep at the wheel a little with the weakness in breaded products but we think it could be a name to average into over time.


We like Freshii but the investment case here comes down to valuation. On a one and two year outlook, the shares are quite expensive, but if the company can deliver on the growth potential, we think it will do well over the long-term. If you can think 3-5 years out on this name and ignore the volatility, we think an investor will do well. The franchises can be cheap to open and fit both small and large formats and they ‘feed’ into the healthy eating trends in North America.

CVR Medical Corp

Between being down 40% in the last year and below a $20 million market-cap, this company will need to do a lot to get back into investor favour and we would give this name time before getting involved.

Aaron Dunn (KeyStone Financial),

My journey into the stock market began, believe it or not, with reading a book. The book was The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham who also happens to a key mentor of the famous Warren Buffett. Like the rest of the world, I knew who Warren Buffett was; or at least I was familiar with his reputation well enough that I knew it was worth listening to the people who mentored him. I didn’t know much about the inner workings of the stock market at the time. What I did know was that it is a critical part of our economic infrastructure and a place where capital could be grown or destroyed.  How to pick winning stocks in a practical sense was a mystery to me. Armed with the confidence of having recently completed several courses in finance, economics and accounting in my business program, I was determined to unravel this mystery. Warren Buffet once said that everyone should read this book so I knew it would be a good place to start.

A pivotal moment came for me when reading a section titled Business Valuations versus Stock-Market Valuations in Chapter 8. In this small section, Benjamin Graham laid forth the concepts of differentiating between price and value, how a company and its stock chart were not the same thing, and how focusing on share price movements over fundamentals was inhibiting investor performance.  That one section rang clear with me and opened my eyes to what investing and the financial markets really were and what they could become. In its best form, I saw symbiotic relationship between individual people that needed to grow their savings and companies that needed capital to expand their businesses; creating jobs and powering economic growth. I saw a mechanism for individual investors to profit directly from the hard work, innovation and ingenuity of talented business people and gain exposure to growing industries and niche markets that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

The reality of the stock market is not this simple. But I believe that fear and mistrust of the financial markets stem mostly from a lack of understanding. When armed with tools to understand investing and make informed decisions, people are able to avoid the situations that get them into trouble…unscrupulous advisors and promotors and speculative or highly complicated investments.  I knew very quickly that my path was to help guide people on their journey through stock market and to the end destination of achieving their financial goals.

Aaron’s Thoughts on Making the “Sell Decision” – 

In my experience, investors fret far more over making the decision to SELL than they do to BUY. Selling elicits powerful emotional triggers. Selling after a huge return allows you to lock in profit but there is the fear of missing out if the share price keeps rising.  Selling after a big decline allows you to avoid further losses but eliminates the opportunity of any future recovery. These are the decisions that cause many investors a great deal of stress. The fear of lost opportunities balanced with the fear of losing existing capital. Making the wrong decision can cause an emotional sting that stays with you for many months or even many years.

The way to approach the SELL decision is to remove the emotion from the equation. At one point you made the decision to BUY the stock and you need to return to those initial reasons. Those reasons should have been based on an informed analysis of the financial characteristics of the company, the market in which the company operates and the share price valuation relative to the underlying profitability (don’t overpay for assets). What’s changed since you bought the company? Have positive earnings turned into net losses? Has growth slowed or the outlook deteriorated? Has the management team made promises on which they haven’t been able to deliver? Has the company become significantly more expensive on a price-to-earnings or price-to-cash flow basis? Every situation is different but these are the types of questions you need to ask yourself.  Not liking the answers is an indication that it is likely time to SELL.

At KeyStone, we’ve made many hundreds of BUY and SELL decisions over our 17 year history. Within these individual scenarios there is a clear pattern that can be applied to any stock investment. Below I’ve provided 4 individual, real life examples of when we were faced with the decision to BUY, SELL, or HOLD and the process we used to provide value to our clients.

Case Study 1: Share Price Down – SELL Now!

An abrupt drop in a company’s stock price can cause fear and panic. For many value investors, a lower share price marks a potential opportunity but in many cases the market is correctly revaluing a company based on a change in financial characteristics.

Grenville Strategic Royalties (GRC) is a company that we recommended to clients back in February of 2015 at a price of $0.62. They had a relatively unique business which was to provide financing to small and medium sized companies in exchange for ongoing royalty payments. The company had recently transitioned into profitability, was generating attractive returns, paid a dividend yield of 8%, and had a compelling growth profile while trading at a valuation well below peers at the time. The company continued to execute its strategy well over the year following our recommendation for which the market rewarded it and its investors with a growing share price. But on April 26th, 2016, the situation changed for us after the company released its Q3 results after market. The numbers (revenue and cash flow) on the report continued to look good but what troubled us was that management had recently made nearly $6 million in follow-on (secondary) investments into companies which only months later were now being classified as distressed. This particular decision was going to cost the company in future quarters but more importantly it reflected in what we saw as a fundamental flaw in management’s decision making process. In this case, it appeared to us that management had made decision to throw new money to prop-up poor investments as opposed to making the hard but prudent decision of accepting mistakes and cutting loses. We knew when we invested in the company that management’s decision making ability was pivotal to success. With our confidence in management shook and future profitability in question, we knew we had to immediately issue a SELL recommendation on the stock even with certainty that the share price would open much lower on the next day.

No surprise to us the share price closed the next day down 35% to $0.52 compared to $0.80 per share immediately before the release of the financial results. With the dividend, the return was about flat or slightly higher based on the original recommendation price but still significantly below where the stock had traded in just the weeks and months before. It’s difficult to SELL a company when you are underwater as the string of a loss and hope of a recovery are powerful motivators for many investors. But we knew that the situation had changed significantly since we recommended the stock. We wouldn’t buy the company in its then current condition, so why should we continue to HOLD it? After issuing our SELL recommendation the situation did not improve for the company. Profitability deteriorated, they discontinued their once attractive dividend and the share price continued slide, trading now at only $0.12 per share down another 77% from where we were able to get out.

Case Study 2: Share Price Down – HOLD or BUY More

Applied Optoelectronics (AAOI: NASDAQ) is a company that we recommended as part of our U.S. research in April, 2016, for a price of US$15.99. At the time the company had 5 straight years of revenue growth, 3 straight years of earnings growth, margins were improving and it was selling leading edge technology into a high growth market. The stock was also trading at a valuation well below peers after factoring in the growth rate. Very shortly after our recommendation the company released its quarterly results and much to the surprise of both us and the market, earnings were well below expectations. The result was a near 30% drop in the share price to $11.70 in a single day. Now anyone investing in the stock market needs to accept the reality of share price volatility, but when a company you own falls by so much in a single day, the general reaction is one of panic and this will cause many investors will instantly hit the SELL button. This is a very understandable reaction and in many cases selling will be the right move to make. But rather than being reactionary, we needed to understand what happened in the quarter, review the business fundamentals in the context of this new information, and go back to the original reason that we recommended the company in the first place.

Revenue growth in the quarter was actually tremendous but the company reported a net loss compared what was expected to be strong profitability. The issue came down to a significant increase in costs, partly resulting from redesign activities associated with cost reduction efforts as well as higher R&D expenses. Based on our analysis, it appeared that this was just a short-term bump in the road in what was still a healthy business selling into a growing market. We knew when we recommended the company that there would be lumpiness in quarterly performance, and while this was much more than we expected, the longer-term investment thesis and fundamentals had not materially changed. Based on this analysis, we advised clients to HOLD their positions after the disappointing quarter and then we re-initiated our BUY recommendation after the next quarterly report was released and it was clear that the company was back on track.

Applied Optoelectronics recovered very quickly after its quarterly blunder and went on to close 2016 at $23 per share, up 44% from our original recommendation price. The stock then went on to be one of the top performing stocks on the NASDAQ for the first half of 2017 and today trades at over $60 per share, or 275% above where we recommended it (much better than the 26% loss we would have incurred had we sided with the market and overreacted to the quarterly report).

Case Study 3: Share Price Up – Get Out and Take Profits

High Arctic Energy Services (HWO: TSX) was recommended in our research in January, 2013, at a price of $2.36. Unlike the name implies, the company had nothing to do with the high arctic. It also wasn’t your typically oil & gas service company which is an industry we generally avoid due to the cyclicality and highly volatile share prices. This company was different. Most of its business was in Papa New Guinea where it provided drilling and equipment rental services to what we saw as a very attractive market.  The company’s work in the region was primarily provided under multi-year contacts with strong demand in the area underpinned by a US$19 billion LNG (liquid natural gas) plant being constructed in partnership between ExxonMobile and OilSearch. Unlike its North American counterparts, High Arctic’s revenue and cash flow profile was relatively stable. The company also had a balance sheet flush with cash, no debt, and traded at an incredibly attractive valuation relative to earnings.

The stability of High Arctic Energy was certainly tested when the energy sector started to fall apart in 2014 and oil prices fell from over $100 per barrel to a low of under $30 over the subsequent 2 years. In spite of the challenging industry conditions, the company continued to produce strong growth in revenue and cash flow while its North American peers were reporting net losses and struggling to keep afloat. High Arctic added more and more net cash to its balance sheet, eventually amassing a substantial cash war chest which we expected would be used for reinvestment back into the business, to pay dividends, and to pursue accretive acquisitions.

Finally in February of 2017, when the share price was trading at $6.20 per share (up 163% from the original recommendation not including dividends) we elected to issue a SELL recommendation and crystalize our profit. Why did we decide to SELL when it appeared things were going so well? As with the other examples, we went back to the original reason we liked the stock and compared that profile to the company that we saw on that day. The fundamentals of the business were still strong, but management had eventually decided to invest the company’s excess cash into an acquisition. Unfortunately, rather than finding a way to invest more into what was working well for the company they decided to take a contrarian approach and purchase oil & gas services assets in North America where the profitability profile was highly uncertain.

For us, this shifted the focus of the company, from a very unique and relatively stable overseas operator to what appeared now to be a fairly standard North American energy services business. This is not what we signed up for and with the share price up over 160% since our initial recommendation, and 50% over the previous 6 months, we were also now holding a stock that had become more expensive on a price-to-earnings basis. It wasn’t an easy decision to SELL a stock which at the time had such strong share price momentum behind it. Focusing on the business fundamentals and original reason we became shareholders allowed us to remove emotion from the process. Within a few weeks of our SELL recommendation the share price started on a steady decline and is now down 40% from the day we decided to exit.

Case Study 4: Share Price Up – Keep Buying More!

Warren Buffett once said that his favourite holding period for a stock is forever. This is clear departure from the way a lot of people trade try to invest today which is more focused on constant trading and trying to capture quick returns. What Buffett means is that some companies will continue grow and thrive over multi-year and multi-decade periods and as long as the investment thesis remains intact then you never have to SELL. These are the best companies to own. For at least the past 6 years, we think that Brookfield Infrastructure (BIP.UN) has fit this profile.

We recommended Brookfield Infrastructure in March of 2011 at a price of $14.40 per unit (adjusted for a 3 for 2 stock split in Aug 2016). The company was a dividend growth play. It paid a yield of close to 6% at the time and income distributions were increasing. Underpinning these income distributions were utility-style assets with 80% of cash flow derived from regulated or contracted revenue. In spite of being a stable, utility-like business, it was also a growth stock with a large backlog of organic growth projects and a successful acquisition strategy. Investors had the opportunity to purchase unit in this company at what we considered to be an attractive valuation of about 15 times free cash flow.

Since the time of our recommendation, the company’s stock price has been on a steady rise upwards and trades at over $55 today. This is a 281% increase over the recommendation period or an average of 23% per year before accounting for dividends. To put this into perspective, the TSX index overall has averaged about 1% per year over this period before dividends. What makes this even more notable is that we recommended the company as part of our conservative income research…large, established, and stable companies that pay a nice income yield and let you sleep at night.

Over the past 6 and a half years, the question has been brought up many, many of times of whether or not clients should continue to BUY or lock in profits and SELL their positions. When you are up 50%, and then 100%, 150%, and then over 200% on a stock, there is a concern that these attractive profits could be lost and a tendency to cash out and protect your gains by moving capital somewhere else. In some cases, this would be a wise move, but the decision to SELL or BUY once again comes down the fundamentals and an analysis of why the price has been rising. We have updated Brookfield Infrastructure 17 times since our recommended on 16 of these occasions reiterated our BUY recommendation on the stock (most recently in August of this year).

Why continue to BUY a stock that has already appreciated so much? Put simply, a thorough analysis of the company indicated to us that the original investment thesis was still intact. The rising price was not driven by investor exuberance and market momentum but rather by double-digit growth in cash flow and income distributions per unit and an outlook for future growth that continued to be strong. It’s nice to cash out on a big gain but by focusing on the fundamentals over the stock chart, you can stay invested in a stock which continues to generate solid year-over-year performance. In the case of Brookfield Infrastructure, since 2011 the company had paid over US$7.00 in income distributions to its investors representing over half of the original purchase price.

Paul Andreola (Small Cap Discoveries),

A former investment advisor and serial entrepreneur, Paul has been profiting in the small cap space for over two decades. His relentless focus on growing, profitable small caps has uncovered some of Canada’s biggest winners in the last few years. Paul started Small Cap Discoveries with co-editor Brandon Mackie to share his ideas and help retail investors reach their investing potential.

Paul uses a focused criteria in his research: high revenue growth, fundamental cash flow and earnings in micro-cap and small cap companies. His successful track record in getting 100%-1000% returns from his stocks comes from studying financial statements and industry reports and using his street sources, so by the time he talks to management—he knows almost as much about the company and the industry as they do.

Paul has honed his skills from 30 years of varied small cap experience. He has been the co-founder of two public companies and CEO and director of another—all three in the technology space. He also helped raise the initial funding for each. This experience gives him an important view when he is interviewing management for newsletter stock picks. He knows the pitfalls and mistakes that management teams must avoid.

Paul also spent 10 years as a retail stockbroker, again focusing exclusively on small caps. He knows the capital structures that work and don’t work in the micro cap space. He knows the company, the industry, AND the stock. His goal is to be first in identifying small cap growth stocks before they are discovered by the broader market. That involves hours of exhaustive fundamental research, and then drawing on a tight network of experienced and senior contacts.

There are no resource stocks in Paul’s portfolio—which is where most of Canada’s small cap crowd focuses. The Canadian micro cap market – especially the non-resource space – is a huge opportunity for investors willing to dig deep and uncover these hidden gems. Paul understands the intricacies of the public markets and the challenges small cap companies face. He is now funnelling all that experience and discipline into a newsletter called Small Cap Discoveries.

Paul is also the CEO and director of Brisio Innovations a small publicly listed investment holding company that owns many of Paul’s favourite micro cap investments.

Some recent winners –

RX.V ($1.20 – $7.50),
COV.V ($0.15 – $1.40)
CPH.T ($2.20 – $12.50)
PTE.V (0.125 – $1.10) current holding
HTL.V ($0.10 – $0.78) current holding
LTE.V ($0.25 – $1.88) current holding
IPA.V ($0.30 – $1.15) current holding

We review financial statement (quarterly and annual reports) of every company in Canada. We do not use screening software. We do it the old fashioned way because we find that screening software will miss the occasional company and those likely turn out to be the better opportunities because the lower number of people seeing them. Also by manually reviewing financial statements we can find the accounting adjustments that could overstate or understate the true state of the company.

We have a strict set of criteria that we use to sift through the thousands of Canadian listed companies. We look for growth, profitability, shares structure, share ownership and ultimately price to value. It’s hard to value growth companies, especially small ones. Many of these companies are small, illiquid and difficult to analyse as there is not much information available. But because we have been doing this for many years we know where to look and more importantly what to look for to get the info we need to make the proper calculated decision.

The first screen only puts the company on the work list. Then the real work begins. We dig into the financials, management history, capital funding history, structure and a host of other things. We start interviewing management and sometimes talk to customers, shareholders and almost anyone with a history with the company. But we also look at probably one of the most over looked items with publicly listed companies…. “how discovered the company is”.

We believe there is a discovery process that drives the bulk of a company’s share price when it is small. What we mean by this is the process of a company going from investment obscurity to market darling. This can be where the explosive share price growth comes from apart from just how well the company performs. We have a formula to figure out how well known the company is in the investment community.

Most small companies don’t have the means to properly gain market exposure. Little budget, little experience and some with little incentive or need for exposure.

Let’s compare 2 microcap companies….one that is quietly working away building the business by internal cash flow and perhaps management self funding. The other needs constant outside financing to execute it’s business plan, develop their product, finance their losses etc. Who gets the attention of the broker/financial community? Usually it’s the company that can generate the most fees and commissions for the brokers. Financings are the golden goose for most brokerage firms. The weaker, riskier company needing money usually gets the interest of those who then have the ear of the investing community. Out come the research reports and the brokers and management promoting the future of this company. Meanwhile the other profitable little company quietly whiles away in near obscurity.

It’s these obscure little companies that have proven to offer the best risk/reward opportunity for savvy smaller investors. They also offer another advantage for small investors….sometimes they are too small for larger investors. It’s a weird situation. Those investors that very good at micro cap investing become too big for micro cap investing. They have to move up the food chain to bigger companies to be able to move the needle. Therefore a new crop of savvy micro cap investors are needed to take advantage of these smaller opportunities. It’s where Warren Buffett learned his trade. He is now far too big to play with these little companies.

I truly believe it is one of the last areas where small investors have an advantage if they put in the time and effort.

Paul’s Explanation of “Reverse Engineering the Perfect Stock” –

We are going to tell you about the perfect stock that could make you millions of dollars. Few investors know about this stock even though it’s a multi-bagger in plain sight. Okay, on with it – what is it!? Here are a few clues…

The stock is a micro-cap, under $20 million-dollar market cap, and has had three straight years of operating profits. The company is rapidly growing at over 25% per year, all of it generated organically.

The company has high gross margins at 75% and a scalable business model, allowing operating earnings to grow at a 50% clip.

The company’s industry is experiencing secular tailwinds and growth is expected to accelerate over the next few years.

Being a first mover, the company has no competitors in its niche and new entrants have failed to displace this company because of switching costs and the mission-critical nature of its product.

The combination of pricing power and lack of capital requirements allow the company to achieve extraordinary returns on its invested capital, well over 100%. The company is debt-free and funds its growth entirely from operating cash flows.

Insiders collectively own 40% of the company and the CEO has a 25%+ stake. He bought in with his own money 5 years ago and has added to his stake through open market purchases.

Management has maintained a clean share structure consisting of less than 30 million shares outstanding and no warrants or preferred shares. The low float and small size of this company have kept its stock off the radar of institutions, which own less than 10%.

We all know there is no such thing as a “perfect stock.” That said, we believe there exists certain characteristics that form the DNA of any investor’s dream: a multi-bagger than you can hold on to for years.

What follows is our list of 14 such qualities, organized by key fundamental, business model, and technical criteria (note we use stock/company interchangeably throughout). Enjoy!

Key Fundamental Criteria:


Profits are the lifeblood of any company and cash flows generated by the business ultimately determine the value of your investment.

A company that can fund itself internally avoids financing risks, which can cause massive losses through dilution or excess debt. While bio-techs prove positive cash flows are not necessary for success, working with profitable companies will simplify your valuation process and margin of safety assessment.
At a minimum, we will want to see two solidly profitable quarters and preferably a 3-year track record of profits (or more!).

Rapidly Growing

Assuming a company is generating returns on capital above the costs of that capital, growth is enormously beneficial to the company and its shareholders.

New products, customers, and business lines typically bring more profits and drive the company’s intrinsic value.

Ideally, all of this growth should be organic. Too often, acquisitions don’t deliver on their promised synergies and yield much of their value to the seller through premiums paid. We will want rapid organic revenue growth, a minimum of 25% year-over-year.

Attractive Valuation

The key to investing is not finding the best companies, but rather the largest discrepancies between price and intrinsic value.

Buying at a low valuation provides downside protection in the event your thesis does not play out, while allowing for huge upside if things go well. Valuation is more art than science, and finding the most useful metrics to employ can be tricky.

Our valuations usually begin with an adjusted Enterprise Value/EBIT multiple, which incorporates the company’s balance sheet and strips out non-operating items to better present true earnings power.

We will want this multiple below 10 and ideally below 7 – the lower, the better.

No Debt / Financing Requirement

Debt can juice a company’s returns but often leaves the business vulnerable to the unexpected: a major customer loss, a regulatory change, or a patent infringement suit.

This situation is made worse when the market knows an equity raise is coming, effectively holding the company hostage to its share price. Investing carries enough risk as it is – crossing off dilution/bankruptcy risk is key to putting the odds in your favor.

Example: A $10 million dollar market cap company has $6M in debt, no cash, earns $2 million dollars a year in EBIT, and trades at 8X Enterprise Value/EBIT.

If the company suffers a major contract loss which cuts EBIT in half, you would face an 80% loss on your investment assuming the company maintains its valuation multiple(1 million X 8 = 8-6 = 2 million).

High leverage magnifies negative events in a big way.

We will want our company to have no debt and plenty of cash in the bank for growth investment. The company should have no need for future debt/equity raises and fund itself entirely through internal cash flows.

Durable Competitive Advantage

Durable competitive advantages, or economic moats as Warren Buffet calls them, are derived from only a handful of sources: brand power, switching costs, patent/government protection, and network effects.

Economic theory holds that in absence of one of these forces, competitive pressure will reduce all company’s Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) to the cost of capital.

Sources of economic moats are not all created equal. Government protection often proves unsustainable and brand power can be just as easily eroded in some cases.

We will want our company to benefit from switching costs, network effects, or both. Banks, software providers, and business service companies are all beneficiaries of switching costs. Social media and auction platforms are prime sources of network effects.

High Returns on Capital / Low Capital Requirements

The less capital investment a company requires to keep its competitive position, the more profits that are left over to invest in growth or be returned to shareholders.

By nature, some companies require little capital while others require seemingly endless amounts to stay afloat.

This intrinsic quality, along with competitive positioning determines the Return on Invested Capital our company can achieve. Return on Invested Capital (ROIC)  is a key value driver – the higher the ROIC, the more shareholders stand to benefit from growth.

Example: Capital-light/high-ROIC businesses include software, database, and franchising companies.

Capital-intensive/low-ROIC investments to be avoided include railroad companies, automotive manufacturers, and above all, airlines. By requiring our company to have a ROIC above 50%, we will be big beneficiaries from any growth the company generates.

High Gross Margins

Gross Margin (GM) refers to how much profit is left after the direct costs of products/services are covered. The higher the gross margin, the more profits will accelerate with sales growth.

Example: If Business A has 75% GMs and Business B has 25% GMs, Business A will experience three times the impact on profits from each dollar of new business as compared to Business B.

High gross margin companies include patent licensors, medical device manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies. Examples of low gross margin companies are automotive suppliers, construction contractors, and retailers.

Gross margins will vary widely based on industry but in general, the higher the better. We will want our company to have gross margins of at least 50%.

Scalable Business Model

Scalability refers to a company’s ability to leverage its infrastructure as it grows. A good measure of this is the Degree of Operating Leverage (DOL), or the percent change in EBIT divided by the percent change in revenues.

Example: Once a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company invests in the infrastructure to create and sell its software, each incremental subscription can be delivered at virtually no additional cost.

Compare this model to a restaurant, which must pay rent, labor, and food costs with every location opened. Software and database companies are often scalable, while restaurant operators and manufacturers tend not to be.

Ideally, we will want our company’s operating expenses to grow at half the rate of revenues or less (DOL >= 2).

Non-cyclical, Recurring Revenues

Recurring revenues afford a business the advantages of predictable cash flows to base investment decisions on and high lifetime customer values.

Recurring revenues also aid investors in projecting future cash flows and performing valuations.

A stable, non-cyclical business offers the similar advantage of predictable cash flows, while offering safety in case of a sharp economic downturn.

Example: Any business with a subscription model, such as SaaS or security monitoring, is likely to have recurring revenues. Food, tobacco, and alcoholic beverage companies are all classic examples of recession-resistant businesses.

We will want a business with over 50% of their revenues recurring and a low sensitivity to general economic conditions.


Much like large companies forge their own anchors as they grow, small companies have the law of small numbers on their side. Small size often offers a long runway for growth and magnifies each positive development.

Example: Think of a SaaS company doing $10M per year annually that announces a $2M contract. This business becomes 20% more valuable over night, and perhaps far more given the operating leverage inherent in software.

We will want to stick to companies below a $300M market cap, and ideally less than $50M.

Low Float / Clean Share Structure

Low float (freely tradeable shares) results from a low share count, high inside ownership, or a combination of the two.

From a technical standpoint, a low share float can lead to massive price increases as investors rush to bid on a limited supply of shares.

On a more fundamental level, the float is a reflection of how management has financed the business in the past and their relative ownership of the company.

We will want no more than 50 million shares outstanding and preferably less than 30 million. The float should be significantly lower due to insider ownership (discussed below). We will also want to see a clean share structure, with low or no warrants or exotic convertible instruments.

High Insider Ownership

We want a management team that behaves like owners and this is not possible unless they ARE owners.

For the micro-caps we are interested in, we will want to see insiders collectively owning at least 30% of the company, with the CEO himself owning at least 15%.

It is also important to assess how management got their stakes – did they buy in with their own money or was it given to them through options and share grants?

Management adding to their stakes through open market purchases is often a big plus. This demonstrates insiders believe in the company’s future and you should too.

Low Institutional Ownership

For a variety of reasons, many institutions cannot invest in the small-caps we are interested in. Some have restrictions against stocks under $5 or companies that trade on the Toronto Venture Exchange (TSX V).

With all the desirable qualities discussed thus far, institutions will be drooling over our company waiting for the company’s size/liquidity to reach their buying criteria.

When this happens, look out! Triple digit gains are quite likely as institutions pile into a “must own” stock.

To leave this big catalyst open, we will want to see institutional ownership under 10%.

Secular Industry Tailwinds

Never forget to look beyond the fundamental and technical factors to understand the underlying trends in the company’s industry.

Beyond a company’s own efforts, secular industry tailwinds are often necessary to sustain our 25+% revenue growth target.

Industry tailwinds also have the bonus of attracting investor attention, which can lead to big gains as our company is viewed as a unique play in a hot sector.

Example: Organic foods, mobile applications, and network security software are all industries undergoing secular growth phases.

100 Baggers; Where to Look for the Big Winners



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I was at the Toronto Reference Library this past weekend, and found the investment book gem, “100 to 1 in the Stock Market”. It’s the ONLY original copy remaining in library circulation, published in 1972. I had to make a special request at the library to retrieve it from their archives. I’m kinda a book nerd. Anyway, the author, Thomas W. Phelps uncovered 365 stocks that turned into 100-baggers, within the 1932 – 1971 period, and explained how one could find the next 100-baggers (where each $1 invested grows to $100 or more). I’ve posted below the “the four categories of stocks that have turned in 100-to-one performance records”, as explained by Thomas W. Phelps in the chapter, Where to Look for the Big Winners:

Phelps influenced guys like Chuck Akre (especially on point #4 in the screenshot above) and many other top investors. Here’s what Akre said about “100 to 1 in the Stock Market”, and his own investing journey, in the famous speech – An Investor’s Odyssey: The Search for Outstanding Investments – that he gave at the 8th Annual Value Investor Conference in April 2011, Omaha, right before the annual shareholder meeting of Berkshire Hathaway:

In 1972, I read a book that was reviewed in Barron’s… called “101 to 1 in the Stock Market” by Thomas Phelps. He represented an analysis of investments gaining 101 times one’s starting price. Phelps was a Boston investment manager of no particular reputation, as far as I know, but he certainly was on to something which he outlined in this book. Reading the book really helped me focus on the issue of compounding capital… Here was Phelps talking about 100-baggers, so what’s the deal? Well Phelps laid out a series of examples where an investor would in fact have made 100 times his money. Further he laid out some of the characteristics which would compound these investments. So in addition to absorbing Phelps’ thesis, I’ve been reading the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A)(BRK.B) annual reports since I’ve made my first purchase in 1977, so this collective experience moved me along to a point where I’ve developed my own list of critical insights and ingredients for successful investment. 

Akre, who founded Akre Capital Management, coined the term “compounding machines” to describe businesses that are capable of compounding the shareholders’ capital at high rates for long periods of time with little risk of permanent loss of capital. And he came up with a brilliant visualization to explain his investment philosophy, which he called the “the three-legged stool” (he actually has a stool in his office’s main boardroom as a constant reminder).

“(1)The first leg of the stool has to do with the business models that are likely to compound the shareholders’ capital at above-average rates, combined with leg two, (2) people who run the business who are not only exceptional at running the business but also see to it that what happens at the company level also happens at the per share level–and then leg three, (3) where because of the nature of the business and the skill of the manager there is both history as well as an opportunity to reinvest all the excess capital they generate in places where they earn these above-average rates of return.”

Now, I don’t want it to seem like finding, and then investing in 100-baggers is easy. The odds are stacked against us all. But I do believe that the quest, and hard work involved to find 100-bagger stocks makes us better investors. We’re pushing ourselves to turn over every rock to find the possible future winners. That means sifting through thousands of stocks, on multiple exchanges, and reading countless financial statements, and quarterly releases.

In my last newsletter issue, MicroCap Interview, I revealed my micro-cap watchlist. Since then, I’ve decided to experiment in the Canadian micro-cap space. Micro-caps are those companies on the TSX and TSX Venture Exchange that trade below $100 million market capitalizations. Out of hundreds of companies, I selected only 16 stocks (see below – do you own any of these stocks too?). I looked for micro companies that can possibly turn into multi-baggers on the foundation of their unique product/service, large addressable market, long runway to grow, exceptional management, high/steady gross margins, high revenue growth, and in most cases – profitable, cash flow positive, high return on equity (ROE), and return on capital (ROIC) operations.

My Canadian MicroCap Portfolio (est. Aug 2017) –

Namsys Inc
Vigil Health Solutions
Pioneering Technology Corp
Vitreous Glass Inc
AirIQ Inc
DMD Digital Health Connections Group Inc
Redishred Capital Corp
Sunora Foods Inc
Bevo Agro Inc
Imaflex Inc
Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits Inc
CVR Medical Corp
Intrinsync Technologies
Greenspace Brands
Ten Peaks Coffee

I’ll provide updates in the future – hopefully it all works out. I’m well aware that some micro-caps might fail, while others will be average performers, but it’s the 2-3 that possibly turn into multi-baggers that I’m really excited about. Overtime, I’ll invest more capital into the winners, and trim or eliminate the losers, if any decline more than 50%. We’ll see – time will tell. (note – I previously owned 4 micro-cap stocks in my list above – Intrinsync Technologies, Greenspace Brands, Ten Peaks Coffee, and Ceapro, but have now segmented those into my new MicroCap Portfolio).

Jeff Bezos on the Future; What’s Not Going to Change in the Next 10 Years



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Jeff Bezos, no doubt, is one of the top Corporate Leaders of our time.

Bezos on the ‘future’:

“I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

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Chuck Akre’s “three-legged stool” – the Foundation of Compounding Machines



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Chuck Akre’s “three-legged stool” – the three foundations of “Compounding Machines”, as he calls them:

“(1)The first leg of the stool has to do with the business models that are likely to compound the shareholders’ capital at above-average rates, combined with leg two, (2) people who run the business who are not only exceptional at running the business but also see to it that what happens at the company level also happens at the per share level–and then leg three, (3) where because of the nature of the business and the skill of the manager there is both history as well as an opportunity to reinvest all the excess capital they generate in places where they earn these above-average rates of return.”

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Terry Smith of “Fundsmith” and 20% Annualized Return



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Across the pond, in the U.K., there’s a fellow named Terry Smith who runs the successful “Fundsmith” fund. He’s a really intelligent, and no-nonsense investor. Smith has achieved a 20% annualized return since inception. In this video interview (, Mr. Smith discusses Capital Compounders vs “Value Stocks”. Check out the video. It’s only 5 mins.

Fundsmith’s TOP 10 HOLDINGS Q1 2017

CR Bard
Intercontinental Hotels
Philip Morris

Robin Speziale Net Worth: $450,000 – August 2017



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Robin Speziale’s Net Worth: $450,000 (2017)

I’m going to start updating my blog with Net Worth Updates. Most likely on an annual basis. Currently, (August, 2017) this is my Net Worth: $450,000.

I’ve built my net worth over time through working – part-time and full-time, investing in stocks, dabbling in online opportunities (eBay, websites, etc.) and receiving book royalty payments from my publisher (ECW Press; Market Masters), and SmashWords (other eBooks).

I’m 30 now. But my plan is to build my net worth up to $1,000,000 within the next decade (i.e., before 2028) by the time I’m 40, but preferably to build a stock portfolio that’s worth $1,000,000 (I like liquid assets). Lots can happen between now and then, so we’ll see.

Assets –

  • Condo: $420,000
  • Stocks: $300,000
  • TOTAL ASSETS: $720,000

Liabilities –

  • Mortgage: $270,000

Robin Speziale Net Worth –


Unlearn What You’ve Learned; My Advice to All University, College Students and Young People Out There



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Most people live their lives with an ‘illusion of control’. They go to school, get good grades, and then enter the workforce. They “choose” a profession – whether that’s an engineer, scientist, or accountant, and then in-debt themselves to a big mortgage, two cars, a cottage, and other shiny things. And for the next 40 years, they work at a job that they don’t really like in order to pay for those things that they don’t really need. They’ve become “debt slaves” to the system, and looking back, realize that all of that schooling was a process to merely create productive corporate workers out of them. They’re lost, and ask themselves, “what’s the point in all of this – what have I done with my life?”, but only have this epiphany until it’s too late.

Well, I’m telling you now; unlearn what you’ve learned.

The great Mark Twain said: “I never let my schooling interfere with my education” and that “all schools, all colleges, have two great functions: to confer, and to conceal, valuable knowledge.”

Unlearn what you’ve learned.

I wasn’t a very good student in school. I got so-so grades. And most of my teachers told me that I was either inconsistent, didn’t pay attention to detail, or seemed uninterested in class. Well, they were right. I was uninterested. While I quickly skimmed through my science textbook, I poured over books on investing in the stock market throughout high school, latching onto role models like Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch, and Benjamin Graham as I developed an insatiable drive to make it on my own by investing in stocks. I decided that I didn’t just want a “normal” life. I wanted financial freedom so that I could have real control and do something that I actually enjoy.

And so when I entered the University of Waterloo in 2005, I was more excited about the fact that at 18, I could open my first brokerage account and trade stocks. Fast forward to today; I built a $300,000 stock portfolio before 30, which I plan to grow to $1,000,000 before 40. And that’s not even “work” to me. It’s fun. How much fun? Well, on my way to building wealth, I wrote three books on finance & investing, with one becoming a national bestseller; Market Masters. I wanted to share the wealth; that is, knowledge on investing in stocks. I was only 28. Oh, and I was rejected by 50 publishers. Not to mention that I don’t even have a finance background to even “qualify” me for writing a book on finance. No bachelor’s degree in finance. No CSC. And no CFA. Honestly; I’d probably flunk all those exams. But I’m self-taught. I really know how invest in stocks and build wealth in the stock market. I’m great at it. And there’s the secret: I’m great at investing because I love the process. I’m always learning.

So, put down your text books from time to time and actually educate yourself on what YOU want to learn. You’ve got no excuse today with the proliferation of information on the internet; everything is available at your fingertips. What do YOU want to learn? What excites you? What comes easy to you? Build on that. If you want to be financially free, deliver value to people, feel pride in what you do, and take control of your life, you need to monetize something that you are passionate about. Make it your business.

Start with an idea, and then be mindful about how to make it happen. Here’s my blueprint: Mix intelligence, energy, and focus.

Be mindful of all three because you need intelligence, energy, and focus to actually achieve something. Trust me; there’s people who are intelligent but have no energy. And people who are full of energy but have no focus. You need all three. And when I say intelligence, I mean learning something of value, and being knowledge in something that actually inspires you. Remember what Mr. Twain said: don’t let school interfere with education.

So after reading this, think about what I’ve said today and unlearn what you’ve learned. I know; it’s tough. And you’ll be breaking from convention. But I don’t think you want to become like everyone else; living your life with an ‘illusion of control’: go to school, get good grades, and then enter the workforce, working at a job that you don’t really like in order to pay for those things that you don’t really need. Don’t become lost, asking yourself, “what’s the point in all of this – what did I do with my life?”, and only realizing that until it’s too late. Unlearn what you’ve learned. Educate yourself; learn about something that really interests you. Build something great with your knowledge. Make it your business. Lead a great life. A free life. And take control of you.

My MicroCap Portfolio Experiment – Investing in 16 Canadian Micro-Cap Stocks



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I’ve decided to experiment in the Canadian Micro-cap space. Micro-caps are those companies on the TSX and TSX Venture Exchange that trade below $100 million market capitalizations. Out of hundreds of companies, I selected only 16 stocks (see below – do you own any of these stocks too?). I looked for micro companies that can possibly turn into multi-baggers on the foundation of their unique product/service, large addressable market, long runway to grow, exceptional management,  high/steady gross margins, high revenue growth, and in most cases – profitable, cash flow positive, high return on equity (ROE), and return on capital (ROIC) operations.

Check out my MicroCap Portfolio (est. Aug 2017) below – 16 micro cap stocks. I’ll provide updates in the future – hopefully it all works out. I’m well aware that some micro-caps might fail, while others will be average performers, but it’s the 2-3 that possibly turn into multi-baggers that I’m really excited about. Overtime, I’ll invest more capital into the winners, and trim or eliminate the losers, if any decline more than 50%. We’ll see – time will tell. (note – I previously owned 4 micro-cap stocks below – Intrinsync Technologies, Greenspace Brands, Ten Peaks Coffee, and Ceapro, but have now segmented them into my new MicroCap Portoflio).

My Canadian MicroCap Portfolio (est. Aug 2017)

Namsys Inc
Vigil Health Solutions
Pioneering Technology Corp
Vitreous Glass Inc
AirIQ Inc
DMD Digital Health Connections Group Inc
Redishred Capital Corp
Sunora Foods Inc
Bevo Agro Inc
Imaflex Inc
Diamond Estates Wines & Spirits Inc
CVR Medical Corp
Intrinsync Technologies
Greenspace Brands
Ten Peaks Coffee


Francois Rochon – The Compounding Machine



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I’ve previously written about Francois Rochon, founder of Giverny Capital, but now I’d like to announce that Francois Rochon has joined the Capital Compounders Club on Facebook (join now!). I met Francois in December, 2016. He’ll be in the sequel to my book – Market Masters. Please join and welcome Francois, the Compounding Machine, to the group!

Francois Rochon founded Giverny Capital (est. 1998), a money management firm located in Montreal (Old Town), QC. Assets Under Management (AUM) are over $500 million. His investment philosophy comes down to “owning outstanding companies for the long term”, which means that Francois selects, and invests in outstanding ‘Capital Compounders’. See a list of Giverny Capital’s 13F holdings on Whale Wisdom:….

The Rochon Global Portfolio has achieved a 15.9% annualized rate of return since inception, clearly beating the index. That means $100,000 invested in 1993, with Rochon, would have compounded into over $3,180,000 by the end of 2016. (source:…/Rendements-Rochon-global-en…). Francois is a Compounding Machine.

Here are Francois’ key points on investing, that he re-posted recently in the Giverny Capital 2016 Annual Letter:

  • We believe that over the long run, stocks are the best class of investments.
  • It is futile to predict when it will be the best time to begin buying (or selling) stocks.
  • A stock return will eventually echo the increase in per share intrinsic value of the underlying company (usually linked to the return on equity).
  • We choose companies that have high (and sustainable) margins and high returns on equity, good long term prospects and are managed by brilliant, honest, dedicated and altruistic people.
  • Once a company has been selected for its exceptional qualities, a realistic valuation of its intrinsic value has to be approximately assessed.
  • The stock market is dominated by participants that perceive stocks as casino chips.
  • With that knowledge, we can then sometimes buy great businesses well below their intrinsic values.
  • There can be quite some time before the market recognizes the true value of our companies. But if we’re right on the business, we will eventually be right on the stock.

More Reading:

8 Keys to Successful Investing-…/The_Keys_to_Successful_In…

Column in the Montreal Gazette-…/francois-rochon-special-to-the…

DIY Investor Feature: Philippe Bergeron-Bélanger



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When I first started the Capital Compounders Club (, I promised to post DIY investing stories on our very own members. My philosophy; the more you learn (from others), the more you earn….

So, first up is club member Philippe Bergeron-Bélanger, who’s been a full time investor since August, 2014. Philippe lives in Montreal (I love that city), and also runs a free investment blog called Espace MicroCaps with Mathieu Martin (another club member) where they both share their top investment ideas and educational articles about microcap investing.

Philippe’s returns have been great; he says his capital has gone up 8x since 2014. And he’s only 30.

I’ve posted below the Q&A style interview with Philippe. There’s lots of great info on micro-cap investing, including Philippe’s micro-cap criteria, current holdings, and his favourite non-mainstream book pick (it’s on my reading list now).

Read on…

DIY Investor Feature – Philippe Bergeron-Bélanger


30 years old


Full-time investor since August 2014



Website/blog/Seeking Alpha Reports:

I run a free investment blog called Espace MicroCaps with Mathieu Martin where we share our top investment ideas and educational articles about microcap investing. We also organize networking events at Bier Markt Montreal with speakers and companies in the space. Our message board has over 300 members and is the only French one in North America with a focus on microcaps.

Short Bio:

I have a background in finance and accounting. Out of university, I started to work at Travelers as a surety underwriter. One of my colleague there introduced me to microcaps and my first two investments went up multiple times my invested capital. Needless to say, I was hooked. In August 2014, I decided to quit my job to become a full-time microcap investor. I never looked back.

Investing Style and Influences:

Interestingly, I have made some money playing poker while studying at university. It taught me the importance of having sound decision-making processes and the discipline to stick to them. It helped me detach myself emotionally from money, and start thinking in terms of risks, rewards and expected returns. As an investor, our goal should be to maximize potential return “per unit of risk”. Some prefer to minimize downside first, think “margin and safety” and then find the best investment opportunities for that say level of risk. Some prefer to focus on potential return only. I’m more a student of the former than the latter. Influences: Ian Cassel (MicroCapClub) and Paul Andreola (Smallcap Discoveries) had the greatest impact on my investing style.

Investing Strategies:

I run a concentrated portfolio of Canadian microcaps. My goal is to find undervalued and undiscovered equities that have the potential to at least double my money on a 3 years timeframe. In a nutshell, I look for mispriced growth stocks because I can make money in two ways: 1) Expansion of valuation multiple and 2) Growing revenues and EPS.

Stock Selection Process:

I look for growth businesses that present the following attributes and/or have the potential to show them in a relatively short timeframe: High gross margins and/or high asset turnover, operating leverage (expanding GM% and EBITDAS%), cash flow positive from operations, positive Working Capital, tight capital structure with minimal to no debt, low dilution risk from options and warrants, high insider ownership (ideally a founder-operated business), low institutional ownership, no analyst coverage, low customer concentration risk, some sort of niche competitive advantages and/or intellectual property, etc. I don’t tend to put a lot of weight on past performance as most microcaps are too early stage or have struggled for years before showing glimpses of hope. If they were solid businesses, they wouldn’t be microcaps after all. In other words, I can get comfortable with only a few quarters of sound financial performance if I pay a reasonable-to-cheap price given the growth potential of the company. Note that I don’t invest in resource or financial companies.

Risk Management:

The best risk-mitigating activity is to do a lot more research than anyone else. You want to get an informational edge on other investors before investing and AFTER. You need to follow your positions closely.

Biggest Wins/Losses:

Wins –

Lite Access Technologies Inc. (LTE.v) – in at 0.25$, still holding

Pioneering Technology Corp (PTE.v) – in at 0.125$, still holding

Biosyent Inc. (RX.v) – in at 1.50$ and sold at 9.50$ in 15 months

Losses –

Ackroo Inc. (AKR.v) – in at an average cost of 0.085$, still holding

MicrobixBiosystems Inc. – in at 0.40$ and sold at 0.22$

Portfolio (Current holdings)

  • Imaflex Inc. (IFX.v)
  • Lite Access Technologies Inc. (LTE.v)
  • Ackroo Inc. (AKR.v)
  • Pioneering Technology Corp (PTE.v)
  • Namsys Inc. (CTZ.v)
  • ImmunoPrecise Antibodies Ltd (IPA.v)
  • Siyata Mobile Inc. (SIM.v)
  • Aurora Solar Technologies Inc. (ACU.v)
  • CovalonTechnologies Ltd. (COV.v)
  • GatekeeperSystems Inc. (GSI.v)
  • RenoWorksSoftware Inc. (RW.v)

Annual Returns:

My TFSA is a good indicator of my past performance. I’ve been investing for 4 years now and my capital has gone up 8x.

Advice and Outlook:

1) Companies that are dominating a niche tend to do better than those chasing large opportunities. They run a profitable business in their niche and can reinvest profits to expand their TAM.

2) Turn off the noise, stop listening to mainstream media and focus on finding companies that should do well in any macro environment. Remember that the price you pay is your margin of safety.

3) Don’t use leverage. If it’s not good for the companies you invest in, it shouldn’t be good for you either.

A great investing book you’ve read that isn’t mainstream:

Insider Buy Superstocks: The Super Laws of How I Turned $46K into $6.8 Million (14,972%) in 28 Months by Jesse Stine

Ryan Irvine and Boyd Group Income Fund; the +4,250% Capital Compounder



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Do you own Boyd Group Income Fund (BYD.UN)? It’s one of the best performing stocks on the S&P/TSX over the past decade. Boyd’s market cap grew from $25 million to $1.8 billion, and today, it is the largest operator of collision repair centres in North America.

Well, someone you’ve probably never heard of – Ryan Irvine, Founder of KeyStone Financial – recommended Boyd “in November 2008 at $2.30/share and today it trades in the $95.00 range (it has paid over $3.00/share in dividends) and returned over 4,250%”. That’s a 40+ bagger! ($1 investment turns into $40+). Peter Lynch would certainly be proud. No doubt – Boyd is an exceptional capital compounder stock. (Btw email me and I’ll send you a free copy of my new book, Capital Compounderswhich includes stocks similar to Boyd Group Income Fund).

That’s why I’m featuring Ryan Irvine in this issue of my newsletter. He’s going to explain “the anatomy of great stock selection”; how he selects capital compounders, walking-through his profitable analysis of Boyd Group Income Fund. Ryan’s based in Vancouver, and has been running KeyStone Financial since 2000. KeyStone is an independent stock market research advisor firm. It’s similar to Peter Hodson’s 5i Research. For the past 17-years, KeyStone has specialized in uncovering, before the broader market, under-followed small-to-mid-sized companies based on the GARP (growth at a reasonable price) approach. KeyStone’s Small Cap Strategy has achieved a whopping 37.2% average annual return since inception.

Consider this issue on Ryan Irvine a “lost” chapter from my book, Market Masters. However, the following three sections below that comprise this issue – “My Investing Journey”, “Small Cap Investing Methodology” and “The Anatomy of Great Stock Selection – Boyd Group Income Fund”, were all written by Ryan who I met in Toronto earlier this year. We found many overlaps in our investing philosophy so I asked him if he’d be interested in sharing his stock-picking principles with all of you. This issue is going to be a longer read than usual but I think you’ll enjoy what Ryan has to say. And if you have any questions for Ryan – email him directly;  Cheers,  Robin.

By Ryan Irvine, Founder, KeyStone Financial, August, 2017 – 

My Investing Journey

The journey to create KeyStone Financial and started back in high school in a stock picking contest put on by one of my math teachers.

I found the idea of capital markets exciting and while there was plenty of information to be found on the TD’s, Royal Banks, and at the time Nortel’s of the world, what intrigued me were the underdogs, untold stories, or the stocks trading at under $10 or even in the pennies (my price range at the time) that could be the next great company. The ones that could provide the returns that could easily win that contest.

The problem, there was very little information on these types of companies.

With some digging, what you could find were what I later discovered (after they lightened my wallet) were glorified sell side reports written by brokerages that were paid by the companies they were covering through financing fees or worse, puff pieces authored essentially by paid shills for the companies. Most of these were mining exploration companies. The TSX and TSX-Venture are laden with these black holes where capital that should be put to productive use, goes to die. I learned this the hard way and it is one of the primary reasons KeyStone has little coverage in the resource segment in Canada – it is beat to death in this country and most investors are already overexposed. As far as the junior exploration segment, we would not touch it with the proverbial ten-foot pole.

On I went to university (Simon Fraser) to get grounding in financial and security or stock analysis specifically. The education has served me well, but the philosophy taught academia at the time and still today in most institutions surrounds the efficient market hypothesis (EMH). EMH theory basically states it is impossible to “beat the market” because stock market efficiency causes existing share prices to always incorporate and reflect all relevant information.

Many academics blindly take the theory hold, where in my reality I disagree with it strongly. I recall a 4th year class where our professor was lecturing about how to construct the perfect portfolio to mirror the market. I put up my hand and asked why we would not try to pick stocks that actually beat the market? The professor immediately replied that this was impossible and told me to re-read the chapter on EMH. I put my hand back-up and asked him how he would explain Warren Buffett’s multi-decade track record of outperformance that is considered impossible according to EMH. He replied, “Who is Warren Buffett”. I later realized this was one of the issues with having a math teacher teach a finance course. Sure, he could teach us how to crunch the numbers, but he was not an investor and would not help me beat the market.

In fact, a good deal of academia and financial education today still tells us you cannot. The system is actually set-up to produce applicants who are well suited to fill the well-oiled machine that is the North American financial system. This was not going to be my path. Once I recognised this, I decided I should pave my own path.

For a different line of thinking I turned to books such as The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham and basically anything about or from Warren Buffett, perhaps the greatest equity investor of all time.

In 1993, the year I graduated high school, Warren Buffett gave an interview that would truly impact the way we conduct research at KeyStone today with a gentlemen by the name of Adam Smith. Alas, while Buffett has been around a long time, in economic circles this was a less famous Adam Smith. In the interview, he was asked if a younger Warren Buffett were coming into the investment field today, what areas would you tell him to point himself in?

“Well, if he were coming in and working with small sums of capital I’d tell him to do exactly what I did 40-odd years ago, which is to learn about every company in the United States that has publicly traded securities and that bank of knowledge will do him or her terrific good over time, Buffett Replied”.

The interviewer Smith chuckled, half surprised at this notion and replied, “But there’s 27,000 public companies (in the country).”

And with a wry smile Buffett replied, “Well, start with the A’s.”

Some years later I read the interview and the quote made a big impression on me. It has helped shape the way we conduct our “discover research” at KeyStone.

Today, you can use digital tools to screen stocks. Select whatever criteria you’d like. 25%+ revenue growth – cash flow positive – PE under 25 – market cap under $500 million and the screener will spit out a bunch of names. So why the heck would we put ourselves through all those annual reports? Because screeners are nowhere near perfect. For the average investors, they are a great start. But, they do not typically remove one-time items that obscure true earnings power, they cannot read an outlook, find you backlog numbers, or interview a management team among other things.

Only by actually looking at the financial statements of 1,000s of public companies can we be sure we are not missing something. Often the real opportunities appear outside of what a typical stock screener or data terminal will provide you.

Small Cap Investing Methodology

Core to our strategy is to start with businesses (small-cap stocks) that have achieved profitability – in most cases they have a history of growing profits. We look for revenue and operational cash flow growth and perhaps most importantly, a viable growth path or multiple paths ahead for the business. Specifically, in reference to small-cap growth stocks, we prefer strong balance sheets with great net cash positions or, at the very least, reasonably manageable debt levels. Businesses that have strong balance sheets can not only weather the inevitable downturns, but profit from them by scooping up assets on the cheap. They are then positioned to post extraordinary growth in boom times. We prefer to buy businesses at a bargain, but often (dependent largely on general market conditions) buy a great business for a reasonable or fair price.

A solid growth path, good profitability, strong balance sheet and reasonable valuations – essentially a variant on GARP or growth at a reasonable price is core to our research philosophy. While core, they are by no means exhaustive.

In fact, we also find a strong management team with skin in the game. Typically, a company that consistently generates strong cash flow and possesses the core criteria we look for above confirms a strong management team – they most often go hand in hand. But, in a perfect world, we also like to see a good management team with significant ownership stake in the business. While it cannot always be the case, we are looking at key management in an ideal small-cap owning between 5 and 40% of the business. If management’s share ownership position is a significant or meaningful percentage of their own personal wealth, their interests are aligned with shareholders and they are more likely to implement dividends, grow dividends, limit dilution, make only cash flow accretive acquisitions and general conduct themselves in a manner which creates shareholder wealth.

There is no substitute for experience as well. I believe an analyst who hasn’t gone through a severe downturn can never be as seasoned or successful long-term than one that has felt this type of pain.

Becoming a good investor is about more than just the numbers. In fact, almost any analyst can run the numbers and study investment theory.  They can read about the effects of a true bear market, but it will not prepare them to experience it in action. There is nothing that can compare to owning a stock and watching it drop 50% in a matter of days. The decision then to sell, hold or buy when the market is irrational and you and your clients are feeling real pain is difficult without experience.

This broad experience in the face of adversity (and adversity faces even the best analysts and the best businesses) translates into how we treat a set-back in a stock in our recommendation universe.

We recently experienced this exact scenario in a stock we recommended in our U.S. Growth Stock research this past year.

In April of 2016 we recommended shares in Applied Optoelectronics Inc. (AAOI:NASDAQ) which makes high-speed transceivers and other components for fiber-optic networking equipment. The stock traded at $15.99 and boasted strong growth from a built out in the hyperscale data centers market by Amazon, Microsoft, and it was looking to add Facebook (now confirmed).

Two days later the company pre-announced a first quarter 2016 earnings warning for the upcoming quarter dropping the stock by around 30% and over the next couple weeks the stock touched the $8.00 range or 50% lower than our recommendation price.

The stock had limited coverage at the time and so the stock languished, but we maintained our rating at hold as we had done extensive research and expected quarterly volatility. The company had stated that it expected to make up for the shortfall in upcoming quarters. By the third quarter, the company had posted a positive earnings surprise and the stock had recovered to $18.00 range where we recommended buying more.

In fact, we have recommended buying the stock all the way to the $65 range this year as the company has now reported 4 consecutive record quarters, having more than made up for that quarterly miss. The stock now trades $100 up over 500% since our original recommendation and is ranked in the top 3 in terms of performance on the NASDAQ in 2017.

It would have been easy and natural to panic and sell the stock following the earnings warning, but we would like to think it is experience that helped us continue to hold and then buy in the face of adversity.

An analyst who is also an investor is a better analyst.

It is what makes Warren Buffett the greatest investor and stock picker. It is key to having the experience and steady hand to do as he famously advised, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful”.

As to our approach, we have more of a bottom-up style. We focus on the business, the fundamentals, the valuation, and look for a margin of safety via the value we achieve in a discount purchase, the balance sheet, lack of cyclicality or other unique elements. We read the filings, the presentations, listen to conference calls and related research. We prepare questions and talk to management. We also look at the competition if possible to see how they are performing and get a general idea of the sector.

The macro environment, particularly if there is a direct link to the prosperity of the business is not ignored, but we do not find it prudent or valuable to spend too much time on things that are out of our control. Our time is better spent focusing on learning about the business than trying to predict the direction of interest rates, the price of gold or where we are in the business cycle. Generally, we view one’s broader opinion or the broad consensus opinion on the economy to offer little value in our investment decisions.

I am fond of saying that even if you properly apply our methodology described above but buy just one stock, even if it is our table pounding buy of the year, then you are crazy.

On the flip side, you can rigorously apply our methodology and buy 50 stocks and I will tell you are wasting your time. Sounds like we are not sold on our own criteria. This could not be farther from the truth.

In fact, while we are very confident in the long-term success of our research, as part of a portfolio strategy it is incomplete.

For our clients, our strategy does not stop with our research. We advocate an approach we like to call Focused Diversification. The strategy runs counter to what most investors are told by big bank advisors who place them in multiple ETFs or mutual funds who stress diversification. In fact, we have seen many portfolios which hold up to 50 funds. A portfolio composed as such or which anything more than a couple well diversified funds is essentially going to leave an investor over diversified, over complicated, paying far too many fees and underperforming the index as a result over time.

For an investor that wants a passive strategy we would recommend investing in a couple of low cost, well diversified ETFs or index funds and calling it a day. This would be far easier to manage and you will incur less fees and either mirror or outperform the fund and ETF laden portfolio.

A portfolio consisting of anything greater than 20-25 individual stocks from an assortment of industry and with a global business reach will provide the average investor with all the diversification needed. In fact, there is little benefit of diversification past the range of investments. With most funds holding over 50 stocks, holding a basket of 10 or 20 funds is “diworsification”.

To beat the market, you cannot be the market.

The Anatomy of Great Stock Selection – Boyd Group Income Fund

One of our longest standing BUY recommendations in our portfolio, Boyd Group Income Fund (BYD.UN:TSX), can serve as an excellent example of the type of stock we love to uncover for our clients. It is the type of winner that allows an investor to make other mistakes (and we do) and still produce strong returns in a focused portfolio.  We recommended Boyd in November, 2008 at $2.30 and today it trades in the $95.00 range (it has paid us over $3.00 in dividends) and returned over 4,250%.

For the anatomy of this great stock selection we get into our time machine and set the mood of the market at the time. The year was 2008, the month was November and markets were in panic mode. The credit crisis and market meltdown were in full swing and investors were selling shares indiscriminately – like they were going out of style.

There was definitely blood in the streets, but the carnage was fresh and we had not likely reached full capitulation.

Despite the fact that prices had fallen precipitously and assets appeared on sale there was a lack of recommendations coming forward from Bay Street as analysts and investors were afraid to catch falling knives. From the value investor perspective, we were like kids in a candy store.

Great companies were on sale. And while it tested our stones (trust us it did), we started increasing the frequency and volume of our recommendations at this time. Over the next six-months we recommended in the range of 15 stocks. To give an idea of how rare this is, over the first 7-months of 2017 we have added only two stocks to our Canadian Growth Stock Focus BUY Portfolio.

For our first buy we were looking for a stock with recession resistant qualities. After all, we were in the midst of a potential great recession that was uncharted territory and destined to last for quite some time. We were looking for a simple business that would not easily go away and could potentially grow, even in tough times.

Enter the Boyd Group Income Fund (BYD.UN:TSX). The company was the largest operator of automotive collision repair service centres in Canada and was among the largest multi-site collision repair companies in North America. Recession or not, people tend to fix their vehicles as a means of getting from A to B is often essential in keeping gainful employment.  Despite this, Boyd had basically zero following on Bay Street and the company’s total market cap was in the $25 million range. The company posted revenues in its last quarter alone of over $50 million.

Boyd had recently undergone a turnaround. In fact, since the start of 2007, the company had managed to cut its total debt outstanding in half, reinstate regular cash distributions, increase same store sales, and grow cash flow significantly. Organic growth was solid and the company had embarked on a U.S. acquisition plan that appeared to chart a path towards sustainable long-term growth. The management team owned a significant stake in the business, adding to the appeal.

Partly due to the crisis environment and partly due to its complete lack of analyst coverage (a perfect stock for us), the company was trading with very attractive valuations. The following is an excerpt from our 2008 Buy Report.

“Boyd’s PE multiple based on continued operations is currently south of 4, its price-to-sales is a paltry 0.14, and its EV/EBITDA is 3.32. Based on that, the company’s continued positive outlook, and the fact we like to get paid for holding a security in the current market, we will initiate coverage on Boyd with a BUY recommendation and adding the company to our FOCUS BUY list.”

Monthly distributions and dividends of $0.015 were reinstated commencing December 2007. Shareholder distributions increased to $0.01625 commencing April 2008, subsequently increased to $0.0175 commencing July 2008, increased to $0.01875 commencing October 2008, and finally increased to $0.02 commencing January 2009. At the time, this annualized distribution of $0.24 represented a very conservative annualized payout ratio estimated to be in the 25% range (many funds payout between 80-95%), a sustainable level that allowed for continued balance sheet improvement.

Over the next 9-plus years Boyd has delivered on its growth plans and then some. With each quarterly earnings beat, our comfort level with the management team and company grew. The stock has been recommended at ever increasing prices no less than 25 times in separate reports from KeyStone and it has maintained its position in our Focus BUY Portfolio. It is currently the longest standing buy recommendation.

Again, we recommended Boyd in November 2008 at $2.30 and today it trades at over $95.00 range (it has paid us over $3.00 in dividends) and returned over 4,250%.

Boyd’s market cap has risen from $25 million to $1.75 billion and the company has expanded from roughly 75 locations to 475 locations today. Despite the astonishing rate of growth, the company’s share count has only increased from 12 million to 18 million.

Despite being by far one of the best performing stocks on the entire TSX over the past decade, Reuters only tracks 12 analysts covering the stock. And this is a “surge” from between 0 to 3 analysts over the first 5-years we were recommending the stock.

The lack of coverage outlines the Street’s lack of interest in companies that are not serial share issuers – they just do not make them enough money. This lack of coverage has been a golden opportunity for our clients and produced one of our best recommendation of all time in a stock that is anything but sexy, but produces some of the sexiest returns one can imagine.

By Ryan Irvine, Founder, KeyStone Financial, August, 2017 – 


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