Quantitative (hard) x Qualitative (fluffy) Sides of Investing

It’s been quite a while. Reviewing some of my previous posts, I’ve realized how ‘fluffy’ I ended up when contrasting my early days thoughts. As an engineer, I confess I used to focus too much on the quantitative side of investing, leaving much of the qualitative analysis aside.

Today I am working for the third start-up in my career (not a so long one since I’m just 27) and now I’ve finally learnt that ‘fluffiness’ matters – actually, it dominates over the quantitative side of a investment case. The numbers we analyze when quarterly results are released are just a lagging indicator of what has been happening inside the company for the last 12 months or so. New executives came onboard, a new area was created, the organogram was changed to better adapt the salesforce and the analytical part of distribution & logistics, and so on.

At the end of the day, we are looking for leading indicators that could change the evolution of the numbers we will see a year onward from now. The quantitative side of the story is a due diligence to make sure you are not being fooled at day 1. What we want after-all is a company that can be worth an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE higher than today’s market price. Sometimes even 20x valuation multiples can be worth it for compounders or growing cash machines, for example. What you need is a huge tailwind (most of the time, those are business environment related – and when it’s related to people, we are usually too late).

To identify those, the best thing we can do is read, read a lot. Qualify our sources as time gets by. Learn what is indispensable to read. Mold our routine to accommodate the mental models consolidation process. At the same time, get down to what matters instead of being a philosopher (nothing against them!).

What did we learn today? That’s a pretty simple exercise that can help us a lot to track our evolution. Keep your notebook open.