Meeting the Oracle

Belting out the words to “The Eyes of Texas”, I turned towards the lead singer overcome with disbelief. The entire day felt like an odd rock concert. Students had lined up outside the venue, their iPhone’s primed in camera mode. A contagious buzz in the room as people reminisced on past performances and favorite lines. “He may be old, but he hasn’t lost a step.”

And now, I was next to the man himself, in a full blown sing-a-long. The oddest part? The lead vocalist wasn’t Bob Dylan or Willie Nelson, it was an 88-year-old investor from Omaha: Warren Buffett.

Buffett hosts around 80 MBA students each year in Nebraska for a day of visiting Berkshire Hathaway portfolio companies and speaking at a lunch Q&A. The lunch Q&A ends with a school by school photo shoot. When Warren Buffett saw the McCombs group approaching, he couldn’t help himself from putting his horns up and singing the Texas alma-matter. Important note: he didn’t go to Texas — and I don’t even think he likes burnt orange. Yet, he knew every word and had the group wrapped around his fingers again. The moment was both bizarre and incredible.

On the flight back to Austin, I went through my notes from the day and realized they more closely resembled a concert set-list than privileged new material. He had truly played “the hits”, still there was something special about seeing it live. As an early stage investor, I had a particular interest in a few of the “hits” that when applied to seed investing articulate a significant slice of Brand Foundry’s formula.

“How is much more important than the numbers.”

At Brand Foundry, we are largely working with companies that are newly launched or pre-revenue. This means that the “numbers” almost always show a pretty incredible return story. So, when Brand Foundry reviews opportunities, a deep focus is put into the “how”. We look for entrepreneurs who fundamentally understand their target market and have spent time determining how they will capture the value that they generate.

“There are ‘No Called Strikes’ in investing.”

While Warren Buffett uses baseball to drive home the point, BFV takes the approach to avoid hopping into deals that aren’t in our sweet spot. Brand Foundry will sit out of opportunities that have high potential, if they aren’t the right fit for us. Instead, we stare down the pipeline and seek only companies that fit our criteria around differentiated products that surprise and delight the customer.

“Only buy a business if you trust the people operating it.”

In early stage investing, trust is the most important component of any deal. Brand Foundry builds relationships with entrepreneurs so that the trust goes both ways. Even if we find an A+ opportunity, we will pass on a deal if it’s not run by A+ people.

“You can’t get much tailwind when you’re jumping in and out of the market.”

Regardless of macroeconomic conditions, Brand Foundry seeks to stay active. We believe that there is no better place or time to invest, and like Warren Buffett we are bullish on the long-term horizon regardless of what the market is doing today.

It’s amazing how in four soundbites, Warren Buffett can simply and get to the core of how Brand Foundry looks to invest. I guess they don’t call him the Oracle for nothing.

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We invest in early stage companies that emerge into the brands you can’t live without.

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Wesley Gottesman

Wesley Gottesman

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