A Key Lesson on Investing for Fun and Profit

By Motley Fool StaffMarketsFool.com

In this segment of theRule Breaker Investingpodcast, Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner goes back to the very beginning of his investing days, when he was just an 18-year-old college student.And as the long personal tech wave was beginning, he found what he viewed as a kindred spirit in the founder of NBI Inc. (We'll let him explain why.) But when you put whimsy into your portfolio, you'd better be prepared to back it up.

A transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Sept. 21, 2016.

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David Gardner:OK, investment No. 3 I wanted to talk about kind of blends the first two stories together, because this one is fun, but it didn't play out well. There was a company called NBI Incorporated. It was based in Colorado. I believe, though I've not gone back and thoroughly researched this -- anybody who'd like to can -- that the company's business was a dedicated word processor. So this is, again, mid-1980s. Word processing was hot. Those of us who grew up learning how to type on a, yup, a typewriter, were most impressed by the prospect of these kind of computer-looking dedicated word processor devices. NBI had one of them.

Now, I was not a customer. This was a company that was selling, I think, more to corporations, and I was just a college kid, but what I loved about NBI was this: NBI stood for -- no joke -- "nothing but initials." They had a CEO who was having fun out there, and certainly the Foolish, capital-F spirit within me thought, "That's great. That is so great. Competing against companies like IBM. They're going with the big acronym themselves, and it turns out it stands for absolutely nothing."

Now history will show, and I had to Google this one to figure it out, that the company, which was once a $60 million a year plus company -- in 1993, so this is now 23 years ago -- reported its turnover plunging 71% down to just $1 million. I'm happy to say I wasn't still holding the stock in 1993, but I think I held for only about a year or so and watched my money get about halved.

And it was a good lesson for me to maybe understand a little bit more about the business. While investing is fun, being a little bit too cavalier often isn't going to cause your capital to do very well, and especially for me, I'm happy to say, again, I didn't put much at stake. I was having fun testing and learning, and that's really the lesson I want to pull from this one, number three, is feel free to take a portion of your portfolio, a minority, and have some fun. Speculate. Try some things. Be silly sometimes. As long as it's just a tiny percentage of what you have, it can just be fun with very little downside.

So I guess, in retrospect, while I would have loved to see NBI perform better, the stock, like Interlab Robotics, was a significant loser. None of these companies are really around today, anymore, and I could have instead been buying Apple...but I wasn't that smart back then.

David Gardner owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $95 calls on Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.