Category Archives: IPOs

2015 Year in Review

My winning streaks (of both positive returns and beating the averages) came to an end in 2015. I was down 34% in 2015, compared to the S&P 500 which was down around 2%.  Yet I feel better about the risk/reward of my portfolio going forward than I ever have.

I entered 2015 with positions in AA, GTIM, SFM, HABT and YELP, with around 12.5% cash.

My first move of 2015 was to sell YELP in mid January for around a 7% loss. I had just bought YELP near the very end of 2014, but was starting to become nervous about the overall markets and wanted to raise cash, and YELP was my smallest and lowest conviction idea.


In mid February I sold my entire position in AA, largely because I thought other ideas had better risk/reward. I made around 35% on AA. I put some of the proceeds into more GTIM and raised my cash position some more as I continued to grow concerned about the overall markets.


In early May I sold my entire position in SFM. SFM had been a core position for awhile, but by the time I sold I had become convinced that the story had fundamentally changed for the worse. I put some of the proceeds into RAVE, and raised my cash levels yet again.


At the end of May I sold my entire position in HABT, and I added another new position, BSQR. Despite adding a few new positions which I thought had attractive risk/reward, I was still worried about the overall markets and so wanted to maintain alot of cash. So that led to my opting to sell HABT. I made around 15% on HABT.


Near the end of July I sold my entire positions in RAVE and BSQR. I continued to grow concerned about the overall markets and wanted to pare back to my highest conviction ideas. I lost around 7% on BSQR and 4% on RAVE. This also marked the high point for my cash levels on the year at around 40%.



In August I bought and sold a position in GM-B warrants. Despite my concern about the overall markets I thought the risk/reward warranted a position, but I shortly afterwards had a few ideas I liked better, so I sold. I lost around 5% on the GM-B warrants.


Near the end of August I established a position in a new stock, NEWM, and in early September I bought an unnamed nano-cap stock. By mid September concern about overall markets caused me to want to pare back to my highest conviction ideas again so I sold both positions. I broke even on NEWM and lost 5% on the unnamed nano-cap.


At the beginning of October I bought positions in BABA, BIDU, and HABT. Despite my concerns about overall market conditions, I felt the long term prospects of these companies were sound and their sell-offs were overdone. I sold all three positions a few weeks later for 10-20% gains.




The only stock I never sold was GTIM. In fact I added to it as I was selling my other positions. I added to GTIM in July, August, and November. GTIM is my only current position.


2015 was largely about managing the portfolio to weather growing concerns I had about overall market conditions while still trying to find ideas I felt had attractive risk/reward profiles. So I tried a few new positions while selling off others. Ultimately I could not gain enough conviction in those ideas and my market concerns caused me to concentrate in the only idea I did have strong conviction in – GTIM.

Overall I think I had the right idea, but my execution was slightly off. I feel if I had I executed slightly better it would have made a significant impact on my performance for the year. I feel good about closing out the positions I entered the year with when I did. YELP, AA, SFM, and HABT were all significantly lower after I sold them. Likewise I was happy closing out most of my new ideas when I did. In some cases the fundamental stories had deteriorated or were not as strong as I originally thought, and in other cases they were not the types of holdings I wanted going into what I thought would be worsening market conditions. All the positions I sold saved me from significant losses.

GTIM, the one position I held on to, was the major negative contributor to my performance for the year. I maintained my GTIM position, and even added to it, because I felt the long term risk/reward was very attractive. Even at $10, I thought GTIM could still be a 5-10 bagger in the long run, and the downside risk was limited to perhaps 50% at worst. Although I was prepared for GTIM to decline 50%, I wasn’t really expecting it to drop that far, which is partially why I did not sell any at $10. Attempting to avoid a potential 20% decline did not seem worth taking the tax hit. And when GTIM did fall 20% from its high, I only saw downside risk of about another 20%, not an additional 50%. So selling again did not seem worth it for tax reasons. Instead I decided to start adding to my position, as the long term risk/reward had only gotten better.  I saw the worsening technicals but thought fundamentals would win out. If I had it to do over, I would have paid more heed to the technicals. I probably still would have started adding too early, but I would have added more shares around the $4 level when GTIM had started to base.

Besides making my average cost on GTIM more attractive, another benefit would have been having more cash available for the few trades I did have strong conviction – my purchases of BABA, BIDU and HABT in October. Not only could I have made those positions larger, but with larger positions I might have held at least a portion of them longer into their rallies, both of which would have significantly improved my performance for the year.

As it stands, I was down 34% for 2015, compared to the S&P 500 which was down about 2%. The main lesson I take from 2015 is respecting technicals, no matter my level of fundamental conviction in an idea. Had I done that my performance for the year would have been much closer to the S&P 500, and my upside would be that much greater.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, I feel as good about the risk/reward of my portfolio as I ever have, and am comfortable holding just GTIM going into 2016. I will review my current thinking on GTIM and what else I have on my radar in another post.


I sold my entire position in HABT this week. Several reasons contributed to my decision.

1) I wanted to maintain a comfortable cash position, and after buying BSQR my cash had gotten pretty low.

2) Although I believed strongly in all the positions I held, I thought it probably best if not all of my holdings were in the same sector (restaurants). Between HABT, GTIM and RAVE, I felt the risk/reward on HABT was the least attractive.

3) Watching HABT’s trading since its IPO, along with observing how other restaurant stocks (including recent IPOs) have been trading, my thinking started shifting a bit that it might be more profitable to swing trade HABT than hold it over the long term. I think buying HABT in the low $30s and selling in the high $30s, perhaps with an upward bias over time, could be very attractive. While my preference is still to hold positions for long term capital gains, any swing trade or shorter term strategies I might pursue would be done in my tax deferred accounts.

So, those were my reasons. I made around 15% on HABT, so not bad. I could have done much better swing trading HABT a couple of times since I first bought, but that was not my strategy when I bought. As I mentioned, I will be keeping HABT on my radar. With this sale, my cash position is now around 20%.

2014 Year in Review

I started 2014 with holdings in  several bank warrants (BAC-WS-B, STI-WS-B, ASBCW, VLYWW), old school tech stocks (IBM, INTC, CSCO), a Chinese online game publisher (KONG), and a couple of Vanguard ETFs (VXF and VXUS). By the end of 2014 my portfolio was completely turned over with none of those holdings remaining.

My first move of 2014 was to go long Alcoa in mid January. I added some more AA afterwards but the bulk of my holdings were bought in this first purchase. I thought AA would be a good balance to the rest of my portfolio and could become a core holding.  Thus far it is proving to be.

In February I began initiating small positions in several small to mid-cap growth stocks (SFM, YELP and BNNY). My intent was to average into the stocks I grew most confident in over time. I also bought some calls on KongZhong, expecting the stock would benefit from the release of Guild Wars 2 in China.

Near the end of February I sold my large cap tech stocks (IBM, INTC, and CSCO), to raise cash. I was pretty much break even on all three. I added Zillow (Z) to my collection of mid-cap growth stocks.




In March I sold two of my bank warrants (BAC-WS-B and VLYWW). I just broke even on both. I wanted to raise more cash and position my portfolio more conservatively.



Near the end of March I added a couple more high growth mid-cap stocks to my holdings with DATA and FEYE.

Near the end of April I bought a couple large cap growth stocks – AMZN and CMG.

By early May growth stocks had been beaten down so low that I thought it best to focus on my best ideas in that space and significantly accelerate my averaging into those names. So I sold BNNY, FEYE, AMZN, and CMG. I was down varying percentages on them when I sold, but they had not become meaningful portions of my portfolio so it was not really material to my overall return for the year. I also sold my KongZhong shares and calls. Those were more meaningful positions, and I made around 10% on both the shares and calls. I used the cash I raised to buy a lot more of the stocks I thought were my best ideas – SFM, DATA, YELP, and Z.






In the second half of May I added some large cap growth stocks back to my portfolio, buying back AMZN, and adding BIDU, LNKD, and also VIPS.

In early June I decided to dedicate a portion of my portfolio to buying stocks with insider buying. I added DKS, TFM, and MTDR.

In the first half of July I made several more moves. I sold my remaining bank warrants (STI-WS-B and ASBCW). Those were big positions which I made 50% on each. I also sold my insider buying stocks (DKS, TFM, and MTDR) because I wanted to increase my focus even more. I was near break even on all three and again none of them were big enough positions to make a difference to my overall returns. In July I also added yet two more high growth stocks to my portfolio (ZU and TWTR).






At the end of July I sold Z. I had intended Z to be a long term holding but it ran up so fast I decided to sell. I ended up catching the top almost exactly, locking in big gains and avoiding giving them back.


To start August I added another growth stock, SGEN.

In early August I also started building a position in a micro-cap stock, GTIM, which I continue to hold.

In the second half of August I unloaded most of my growth stocks. I sold AMZN, TWTR, LNKD, BIDU, VIPS, YELP, and SGEN. Like Z I had intended them to be longer term holdings but they ran up so much in so short a period of time that I couldn’t resist locking in profits. I made between 10% and 50% on these trades, with most of them between 30% and 50%. At the same time I added to my SFM, DATA, ZU and GTIM positions, and established a new position in AWCMY.








In mid September I sold DATA, same story of too fast a move up as my other growth stocks I sold.

I didn’t make many moves after that until November, when I sold AWCMY, after deciding the falling Australian dollar was too strong a headwind to battle. I was near break even on this trade. I also added a little to some of my existing positions.


Towards the end of November I bought some shares in The Habit, a new IPO. I had an order in on the IPO day but the stock opened above it so it was not filled. However when the stock came down several days later I began building a position.

Near the end of November I sold ZU, taking a small loss but deciding to focus on my very best ideas.

In December I bought a little Lending Club (LC) and an unnamed micro-cap stock, both of which I sold a week later. Neither was meaningful to my returns. And near the very end of the year I went long YELP again.

I also sold VXF and VXUS in stages throughout the year. I had intended for them to be a core and growing part of my portfolio over time, but as I found more opportunities I liked in specific stocks I sold off these two ETFs. I made a small percentage on both of them but they weren’t significant to my overall returns.

2014 was a year with a lot of turnover in my portfolio. I could have timed some of my entries and exits slightly better, but overall I am happy with all the moves I made. I think it was the right decision to exit all the positions I started the year with in favor of the new opportunities throughout the year. Overall I think I did a good job of buying when I thought the risk/reward was favorable and selling when it had become much less so.  And I think I am positioned well at year end with all the positions I am holding going into 2015 having favorable risk/reward profiles. AA and GTIM are both around 25% of my portfolio, SFM and HABT are both around 15%, YELP is around 7.5%, and I have around 12.5% in cash.






In my past year in review posts I ended with some statistics about my trades. This year I went ahead and calculated my returns for this and prior years.  I have a few accounts in which I do my investing, some retirement and some taxable, and I had to account for contributions and withdrawals, so it took awhile to accurately figure out.

I calculated that my return in 2014 was roughly 44%. Here are my returns since I started this blog, and a comparison to the S&P 500 with dividends reinvested.

Year / TSAnalysis / S&P 500 / delta

2011 / +171% / +2% / +169 points

2012 / +22% / +16% / +6 points

2013 / +63% / +32% / +31 points

2014 / +44% / +14% / +30 points

In 2011 I had the majority of my portfolio in a stock which I got a triple on in a couple of months (COOL), which was the main driver behind my phenomenal return that year.

In 2012 I again had a trade which I got a triple on (warrants on UBSFY), however it was not as large a portion of my portfolio this time. I had a major position (KONG) I held for 7 months which I ended up just breaking even on. Still, I ended up beating the S&P 500 return by 6 points so I can’t complain.

In 2013 I had quite a bit of turnover, much of which didn’t contribute to my returns. However I had another significant position which I ended up getting a triple on (ROICW), which was the main driver of my strong return in 2013.

I am perhaps most proud of my performance in 2014. Unlike 2011 through 2013, most of my potential home-run plays in 2014 (such as my bank warrants, KONG options, and AWCMY) didn’t work out as well as planned yet I still managed to handily beat the S&P 500. My 2014 return was driven by strong gains in GTIM and AA, and well timed trades in several growth stocks.

My goal for the years ahead will remain to maximize after tax returns while minimizing risk. However I do not expect to continue to beat the S&P 500 by as much as I have the past four years, especially as I continue to increase my emphasis on after tax returns and minimizing risk.

Sold LC and micro-cap

I sold my small positions in LC and the unnamed micro-cap today.

After the rally of the past few days I felt as though things had gotten a bit too easy, the market a bit too complacent. It seems recently that whenever I think we are finally headed towards a pullback of some significance, it is over before I know it. Back in October we almost reached correction territory (down 10% on the major averages) and within a couple of weeks we had made it all back and more. And then the past week it looks like we may be due for a serious pullback or at least some consolidation and then the Dow adds 700 points in two days.

I am a grounds-up investor and the macro picture has little influence on my core positions. However it does have an influence on my non-core positions. I think the markets are due for a correction, not necessarily a steep one, but one which doesn’t erase all its losses within days or weeks. With that in mind I wanted to raise a little cash, become slightly more defensive, and pare back to my core positions.

LC was a stock I just wanted to own a little of and I was prepared to wait quite awhile for it to grow into its valuation. The micro-cap, as I mentioned, was based as much on the company’s characteristics as it was my belief in the company’s fundamentals. So those were both situations where I didn’t really feel like holding into a pullback. Even though I have sold the micro-cap, I do not plan to name what it was because I could see returning to it at the right price.

I made 10% on LC and broke even on the micro-cap but neither had become a big enough percentage of my portfolio to be significant to my returns. With these sales I am back up to 20% cash.

Bought Lending Club

I bought a little Lending Club (LC). It is a fairly small position, around 2.5% of my portfolio. I thought LC’s opportunity was so vast that I wanted to own a little. However it is starting out at a large market cap (around $9 billion) so I am not expecting it to be a fast mover. If LC were to drop near $20 I would likely double down, but it will probably always be my smallest position.

Added some more HABT, sold ZU

I decided to accelerate the building of my HABT position slightly because it seemed to me that $30 was pretty strong support. So I bought a little more HABT today, bringing me to about half of my full target position.

At the same time I wanted to maintain a fairly healthy amount of cash so I decided to sell ZU. It was really the only thing I could sell. I consider AA a core holding for the next 10 years, and a necessary balance to all my consumer stocks. I also think SFM and HABT could be core long term holdings as they expand across the country. GTIM might not end up being a core holding, but I think it is in the very early phase of rapid growth so I want to hold on to it here.

I think ZU will do well over the next year or two, but after that I was less certain about its longer term growth than my other holdings.

Bought a little HABT

I went ahead and initiated a small position in The Habit today – around 1/5th of a full position.  I had planned to buy only if HABT dropped to $30, but I wasn’t so sure it would get there, so around $34 seemed like an OK price to start a partial position. Every $3-$4 drop from $34 I would buy an additional 1/5th.

I would have liked to have gotten shares cheaper, but I strongly believe in HABT’s long term prospects (over the next 5-10 years). I am prepared for HABT to remain range bound for a year or so while it grows into its valuation, but in the long run I think it could be a 5-10 bagger.

Of all the better-burger places that have been rumored to be considering IPOs (such as Five Guys, Smashburger, and Shake Shack) I like The Habit’s prospects the best. I also like The Habit’s prospects much better than any of the other restaurant IPOs of recent years (such as LOCO, ZOES, NDLS, PBPB, etc).

Besides the small base it is starting from and thus tremendous growth potential, some of the other things I like about The Habit are its 42 consecutive quarters of same store sales growth, the fact it came out on top in a recent Consumer Reports survey of favorite fast food places in the burger category, and the fact that its average check is on the low side for fast casual restaurants.