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The best investor "you've never heard of"

How he turned $11 million into $1 billion in 30 years

Written by: Ryan Henderson & Braden Dennis

Today’s edition of the FinChat Newsletter will get you up to speed on earnings from the week, how a $1 billion “Clerical Error” happened (capital markets are still a meme) and a look at the “The Best Investor You’ve Never Heard Of”.

We’re making rapid improvements to the look, feel and content in this weekly newsletter. If you’re diggin’ it, let me know by replying to the email.

Let’s get into it.

A busy week in the markets

🛏️ AirBnB

The hospitality and travel disruptor reported mixed 4th quarter results on Tuesday.

AirBnB surpassed revenue estimates for the quarter, closing the year with $9.9 billion in total sales, but a one-time tax expense of $1 billion led to worse than expected GAAP profitability for the quarter.

AirBnB also reported that active listings across their platform grew 18% compared to a year ago, surpassing 7.7 million in total.

To add on to the impressive year, announced a $6 billion share buyback authorization and said they plan to invest heavily in more international markets in 2024.

🛒 Shopify

E-commerce enabler Shopify delivered better than expected results on Tuesday but underwhelmed Wall Street with its profitability forecast for 2024.

Shopify’s growth over the last decade has been nothing short of extraordinary. The company which helps merchants sell online from “First Sale to Full Scale” has seen its total revenue jump from $50 million in 2013 to more than $7 billion this year!

Shopify’s stock closed down 11% this week due to the company’s profit outlook. However, the business still trades at ~90x its expected next 12-month free cash flow.

🎰 MGM Resorts International

MGM Resorts, one of the world’s largest casino operators by market cap, reported 4th quarter results on Tuesday that were better than expected on both the top and bottom line.

MGM, which generates the majority of its revenue from its Las Vegas properties, grew its total revenue by 22% versus the same period a year ago. The company’s MGM China division was a particular bright spot as it saw 462% revenue growth with COVID-related restrictions easing.

However, it was actually MGM’s smallest division that gave investors pause. Union strikes at MGM Detroit contributed to a 12% revenue decline across the entire Regional Properties segment.

MGM’s stock was down more than 8% this week.


Food delivery company Doordash saw its stock drop by more than 10% this week after beating revenue expectations but missing Wall Street’s estimates for profitability.

The company, which has grown its order volumes 6-fold over the last 4 years, is starting to press the brakes a bit on growth. Instead, the company is now focused on working its way towards profitability.

Co-founder and CEO Tony Xu said “In 2023, we improved unit economics in all major areas of our business”. Operating margins have improved from -69% in 2019 to -3.8% in this most recent quarter.

Upgrades we are shipping 🚀

Every day, we are working hard for you to make FinChat the best equity research platform on the internet.

This week, we’ve deployed the following upgrades on to FinChat.

  • (Now live after many requests) Real-Time Prices in Dashboard 🎉

  • Duplicate Tabs Feature in Dashboard, Charting, Screener, & Financial Modelling

You can always refer to our Changelog to stay up to date.

Investor Profile

Joseph Rosenfield: “The Best Investor You’ve Never Heard Of”

Famed financial journalist Jason Zweig once wrote an article called "The Best Investor You've Never Heard Of". 

That article described the life and career of Joseph (Joe) Rosenfield.

In roughly 30 years, Joe turned a small school in Iowa into one of the richest colleges in America. Here's how:

Joining Grinnell - Given Rosenfield's unwavering commitment to investing for the long-term, it's somewhat ironic that Joe didn't actually enter the investment field until he was nearing retirement.

Joe spent 2 decades practicing law, another decade as chairman of an Iowa-based retailer, and 20+ years serving on the board of Grinnell College before becoming Chairman of its Investment Committee.

Managing Grinnell's Endowment - Unlike most college endowments which typically choose to either have an ultra diversified portfolio or buy primarily government bonds, Joe took a different approach.

Joe reportedly told a colleague "Our job is to make this institution financially impregnable." And to do so he made big bets on businesses and people he believed in. Though there aren't records of all his investments, here are a few high profile ones that have been shared over the years.

  • Grinnell bought 300 shares of Berkshire Hathaway in the late 1960's after being introduced to Warren Buffett. The two subsequently became great friends and often shared investment ideas with each other.

  • Invested $300,000 in a startup called NM Electronics that was founded by a Grinnell trustee, Robert Noyce. Shortly after, that company was renamed Intel.

  • Allocated 1/3rd of the endowment's capital with the Sequoia Fund. Sequoia significantly outperformed the broad market over the succeeding 20 years.

Performance - While the exact returns are hard to come by today, during Rosenfield's time in charge, Grinnell's endowment grew from $11 million to more than $1 billion.

Today the endowment touts ~$2.5 billion, which is quite the sum for a school with only about 1,800 students.

Investment Philosophy - It has been more than 20 years since Joe's passing, but there are still plenty of lessons investors can take away from his career.

Joe kept his investment approach simple. He was highly selective, he bet on people he believed in, and he rarely sold.

In the words of his long-time friend and fellow Grinnell Board member, Warren Buffett: "Joe is a triumph of rationality over convention."

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Meme of The Week

Lyft’s epic blunder

“Well, first of all, it's on me.”

…There are a lot of eyes on this press release, but at the end of the day, my bad...It was a clerical error..the buck stops with me..And to be very clear, it was a bad error, but it was one zero in a press release”

That was David Risher, the CEO of Lyft. And that “one zero” he was referring to caused Lyft to lose 20% of its market value in a matter of minutes.

For context, Lyft reported its fourth quarter results on Wednesday and in its profit guidance for 2024, the company said that it expected a 500 basis point (or 5 percentage point) expansion in its EBITDA margins. That’s quite significant for a business that’s failed to generate any true profits as a public company thus far. Unsurprisingly, the stock jumped roughly 45% on the news.

However, on the company’s conference call following the report, Chief Financial Officer Erin Brewer corrected the press release stating that the 500 basis points was meant to say 50. The stock instantly dropped 20%, erasing more than $1 billion in the company’s market cap.

Fortunately, the report was strong enough that the stock recovered anyways, helping investors laugh it off. Lyft’s stock closed the week up ~36%.