Austin's November Portfolio Update

Here’s a quick performance review up front and some important lessons I’ve learned this month, then I’ll cover my current position sizes, and end by spending some time rambling about my thoughts on this style of investing (it helps me to write it out).

According to my Interactive Brokers Performance Summary (Time Weighted Return or TWR):

  • I use TWR because it measures the true performance of the portfolio, with no effects from contributions or withdrawals. I put the full definition at the end of the post.

YTD: +80.4%

Best Month: Aug 2018: +42%
Worst Month: Oct 2018: -15%

I do not consider myself a great or even good investor. I’m still learning, still make a TON of mistake, and owe SO MUCH of that performance to you all and this board. Not because I blindly copy others’ ideas, but actually the opposite. This board helped me think different, and concentrate my portfolio in companies I truly believe in. Again, I still make a ton of mistake which I’ll highlight below, but look at how drastic a difference this board has made so far.

Here’s the history of my TWR performance since I began investing with Interactive Brokers on Nov 11, 2014. At that point I was 25 and had been investing using USAA as a brokerage since 2011. I don’t know my exact results with USAA, but they weren’t great.

Nov 2014: 0.45%
Dec: -2.09%
Jan 2015: -3.19%
Feb: 5.59%
Mar: 2.03%
Apr: 5.40%
May: 3.57%
Jun: 2.40%
Jul: 1.66%
Aug: -6.03%
Sep: -10.10%
Oct: -4.55%
Nov: -4.97%
Dec: -7.50%
Jan 2016: -16.39%
Feb: -14.93%
Mar: -9% - From Aug 15 - Mar 16 I was deployed with my USAF job… what a terrible spell! I remember specifically what I tried to do here….I tried to time the oil market because it had dropped significantly so I invested heavily in some highly thought of SA oil stocks. OUCH!
Apr: -8%
May: -7%
Jun: -7%
July: -2%
Aug: 0%
Sep: 2%
Oct: -3%
Nov: -1%
Dec: 1%
Jan 2017: 6%
Feb: 11%
Mar: 14%
Apr: 17%
May: 21%
Jun: 20%
Jul: 26%
Aug: 28%
Sep: 28%
Oct: 34%
Nov: 35%
Dec: 34% - Found Saul’s board and towards the end of December, I concentrated my portfolio down from 70ish RB/SA stocks to 10-12 Saul style stocks — forever changing/improving my investing and life.
Jan 2017: 55% (wow, I knew I was on to something…but it couldn’t last!)
Feb: 63%
Mar: 69%
Apr: 67%
May: 82%
Jun: 96%
Jul: 90%
Aug: 169% (holy cow what a month)
Sep: 164% ( during September, I withdrew enough cash for a 20% down payment on a home we will buy in the next year. It’s a home we will absolutely love in a community we will love for our kids to grow up in, closer to our families. Only possible because of this board, you all, and me learning to invest this way. Wow, this board improves lives.)
Oct: 123%
Nov: 137%

Portfolio allocation:
74% Stocks
26% Options

Position Sizes:
For the most part, I own a combination of common stock and options for each position…other than the bio/pharma/immuno basket of stocks which are just LEAPs or calls that don’t expire for 1-2 years. I won’t go into details on options here, but just know they affect my returns about 3X up and down compared to owning the same amount dollar-wise of common shares.

TWLO: 27% (Stock position is up 74%. Calls are up 343% and 190% respectively)
TTD: 18% (Stock is up 8% (added before the drop) and Calls are up 40% and 28% respectively)
MDB: 17% (62% in my top 3) (Stock position is up 62% and Call is up 49% (bought Call a few months after stock)
AYX: 15% (77% in my top 4) (Stock up 86% Call up 126%)
PSTG: 10% (Stock down 10% and too many Calls to have a % for)
NTNX: 8% (Combo of stocks and Calls both are down)
NVDA 4% (Stock - Down about 15%)
SQ: 2% (Call only

For this basket of bio/pharma/gene therapy companies, I took about 4% of my portfolio and used a basket type approach. I figured one might be a major major returner and the rest will probably expire worthless. No intention to add to or sell any of these)

ARNA: 1% (Jan 2020 Call - Down 46%)
CRSP: 1% (Jan 2021 Call - Down 8.3%)
EDIT: 0.5% (Jan 2021 Call - Up .007% WOOHOO!)
NKTR: .0003% (Jan 2020 Call - Down 97% ouch)
NTLA: .0006% (Apr 2019 Call - Down 80%)

I closed most of the shorts I had in October because I want to simplify my portfolio and shorting is a losing game (at least for me). I want to focus on being a better investor in great companies and controlling my emotions much better. Less action, more reading, holding, and writing!

SBH: -.5% (Down 22%)
SPY: -1% ( Down 3%)

Why do I own so much TWLO?

As many have covered, their numbers are incredible. In general, I just think they’re a leader in such an important market - communications and contact centers. Contact centers are still 90% on prem - lots of opportunity to move to the cloud. So many opportunities with Pay, the Narrowband IoT relationship with TMobile, I’m really excited about new opportunities from the SenGrid acquisition from a customer, API, and IP stand point. and I think there’s a potential they get bought out by Salesforce…especially if the stock were to take a big dip. I hope they don’t get bought out, but that’s kind of what I view the floor as for TWLO.

Also management is the perfect mix of humble, hungry, and confident.

Why do I own so much TTD?

I think TTD and companies like it are actually some of the most important companies of our time. They put customer privacy first and although it’s not so important here in the United States, it literally can save lives in other countries when customers can’t be targeted for their activities. It’s already a known that FB and Google have walled gardens and own most of search and most of social advertising. But I believe CEO Jeff Green when he says that model won’t last. And when it crumbles, TTD will be there to benefit from all that TAM that’s not currently expected from them. GDPR only seems to be strengthening TTD’s competitive advantage, China is it’s smallest market and Green expects it to be largest eventually, Their new Next Wave product is expected to have 50% adoption by the customer base by year end. When customers move over, they tend to spend more and spend more on things like data which is a new (and I think will be one of their most important channels eventually). Also, now the 40% of engineering resources they dedicated to developing The Next Wave for two years are free to develop more, new, awesome products.

Again, I absolutely LOVE Jeff Green and TTD’s management

Why do I own so much MDB?

I don’t know as much about MDB as I do about TTD and TWLO, but their growth numbers are great. I do know SQL databases are not suited to work with unstructured data like AI, machine learning, and all these crazy new technologies. I see how crazy big Oracle has become and I can imagine MDB being that large in the future. That’s a LONGGGGG way from here, so lots of opportunity for investors. Also, they have a lot of developer mindshare and a raving community of fans with Atlas.

Why do I own so much AYX?

I’m most familiar with this company from my day job. We partner with both Alteryx and Tableau and we’ve just seen a ton of demand for Data Analytics. Tableau is much bigger but since Alteryx burst onto the seen, we’ve seen them become more and more popular. There actually tends to be a lot of partner deals between the two companies (info about this can be found on their websites) From my point of view, I think Tableau depends more on Alteryx than Alteryx does on Tableau which to me is a sign of the future. They also have a few hundred thousand people as part of their raving community of fans.

My thoughts on investing in the current market environment:

As we all know, this has been a wild and volatile month or so for the stock market and specifically, the types of stocks we are invested in.

I and many others on this board have remained confident and fully or near fully invested because we’re not invested in stocks. We’re invested in GREAT businesses and there has been absolutely no slow down in businesses for most (or all) of our companies that are executing well. This doesn’t mean there never well be, in fact, it is guaranteed to happen at some point. But there’s no guessing when.

In addition to our companies businesses proving this, we recently had Salesforce’s CEO sum the environment up nicely when he said

"“I don’t think the company’s ever been stronger or been in a better position, and the reason why is every company that we’re dealing with is going through a huge digital transformation and every digital transformation begins and ends with the customer,” he told Jim Cramer in an exclusive interview on “Mad Money.””

The opportunity cost of missing out on that upside while you wait for the businesses to source is just enormous. Check any of Saul’s monthly updates to see what I’m talking about. Just over the last 2 years, waiting would have cost him around 240% or whatever that number is…. when I see those numbers, I just think, that’s life changing!

But then we’re stuck with how. How do we have the confidence to invest large amounts of money in just a few companies, and stay invested during sell-offs like what we’ve recently witnessed (and worse). It’s important to note, both of these ideas are almost opposite of most “investment advice” and what we hear from the financial entertainment channels during sell-offs.

For me, it comes down to these ideas (Saul speaks to this in his November update).

  1. Have any cash I might need in the next 3-5 years completely outside of my investment accounts.
  2. Be intimately familiar with the companies I am invested in (at least larger positions) and know my own reasons for being invested in them. This is what we will fall back on during sell-offs and it’s the only way to get to reason 3.
  3. Time in the market. As Saul pointed out, once you get to a place where you’re up something like 240% over 2 years, the thought of even losing 50% still means you’re up ~70% which is incredible. ($100 x 3.4 = $340/2 = $170).

Now my lessons learned:

I’ve messed up a lot over the last two months. As I said, I’m buying a house next year, and likely making a pretty big career shift which comes with some risk/unknown. I had a plan to not only have enough money for the down payment on our house, but also make sure to have some cash on the side, but I began trying to force better returns with trading (not investing) around company’s earnings reports. It worked really well with TWLO and Alteryx and absolutely horribly with TTD and NVDA.

I actually sold Elastic to buy NVDA and that was a mistake. Not because of the performance, but because of the reasoning. I believe more in the future of Elastic than I do NVDA and the market cap is much much smaller which I like. Whether one does better than the other isn’t the point. I went against my own investment thesis because I thought NVDA had traded down so much heading into earnings that if they surprised to the upside…big jump!

Anyways, I screwed up A LOT! I’m very fortunate to not have destroyed more wealth with my illogical, over confident trading. I plan to sell NVDA and buy ESTC and potentially ZUO, BL, PLAN or ZBRA…need to learn more about each and think about that

I just need to stop the trading crap and become a better long term investor. It will be much better for my life balance too.

That’s all for now. Would love to hear your thoughts. Too much rambling or is it good to hear what’s knocking around inside our brains a little?

Time Weight Return (TWR):
The TWR captures the true investment performance by eliminating all the effects of capital additions and withdrawals from the portfolio. Simply stated, the TWR is the return on the very first dollar invested into the portfolio. This makes the TWR a more meaningful measurement of performance when used to analyze the underlying performance of the portfolio’s assets or comparing your investment manager performance to alternative investments.
The method used to calculate the TWR is derived by dividing up the performance period into shorter sub-intervals, such as one month. Each sub-interval can be further divided into intervals based on the date of any cash inflows or outflows. Then, the IRR is calculated for each of these sub-intervals. Finally, the individual IRRs are then linked together with equal weighting (not dollar weighted) to derive at the portfolio’s overall TWR.
The TWR allows an investor the ability to accurately evaluate the true performance of the underlying assets and your investment manager, not just the return on the dollars you have invested in the portfolio. This may sound like a very subtle difference, yet, the IRR and TWR can be significantly different, even for the exact same period of time. It is important to understand the differences so you can make investment decisions with the best information available.…


That’s a really heartwarming post, Austin.
It’s amazing how quickly you are learning from your mistakes and you are doing well enough to put the downpayment on the house that you wanted. Excellent news!
This board has been a revelation to me even though I did well enough to retire at 40, so I envy you your journey in the years ahead and wish you and everyone else here all the best for the future.
Cheers, PB.


Hi Austin, you are doing amazingly but I’m a bit worried for you due to all that leverage you are using. I wonder if you ever read Gaucho Chris’ brave post describing how he went from being up 70% to losing not only his gains, but almost all his original invested money (and I think he had to sell other assets too due to margin calls), due to overconfident use of options. He may have been using different types of options than you are, but you should read his post. And believe me, if I can more triple my money in two years with no leverage at all, that is fast enough growth for anyone, and without that enormous risk. Here is a link. Everyone should read that post before using leverage (margin, options, etc).


Hi Austin,
Great results. congrats.
I am a bit surprised with PSTG. Specially at 10%.
It is one of those business that seems to perform very well but can’t shake off street’s lumping it with commodity flash memory space.
The way I look at it, they use commodity memory and add value with their SW on it and achieve great margins and customer appreciation.
But the street has been burned by similar companies before and so doesn’t give deserving multiples.

Yes that makes it great value but the question in my mind is when / how / why will this change?
Not sure if you have any thoughts on it.



Portfolio allocation:
74% Stocks
26% Options


That is a very high allocation to the options. With the incredible stock price appreciation over the past 2 years, it’s not surprising that call options of the underlying stocks have performed so well. Your 80% YTD return is quite amazing, and it’s the same as Saul’s (but he did not use any options). I would also caution that 26% of your portfolio is very high to have in options. One of the big lessons that I learned is that you always want to be able to ride out any prolonged downturn. A decline could last 2 years (perhaps longer on a rare occasion). If we saw a 2 year downturn then your 26% in options could be 0% and you would be left with 74% of your portfolio (assuming no decline in the stock prices). However, if there were a downturn then your stocks would also drop. If you also have short puts, it could be quite painful…dropping 60-70% of your portfolio is not fun and your description of your gains being life changing would then be life changing in the other direction.

As I’ve mentioned on occasion, I also use options. My allocation to them is much lower than yours. Currently, the net overall value of my options positions is 10.75% of my portfolio. About half of that is time value (other half is in the money value). We are all masters of our own portfolios so your decisions are yours. I just want to offer another word of caution.



Saul and Chris,

Thank you both for your genuine concern. I feel the same way about how large my options positions have grown. I initially aimed to purchase no more than 15% of any position size in options, but due to the outperformance of a couple of my largest holdings, those Calls have grown to become way too large.

I agree with both of you and I intend to get my allocation to options down to 10% or less. Now I just have to decide if I want to take the tax hit this year or risk it and wait until after Jan 1. I’ve already got pretty sizable capital gains this year from when I transitioned away from my hold 70ish holdings down to a more concentrated portfolio.

One important note though. I am not using any options strategies that include margin or make me at risk for margin-calls. But you are both exactly right. If the timing doesn’t work out (and it’s impossible to know if it will) those options could end up being worthless which would indeed be a big hit to my portfolio.

Anyways, I really do appreciate the advice. I’m still learning, and I know I will sleep better at night with far less exposure to options.

Plus as Saul said… these incredible returns can be had with just common stock. That’s the type of investor I want to be long term anyways.

p.s. looks like we’re in for a great day (and maybe week) in the market judging by the futures prices…


I plan to sell NVDA and buy ESTC and potentially ZUO, BL, PLAN or ZBRA

Zebra is a nice growth story, but it sells a lot of hardware: bar code scanners, printers, supplies and some software. I don’t think it can become the grower we are used to here. I imagine they provide stock and asset management tools that are in the cloud, but not going to become one of the SaaS companies we love.

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Zebra is a nice growth story, but it sells a lot of hardware: bar code scanners, printers, supplies and some software. I don’t think it can become the grower we are used to here. I imagine they provide stock and asset management tools that are in the cloud, but not going to become one of the SaaS companies we love.

While they will have some solutions and cloud tools, I think those tools are more to help manage internal devises then tools that help other businesses run their process. Most of their business goes through Channel Partners that use the Hardware as part of an overall solution, which is where they will get better margins. If Zebra by-passes those partners and tries to make a major move to provide direct SaaS or other business solutions, they likely will make their partners (aka “customers”) not so happy.

The relationship to the actual end user of the product is closer to the Partner that helping solve the business issue. Piss off thoes Partners, they can always recommend Honeywell, DataLogic, Casio, or other HW manufactures that will work with their solution.

I think they are a steady business but not a high grow company dispite the last couple of quarters of growth.


This will be my last transaction related post on this monthly update because we’re now OT. But, it’s valuable for me to follow up because this community has taught me so much.

I did lighten up significantly and sell some of my largest Calls. I made the decision a few days ago that regardless of market conditions, once my TMF trade restrictions allowed, I would lighten up on the Calls.


Simple, the sleep at night factor. A high returning portfolio is great! But if I’m too stressed out and/or taking on too much risk due to Calls, then what’s the point?

I’ve also added a couple beginner positions in some very high-quality companies. All three are positions I once owned and sold out of.

I also siphoned out a little more cash to have available for purchasing our home in the next year and having a little cash cushion.

All in all, I’m much more comfortable with the allocation of my portfolio, and ensuring we have enough money in the bank for emergencies/unexpected events will help me think clearly and stay invested through ups in downs with the money inside my investment accounts.

Position sizing will be updated in next months review.

Thanks, everyone for your feedback and helping me think through this.