How to Get the Inside Scoop on Potential Tech Investments

Tech investing is exciting, but for those without a background in the industry, it can also be intimidating. It can be hard to make sense of what some of these companies actually do and how well they do it if you are not using the products yourself.

Appearing on Motley Fool Live to record the Industry Focus podcast, Motley Fool analyst Tim Beyers and host Dylan Lewis chat about what investors who don’t have a background in tech can do to get the inside scoop on these companies. 

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Dylan Lewis: I’m sure there are some folks listening, Tim, that say, well, Tim you have a background in tech. You spend a lot of time in the space. And so, you’ve probably tuned some of your content-filtering, you know, the news you consume, whether it’s newsletters or things you go to, to get some information. And there might be some people that are like, you know, it’s awesome that you have these employees at The Fool that you can talk to that work in these spaces, I don’t have access to those types of people in my everyday life. Are there any sites or forums or aggregators that you could point to and say, you know, this is a really good place, if you don’t have those people, to start getting some of that information.

Tim Beyers: Yeah. You know, if you’re talking about a tech product — let’s just say we’re talking about tech for a minute here — there are a couple of things you could do, just about every one of these tech companies and tech products, they have some kind of community, so there are things you can look for. Like, you can go and join that community or you can observe it, and you can see how active it is. Like, if it’s stale, like, the last message posted was three weeks ago, that tells you something, that tells you that it’s not that interesting, whereas if you go to, say, one of the products that I use that I’m a big consumer of, Airtable. If you go to the Airtable community, which anybody can get into, if you take a look at that, you’re going to see a boatload of messages, you’re going to see a lot of messages. And what that tells you is that, even when those messages are frustrations, like, why can’t you do this yet? Another way to frame, “Why can’t you do this yet?” is I love your product, help me use it more, right? Like, that is —

Lewis: Tim, I think something that can sometimes get lost in the customer feedback loop or what could sound like criticism is like, I love you so much and I want you to be even better.

Beyers: I want you to be better. Yes. Why aren’t you solving this problem for me yet, because I use you for so many things and I can envision, like, five other things I could do with your product, please help me do those things. When you see a customer begging for that; and you do see it, you know, you can go to some of these forums for these tech products and you’ll see people saying, hey, when is this coming, when is this coming? That tells you that that company not only has customers who are interested, they have customers who want to buy more, which means they have optionality, so that community aspect can be very illuminating.

Lewis: I’m guessing Zoom (NASDAQ:ZM) is one of those businesses [laughs] so far in 2020, right, that has probably had an outpouring of folks reaching out. And just because we’re, kind of, leading a lot of The Fool into this podcast episode, I’ll just say, you know, you mentioned Airtable, I was in a meeting the other day where someone joked, just like, all right, we’ve said Airtable three times, take a drink, you know. Like, it’s [laughs] basically like one of the most mentioned platforms internally at The Fool right now, and it has spread like wildfire because it’s so successful.

Beyers: Yeah. And there are, admittedly, so there you go, there’s my Airtable shirt. I’m not the only one, by the way, who’s been an Airtable evangelist inside of The Fool. I mean, Doug Reale has been a big one, who’s on our Blueprint team. Katie Carrera, who’s like a power user of Airtable. And these people are growing up inside the company. When you start to see that, it is an indicator that things are going well.

So, yes, one thing you can do, if you don’t have access to it, but I would also say, you know like, you could look at those communities, but I would also say, you probably have more connections than you know you do. And it could just be like asking your kid or asking an acquaintance and say, hey, do you know anybody who develops software, like, do you know any software developers? Or even just ask somebody at your work. You know, the vast majority of software developers are not working at a hi-tech company in Silicon Valley, they work in Middle America and they’re either keeping software or they’re developing new software for a company, it could be like a retailer. I mean, seriously, that’s the vast majority of developers, do that stuff. So, you probably know them, you just haven’t really engaged with them yet.

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