Oakseed Opportunity Fund (SEEDX)

By David Snowball

The fund:

oakseed logoOakseed Opportunity Fund (SEEDX)


John Park and Greg Jackson

The call:

On November 18th, Messrs Jackson and Park joined me and three dozen Observer readers for an hour-long conversation about the fund and their approach to it.

I was struck, particularly, that their singular focus in talking about the fund is “complete alignment of interests.” A few claims particularly stood out:

  1. their every investable penny in is in the fund.
  2. they intend their personal gains to be driven by the fund’s performance and not by the acquisition of assets and fees
  3. they’ll never manage separate accounts or a second fund
  4. they created an “Institutional” class as a way of giving shareholders a choice between buying the fund NTF with a marketing fee or paying a transaction fee but not having the ongoing expense; originally they had a $1 million institutional minimum because they thought institutional shares had to be that pricey. Having discovered that there’s no logical requirement for that, they dropped the institutional minimum by 99%.
  5. they’ll close on the day they come across an idea they love but can’t invest in
  6. they’ll close if the fund becomes big enough that they have to hire somebody to help with it (no analysts, no marketers, no administrators – just the two of them)

Highlights on the investing front were two-fold:

first, they don’t intend to be “active investors” in the sense of buying into companies with defective managements and then trying to force management to act responsibly. Their time in the private equity/venture capital world taught them that that’s neither their particular strength nor their passion.

second, they have the ability to short stocks but they’ll only do so for offensive – rather than defensive – purposes. They imagine shorting as an alpha-generating tool, rather than a beta-managing one. But it sounds a lot like they’ll not short, given the magnitude of the losses that a mistaken short might trigger, unless there’s evidence of near-criminal negligence (or near-Congressional idiocy) on the part of a firm’s management. They do maintain a small short position on the Russell 2000 because the Russell is trading at an unprecedented high relative to the S&P and attempts to justify its valuations require what is, to their minds, laughable contortions (e.g., that the growth rate of Russell stocks will rise 33% in 2014 relative to where they are now.

Their reflections of 2013 performance were both wry and relevant. The fund is up 21% YTD, which trails the S&P500 by about 6.5%. Greg started by imagining what John’s reaction might have been if Greg said, a year ago, “hey, JP, our fund will finish its first year up more than 20%.” His guess was “gleeful” because neither of them could imagine the S&P500 up 27%. While trailing their benchmark is substantially annoying, they made these points about performance:

  • beating an index during a sharp market rally is not their goal, outperforming across a complete cycle is.
  • the fund’s cash stake – about 16% – and the small short position on the Russell 2000 doubtless hurt returns.
  • nonetheless, they’re very satisfied with the portfolio and its positioning – they believe they offer “substantial downside protection,” that they’ve crafted a “sleep well at night” portfolio, and that they’ve especially cognizant of the fact that they’ve put their friends’, families’ and former investors’ money at risk – and they want to be sure that they’re being well-rewarded for the risks they’re taking.

John described their approach as “inherently conservative” and Greg invoked advice given to him by a former employer and brilliant manager, Don Yacktman: “always practice defense, Greg.”

When, at the close, I asked them what one thing they thought a potential investor in the fund most needed to understand in order to know whether they were a good “fit” for the fund, Greg Jackson volunteered the observation “we’re the most competitive people alive, we want great returns but we want them in the most risk-responsible way we can generate them.” John Park allowed “we’re not easy to categorize, we don’t adhere to stylebox purity and so we’re not going to fit into the plans of investors who invest by type.”

podcastThe conference call (When you click on the link, the file will load in your browser and will begin playing after it’s partially loaded.)

The profile:

If you’re fairly sure that creeping corporatism – that is, the increasing power of marketers and folks more concerned with asset-gathering than with excellence – is a really bad thing, then you’re going to discover that Oakseed is a really good one.

The Mutual Fund Observer profile of SEEDX, May 2013.


Oakseed Funds website

Fund Focus: Resources from other trusted sources

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About David Snowball

David Snowball, PhD (Massachusetts). Cofounder, lead writer. David is a Professor of Communication Studies at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, a nationally-recognized college of the liberal arts and sciences, founded in 1860. For a quarter century, David competed in academic debate and coached college debate teams to over 1500 individual victories and 50 tournament championships. When he retired from that research-intensive endeavor, his interest turned to researching fund investing and fund communication strategies. He served as the closing moderator of Brill’s Mutual Funds Interactive (a Forbes “Best of the Web” site), was the Senior Fund Analyst at FundAlarm and author of over 120 fund profiles. David lives in Davenport, Iowa, and spends an amazing amount of time ferrying his son, Will, to baseball tryouts, baseball lessons, baseball practices, baseball games … and social gatherings with young ladies who seem unnervingly interested in him.