Warren Buffett and Berkshire’s Vice Chairman Charlie Munger reflected on missed opportunities in the tech sector Saturday while addressing investors at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting streaming on Yahoo Finance.
Buffett and Munger agreed they avoided tech stocks in the past because the investment company had no advantages in the space, while others did. Both believe in avoiding areas where others can do better.
In retrospect, Munger said, the worst mistake the company made in the tech field was not pursuing investments in Google, although "we were smart enough to figure out" their business model.
Munger said Google's paid-search advertising worked so much better in the early days than anything else.
"I would say we failed you there," he said. "We were smart enough to do it and we didn't."
Buffett said Geico, a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, was a Google customer early on. "We were paying them $10 or $11 per click, or something like that, and any time you're paying somebody $10 or $11 bucks every time [someone clicks on a line] where you have no cost at all, that's a good business."
Jokingly, Buffett said, if any of you don't have something to do tonight in your hotel rooms, just keep clicking on Progressive.
"I knew the guys and … I had plenty of ways to ask questions and educate myself, but I blew it," Buffett said.
During the shareholders meeting the two also addressed the risk of driverless cars to several types of businesses, such as Hathaway's investment in Geico and Burlington Northern.
He sees autonomous cars and trucks are more of a threat than an opportunity for the businesses. For Geico, if driverless cars became pervasive it would only mean because they were safer and it would drive down the premium income.
"If they make the world safer, it would be a very good thing, but not for auto insurers," Buffett said.