Warren Buffett recently sat down with Cathy Baron Tamraz, the CEO of Business Wire.
Buffett gave his interview at the end of February to kick off The Innovation Project 2013 held at Harvard University.
The “interviewer” is a bit wooden and is obviously trying to feed event sponsor and BW subsidiary PYMNTS.com with plenty of talk about mobile payments technology. But Buffett has some good tidbits sprinkled in.
Here are the highlights, and a link to the video clip at the end:
- On improvement in housing and the job market, “It’s going to continue in 2013 and it’ll continue beyond that.” He says “we have been making progress ever since the fall of 2009 and we’ll keep making progress.”
- Innovation is what’s great about America and “it’ll never stop.” He says that at this moment, “Tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of very intelligent people [are] working on making everything we’re doing obsolete.” That’s an opportunity, not a downside.
- Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos comes up around the 3:15 mark … and Buffett sounds very impressed by him. Not just how Amazon is in “retailing payments now even IT with its cloud operation,” but how Bezos “doesn’t worry about next quarter’s profits — he worries about where the company is going to be five or 10 years from now.” Put simply: “He will never stop.”
- He “admires” MasterCard (NYSE:MA) — or as he calls it “Mastercharge” — and Visa (NYSE:V) despite a big stake in American Express (NYSE:AXP).
- Optimism is contagious, yes, but “it doesn’t spread as fast as fear. Fear leaves the room en masse and they can’t get to the door fast enough. Confidence they re-enter at a somewhat slower pace. But confidence has come back and for good reason. But fear turns into panic.”
- A great patch at around 9:42 states: “We have a wonderful system that eventually is self-cleansing and always moves forward. No matter how discouraged you get with any given day’s headlines, just think about the fact that we are now living six times better than when I was born, on average. Our system works — and incidentally, I would say that people tend even in terms of the recovery and all of that to focus too much on what the government has done to give either credit or blame. The real credit belongs to our system. I mean, our system works. It’s gone through the Great Depression, it’s gone through many expensive world wars, it’s gone through a civil war and it comes back. And in large part is coming back because of the natural juices of capitalism and not because of government.”
- Entrepreneurs and innovators should “listen to your customer all the time. Anything that makes your customer’s life easier. anything that pleases them in some way or appeals to their own self-worth, whatever it may be, you want to be in tune with that.” Or put another way, “I’m not big on trying to predict what the world will look like in 10 years, I am very big on getting out there and finding out what your customer wants today.”
- Bottom line: Human potential is crucial to America’s economy, and capitalism as a whole.
Take a look at the video here on Vimeo.
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.” Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.