Did you catch the news last week that all 23,500 Segway scooters are being recalled? A free software update is in order to remedy a potential glitch that may treat riders to nasty spills from sharp and unexpected stops.
If you shelled out $5,000 to be one of the first on your block to own a Segway, you have every right to be steamed. I've got a buggy Xbox 360 that, though substantially cheaper than that Segway, has me smarting over my decision to buy an unproven product as it hit the market.
The media is playing the Segway recall story as yet another case of the early adopter getting burned. That's hogwash. The early bird still catches the worm. You just need to know where to find the tasty ones.
Staring down rabbit holes and wormholes
The greatest investment in your lifetime may or may not have happened yet. However, I am fairly sure that in the end, it will be that one young company you took a chance on. You know, the company that wanted to change the world, succeeded, and turned your portfolio around in the process.
That company is not a blue chip.
Don't get me wrong -- blue chips are dependable income producers that can help you through market storms. They're a great part of a balanced portfolio. But the stock you will tell your grandchildren about as you rock back and forth on the porch is the one you took a chance on.
The energy-drink revolution
Take Hansen Natural (Nasdaq: HANS ) , for example. The company entered the energy-drink market in 1997 with its namesake product line. Then it took the alternative-beverage world by storm in 2002, when it rolled out Monster Energy. Remember your first sip of Monster back then? Do you think that your portfolio could have used a shot of ginseng and guarana around the same time? Fortune now lists Hansen as the second-fastest-growing company of the past few years.
If you had cracked open the lid on Hansen stock shortly after Monster became a drinkable beast, you would be sitting pretty these days, as the company has seen profits, revenues, and share price soar at annualized rates of 181%, 70%, and 262%, respectively, over the past three years.
Upstart Hansen -- and Red Bull -- found a profitable niche in the beverage market and has inspired drink companies of all sizes, from Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) to Jones Soda (Nasdaq: JSDA ) , to roll out competing products.
The problem with Segway
Now look at Segway. Seen any Segway knock-offs around? Come to think of it, have you seen any Segways around much lately?
As rich niche products go, consumers really didn't take to the Segway. Unless you're a security guard at a gated community, a Tampa mail carrier, or Gob Bluth from Arrested Development, you may have never even ridden one in your life.
Fool co-founder David Gardner told me yesterday that Segway's fatal flaw was failing to meet a pressing and widespread societal need. Despite the initial hype, Segway isn't disruptive technology. We have cars for longer distances and legs for shorter ones.
Arriving fashionably early at the right party
The key to growth investing is to buy rising companies that not only have great new technologies or products but also meet widespread and pressing consumer needs. That's the only way they'll achieve lasting growth.
Just take a look at two of our best picks in Rule Breakers. Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG ) has been revolutionizing the hospital operating room with its surgical robots. Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq: AKAM ) is ushering in a new era of digital delivery by speeding up content transmissions on the Internet and making them more dependable. These are two companies that have clearly met widespread and pressing societal needs, and both stocks have more than doubled in the past 12 months.
And even when our picks haven't yet panned out, the problem hasn't been consumer ennui. While recent pick XM Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: XMSR ) hasn't been a hit for shareholders, XM and competitor Sirius Satellite Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI ) have combined to land 12 million subscribers. In other words, the revolution is real. Satellite radio has found a market crying for innovation -- terrestrial radio -- and enhanced it with wider choices and narrower genres.
The Foolish bottom line
Is Segway really changing the world? There may be some circles where the Segway has been a marvel, but the world is not begging for a gizmo that rolls along at a mere 12.5 miles per hour.
There are, however, products and technologies that the world is begging for, and we've made it our mission at Motley Fool Rule Breakers to identify them for subscribers long before the wider market catches on. If you'd like to take a look at our best ideas and today's brand-new two-year review issue, where we update our thinking on every great growth story we're following, click here to join Rule Breakers free for 30 days. There is no obligation to subscribe.
Longtime Fool contributorRick Munarriz believes in taking chances to earn superior returns. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. Coca-Cola is an Inside Value recommendation. The Fool has adisclosure policy.