Shares of Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) recently broke $1,000 for the first time, continuing what has become one of the most amazing investing stories of the past 20 years. And while Amazon still has room to run, there are other companies that are more like Amazon was 20 years ago -- that is to say, very early in finding their potential to become life-changing long-term investments.
As a matter of fact, three of our top contributors think that Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:IONS), Veeva Systems Inc. (NYSE:VEEV), and Caretrust REIT Inc. (NASDAQ:CTRE) have the same kind of potential Amazon showed so many years ago.
If you're looking for the next Amazon for your portfolio, keep reading to learn what makes these companies unique and why our contributors think they have Amazon-like potential.
Big pharma's go-to partner
Brian Feroldi (Ionis Pharmaceuticals): Drug development is risky and expensive. That makes it challenging for investors to put money to work in the sector. However, if you manage to buy a company that goes on to develop a winning drug, the rewards can be extraordinary.
One biopharma company that I think is worth the risk is Ionis Pharmaceuticals. This company created a drug technology called antisense that works by targeting RNA molecules. While the underlying science is complex, what's important for investors to know is that this technology can quickly churn out compounds that target a wide variety of diseases. In fact, Ionis has over 36 drugs in various states of development, which is impressive given that the company is valued at only around $6 billion. Better yet, Ionis has received approval for a handful of its drugs, which should give investors confidence that the technology works.
Given the company's enormous pipeline, Ionis believes it's capable of launching a handful of drugs to market each year for the next decade or so. The company should also be able to churn out a few new compounds every year and bring them into the clinic. These factors are a big reason large pharmaceutical companies such as Biogen, GlaxoSmithKline, and Roche have chosen to partner with Ionis.
Overall, Ionis' extensive pipeline and drug-development technology provide investors with multiple shots on goal each year. If even a handful of them turn out to be winners, then Ionis' top and bottom lines could soar for years to come.
Multiple futures make an "addressable market" meaningless
Brian Stoffel (Veeva Systems): When I think about what makes Amazon so great, I think the company's multiple futures have to be at the top of the list. What I mean is that founder/CEO Jeff Bezos has always been focused on a huge goal: being the best customer-service company in the world.
When the company went public, no one could have imagined the next 20 years. How big could an online bookseller really get? The thing is, the company had multiple futures: e-commerce, cloud computing, delivery, groceries and -- it increasingly seems -- a pharmaceutical provider.
In Veeva Systems, I see a similarly focused company. CEO Peter Gassner started Veeva because he saw that the cloud solutions offered by salesforce.com, his previous employer, didn't meet the high specialization and regulatory hurdles the pharmaceutical industry posed.
Veeva got its start by offering customer relationship management tools for drug companies. But then it expanded into data management with Vault, particularly to help these companies track and present the data necessary for regulatory approval of new drugs. Revenue from this source has been breathtaking: up 123% per year between 2014 and 2016.
But here's the Amazon tie-in: Positive word of mouth surrounding Vault has been so strong that companies outside Big Pharma are asking for a Vault solution. That's why the company is introducing Vault QualityOne -- a cloud solution for highly regulated industries such as chemicals, manufacturing, and consumer packaged goods.
Veeva is a quality investment even without this foray into other industries. But the possibility of multiple futures has shades of Amazon written all over it.
This dividend growth stock is set to pay big returns for years
Jason Hall (Caretrust REIT Inc.): Amazon has created huge investor value simply by becoming the biggest and most valuable online retailer in the world, disrupting traditional retail and playing a huge role in driving a change in the way people shop.
Caretrust, like Amazon, is well positioned to grow for years to come as another major trend plays out. But while Amazon's returns have been driven solely by the growth in the company's market value, Caretrust, a real estate investment trust (REIT), is more likely to reward long-term investors from a combination of capital growth and steady dividend increases.
At this writing, Caretrust owns just over 150 physical rehab and senior housing facilities, making it a pretty small fish in a big pond. But that pond is set to grow significantly over the next 20 years, as several million baby boomers reach retirement age every year, doubling the retirement-aged population of the U.S. over that time.
This is already starting to create a need for more of the kinds of facilities Caretrust owns, and that trend could support decades of expansion and profit growth. As a REIT, Caretrust is required to pay out a substantial amount of its earnings in dividends. If the company is able to fully take advantage of the opportunity in the years to come, dividend growth alone could drive the kind of life-changing returns Amazon shareholders have enjoyed over the past 20 years.