Stocks that nearly triple in a year like Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) are hard to come by, but every year a few pop-up. Investors who take a chance on these stocks can see their portfolios surge in a short amount of time.

But buying stocks with that kind of return potential isn't for the faint of heart. And when we put together three stocks with the potential to triple we see lots of opportunities -- and lots of risks. Here's why Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), IPG Photonics (NASDAQ:IPGP), and Snap Inc (NYSE:SNAP) all have high potential, and high risk as well. 

Twitter's headquarters in a time lapse photo at night.

Twitter's headquarters. Image source: Twitter.

Growth plus cash will secure Twitter's future

Rich Smith (Twitter): Shopify shares are up more than 180% over the past year -- but they're also down 13% from their highs last month.

This is an important lesson for investors to learn: If you want to own a stock with Shopify-like return potential, you may have to accept the risk of enduring Shopify-like turbulence. So long as a stock is unprofitable, it's going to be hard to value, and the prices investors are willing to pay for it are likely to swing wildly.

That's why today I'm going to break from my norm and throw "earnings" and "valuation" out the window. Naysayers may say "nay" to this idea, but I think Twitter has Shopify-like return potential.

How is Twitter like Shopify? For one thing, it's shown the ability to grow strongly. Although Twitter's sales growth has stalled of late (as Shopify's may, too), over the past five years Twitter still averaged 89% annual sales growth -- not far behind Shopify's average 100% annual revenue growth pace of the past four years.

Shopify has neither GAAP profits nor free cash flow -- it hasn't earned a penny since going public. What Shopify does have is near $400 million in the bank. At its current rate of cash burn, I see no risk of Shopify running out of money anytime in the next decade. For its part, Twitter has $2.2 billion in the bank, and Twitter is generating cash -- roughly $600 million in positive free cash flow over the past year. If it keeps churning out cash at that rate, Twitter could run out of cash ... never.

Listen, Fools. I'm well aware of the many knocks against Twitter's business model. But the Twitter service has become embedded in our online lives, and while present management hasn't yet figured out how to turn Twitter's service into GAAP profits, this company has the growth, the cash, and the free cash flow to keep it running till someone finally does discover how to monetize Twitter's service properly.

When that happens, I think we'll all see Twitter stock perform, and maybe even outperform Shopify itself.

This laser stock should hit the target

Dan Caplinger (IPG Photonics): The laser industry has been red-hot lately as companies in many different sectors of the economy look to take advantage of advances in laser technology to make their respective businesses more efficient. IPG Photonics has stood out among laser-makers because of its vertically integrated production process, which keeps it from relying on third-party suppliers to as great an extent as some of its competitors in the industry.

IPG Photonics has enjoyed renewed growth recently because of a couple of favorable trends. Growth in China has been monumental, helping to offset sluggishness in the German and Japanese markets and much slower growth in the U.S. market. Fiber lasers have also been a key growth driver and rising demand for fiber optic network infrastructure projects in developing parts of the world promise to provide a strong market for IPG Photonics in that segment for the foreseeable future.

The key question for the laser industry is whether telecom companies in developed markets move forward with plans to upgrade their wireless networks in the near future. If they do, the move could serve as a catalyst for more gains for IPG Photonics. Although the company isn't the only company in the space, IPG Photonics has distinguished itself considerably and should continue to do so in the years to come. 

The one company Gen Z loves

Travis Hoium (Snap Inc): As Rich mentioned, finding stocks that may triple in a year requires accepting some risk and volatility. But the upside potential could be worth it, and I think that's the case with Snap today. 

No app has captured the attention of young people, also known as Generation Z, as Snapchat. It's the communication tool in high schools and colleges across the country for pictures and messages. In many ways, the disappearance of images and messages is a backlash to Facebook's (NASDAQ:FB) more open structure where your parents or grandparents may comment on photos at will. 

What makes Snap exciting from an investment perspective is that it's just now figuring out how to become a business. Revenue in the first quarter jumped 296% from a year ago to $149.6 million. And while Snap is still losing money, it's just now beginning to turn ads on in a big way, which should lead to further revenue growth in the next year. And having a Gen Z heavy user base is a great position to be in for advertisers.

The market is extremely pessimistic on Snap because it's not making money, the user base isn't growing like investors would like, and Facebook is copying a lot of its features. But if Snap can remain the preferred social network for young people and figure out how to turn that position into a lucrative advertising business it could become an investor favorite. And that's what stocks can triple in a short amount of time. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.