It's every investor's fantasy: a stock bought on the cheap that subsequently hits the big time, rising to heights few could have imagined.

This fantasy is a reality for three notable companies on the exchange -- NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA), (NYSE:CRM), and Universal Display (NASDAQ:OLED). Here's how each shot into the stratosphere.

Man magically creating a graph in the air with his finger.

Image source: Getty Images


Once in a rare while, a company will be in the perfect position to capitalize on several trends heating up at the same time. That's the happy place graphics card maker NVIDIA has found itself in.

NVDA Chart

NVDA dat by YCharts

The drive to create ever-more powerful cards for computer gaming (which even has organized professional leagues these days), increasing automation on the way to full autonomous operation for vehicles, and the proliferation of cryptocurrencies has really juiced the company's results.

In the company's fiscal 2018, it notched new all-time highs for both revenue and per-share net profit; the former rose by 34% on a year-over-year basis to $2.91 billion, while the latter gained a monster 88% to land at $4.82. And in all four quarters, NVIDIA handily beat analyst estimates for profitability.

The trends that have propelled the company higher will only intensify going forward, even if it isn't quite the inescapable presence on the cryptocurrency scene that many believe it is. In the early 2000s, Nvidia could be bought for around $7.00 per share, adjusted for stock splits. These days, it trades at nearly $250.

Universal Display

Another "right time, right place" tech stock is Universal Display, maker of organic light-emitting diodes. No, they're not props in a science-fiction movie; they are materials used for the manufacture of cutting-edge TV and smartphone screens.

OLED Chart

OLED data by YCharts

The company not only makes bank on the sale of OLEDs, it also does a brisk business licensing its OLED-related patents, of which it holds over 4,200. On top of that, it provides research services to associates for a fee.

So with Universal Display, we've got a company in a hot sector that's taking advantage of multiple revenue streams. Not surprisingly, both the top and bottom lines have been climbing steeply -- for fiscal 2017, revenue advanced by 69% to nearly $336 million, with adjusted net profit more than doubling to $115 million.

Like NVIDIA, it doesn't seem that Universal Display's growth drivers will vanish anytime soon. And even though the company's stock took a nasty hit after releasing its most recent set of results due to weaker-than-expected guidance, it's still up substantially. A share that cost $3.44 just before the turn of the Millennium is worth nearly $126 now. is a cloud computing company that has been in existence longer than most of us have even been aware of the cloud. Over that time it has amassed a huge customer base made up of businesses of various types and sizes around the world. The company's sprawling customer relationship management (CRM) software product line helps organize and streamline a great many tasks for these entities. 

CRM Chart

CRM data by YCharts

They clearly need and want the assistance.'s most recent fiscal year (2018) illustrates this. Revenue was up 25% to almost $10.5 billion, while adjusted net profit zoomed ahead by 41% to land at $991 million ($1.39 per share). Fiscal 2019's  top-line growth might not be so hot, at "only" 20% or so according to's guidance, but EPS is expected to show a 45% improvement.

Those numbers are hard to ignore. As a result, the company's stock is notching new all-time high prices these days, which is saying something for a stock that's been on the market since 2004. recently closed just shy of $128; in its first year of trading, it could be bought for under $4.

Make me a millionaire

The best part of this is that such monster stock price gains aren't as rare as many would suspect. For proof, here's the skinny on a pair of famous names that each turned $1,000 into more than $200,000, and on another trio that crossed the $1 million mark on an initial outlay of $10,000.

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.