Landing winning stocks doesn't have to mean investing in small, high-risk operations. Even big companies offer the potential of rich returns over time. But some small businesses will turn into tomorrow's biggest enterprises and create massive wealth for early investors along the way.
Small-cap stocks -- typically defined as having a market cap of over $300 million but under $2 billion -- can be tough to choose, though. Many of them will never make it, while others will stay stuck as a small business in perpetuity; many tend to be especially volatile. Nevertheless, owning a diversified basket of tiny, potentially up-and-coming businesses could help investors land a rare grand slam. Three that some Foolish contributors think are worth considering are Appian (NASDAQ:APPN), Tucows (NASDAQ:TCX), and OrganiGram Holdings (NASDAQ:OGI).
Is low-code the way of the future?
Nicholas Rossolillo (Appian): This software development company technically sits just outside small cap territory as of this writing with a value of $2.35 billion, but it's close to the threshold and the stock has been all over the place in the past year, which means many times it's been below $2 billion. Technicalities aside, this is a tiny company, but it's looking to disrupt the status quo in a big way.
Appian provides professional services for IT teams as well as a suite of cloud-based tools to help build software applications and other digital tools. In this age of digital transformation, Appian has found its services in high demand. Total revenue grew 28% in 2018 and was up 15% during the first quarter of 2019. However, it's the cloud-based subscription service that's really worth a look here.
Appian's software development tools by subscription are what's known as "low code." Low code is a drag-and-drop-style work environment that allows software developers -- or even those with little software experience -- to quickly build an application for a business. Many organizations are behind the curve when it comes to constructing new digital operations, and the IT workforce is highly competitive. Appian speeds up and simplifies the process, taking some of the stress off overworked and behind-schedule IT teams or helping other companies put together a team where there wasn't one before.
The numbers speak to the power of Appian's solution. Subscription revenue increased 40% in 2018 to $115.7 million, and another 32% in Q1 2019 to $33.6 million. It adds up to a small operation that has huge future potential. Appian loses money at this point, and changes in its growth trajectory will make the stock move in fits and starts, so the stock isn't for everyone. But for those with the time to wait and stomach for typical small-cap ups and downs, this software development company could be going places.
The best networking stock you've never heard of
Anders Bylund (Tucows): This provider of various internet services, ranging from fiber-based data service plans to domain name registration, comes with a $560 million market cap today. Tucows arguably deserves a richer valuation right now, and its growth prospects also look stellar.
The Toronto-based company has grown its top-line sales by an annual average of 22% over the past five years, pushing earnings higher by an average of 38% in the same period. Analysts expect annual earnings growth to remain near the 30% mark in the next half-decade. That's for good reason, too.
If you know Tucows at all, it's probably as the operator behind the Ting Mobile wireless service. The company doesn't build and run its own networks but leases network access from one of the majors and resells it at low prices and with its own high-quality customer service. The company recently added Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) top-notch network to Ting's infrastructure, planning not to re-up the current T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) deal when it expires later this year. Either way, Ting offers solid service at a reasonable price, and Tucows has seen the service nearly triple in size over the five-year period I keep bringing up. The Ting name is supported by advertising on a national level, and I expect the torrential growth to continue.
Making the most of that brand-building exercise, Tucows has also started to provide fiber-optic broadband services in a handful of handpicked markets. Ting Internet is an expensive expansion right now but could turn into a veritable cash machine as it matures.
This micro-cap stock is primed for fantastic growth as the Ting-branded services grow into their breeches.
A marijuana stock with a lot of promise
Neha Chamaria (OrganiGram Holdings): Cannabis is one of the hottest investing spaces right now. Between Canada's legalization of recreational marijuana last year, a rising number of states in the U.S. legalizing medical weed, and President Trump's recent farm bill legalizing industrial hemp production, aggressive growth investors have good reasons to dip their fingers into marijuana stocks. The industry growth potential could mean big things for even a small-cap stock like OrganiGram Holdings. OrganiGram's market capitalization is just short of $1 billion as of this writing.
OrganiGram is a Canada-based producer of medical and recreational cannabis. From starting out as a pure-medical cannabis player in 2013 to becoming one of Canada's 10 largest cannabis producers, OrganiGram has made its mark in the industry. One of the keys to the company's growth has been its three-level indoor cultivation technology in the high-potential New Brunswick region. So while a three-tiered facility has allowed OrganiGram to scale production at low costs without really investing in larger cultivation farms, its geographic location is an added competitive advantage. By the end of this year, the company expects to increase annual capacity to 113,000 kilograms.
What makes OrganiGram a compelling stock is that it's among the few profitable marijuana producers. In its most recent quarter, it reported $12.5 million in net income from continuing operations year to date on revenue worth $64.1 million. With OrganiGram also expanding its international footprint and setting itself up to capitalize on fresh opportunities like hemp, this small-cap stock could head for much bigger days if its growth plans pan out as expected.