Every investor dreams of finding a groundbreaking stock, riding it to untold riches, and retiring to an island getaway. The problem is that it isn't as easy as it sounds. A multitude of investors have already owned a game-changing stock at some point in their lifetime, only to get frightened out of it by the precipitous drops that can -- and do -- occur with life-changing investments, or to trade it away for the next shiny new thing.

Some of the most popular stocks around today -- think Netflix, Apple, and Amazon, just to name a few -- have each lost half their value at some point during their illustrious ascent. These were certainly game-changing investments, returning 40,000%, 90,000%, and 166,000%, respectively, for investors who bought early and held for the duration.

That same potential is still out there, and if you've got nerves of steel and $5,000 in disposable cash that you don't need for immediate expenses or to augment your emergency fund, putting it to work in these high-growth stocks could result in explosive gains -- and umbrellas in your drinks when you retire.

A man jumping for joy as $100 bills fall from above.

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CrowdStrike: Flying like a Falcon

The massive shift to remote work hampered the ability of IT departments to protect employees from ever-present cyber threats, as workers moved beyond the protection of the corporate firewall. This left those working from home at greater risk of breaches and intrusion. That's where CrowdStrike Holdings (CRWD 2.23%) comes in.

The cloud-native company works to stop cybersecurity threats before they start with the use of its Falcon platform, which focuses on protecting the endpoints -- servers, desktops, laptops, and mobile devices -- from recognized threats. But that's just the beginning. The company makes use of crowd-sourcing, collecting and analyzing data from its ever-growing customer base, with the aid of its ever-improving artificial intelligence (AI). These sophisticated algorithms, which learn and improve over time, not only identify known problems but also help predict future threats and stop them in their tracks.

Business is booming. In its fiscal first quarter (ended April 30), CrowdStrike reported revenue that grew 85% year over year. This was driven by annual recurring revenue that jumped 88% and the addition of net new subscription customers that increased 105%. The company has yet to produce a profit, but it edged ever closer, cutting its losses by nearly 84%.

Once they experience the benefits of CrowdStrike's approach to cybersecurity, customers not only keep coming back, but they sign up for additional services. The net revenue retention rate, which measures additional spending by existing customers, exceeded 120%. In addition, the number of clients who are subscribed to four cloud protection modules increased to 55% of total customers, while those with five or more increased to over 35%.

CrowdStrike is well positioned to benefit from the ongoing need for remote work.

Smiling man using a credit card to make an e-commerce purchase using a laptop/

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MercadoLibre: Powering the e-commerce and payments revolution in Latin America

MercadoLibre (MELI -0.56%) certainly isn't a newcomer, but the company still has a unique and growing opportunity.

MercadoLibre is the leading e-commerce provider in each of the major countries in which it operates in terms of unique visitors and number of page views. Like many online purveyors, MercadoLibre had all the pieces in place as the pandemic caused a dramatic acceleration in digital purchases.

However, it's the company's payment system, MercadoPago, that's now driving its growth. Latin America is still a largely cash-based society as about 70% of its residents don't have a bank account, and only between 20% and 55% have a credit card, depending on the country. MercadoLibre developed a network of convenience stores and other locations that allowed consumers to pay for their digital purchases. The company soon made MercadoPago available to other online retailers, and as its popularity spread, it made the jump to brick-and-mortar stores.

Recent results reveal the brilliance of that move. In the second quarter, net revenue grew 123% year over year, driven by total payment volume (TPV) that soared 142% (both figures in local currencies). That was after 71% revenue gains and an 82% jump in TPV in the first quarter. E-commerce also soared with gross merchandise volume (GMV) that jumped 102% year over year after the company posted 34% gains in the first quarter.

Latin America has twice the population of the U.S., providing a much greater pool of potential shoppers. In addition, e-commerce represented just 4.2% of total retail in the region in 2019, about one-third the penetration rate in the U.S., illustrating much greater potential for growth ahead.

With a fertile marketplace and an industry-leading position, MercadoLibre could potentially grow many times over from here.

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Image source: Getty Images.

Sea Limited: E-commerce and so much more

You'd be forgiven if you'd never heard of Sea Limited (SE -2.97%), but that doesn't take away from the company's dramatic potential. While it began as a purveyor of video games in Southeast Asia, the company has become a full-on digital empire with mobile gaming, esports, online retail, digital payments, and more in its growing stable of services.

The onset of the pandemic played to several of Sea's strengths, with stay-at-home orders increasing demand for e-commerce, gaming, and digital payments. The company's e-commerce site, Shopee, is the leading online sales platform, by gross merchandise volume, in the region, which includes Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore. With a population of more than 585 million people and 315 million internet users, Sea's market opportunity is vast and growing. 

Here's another situation that may sound strikingly familiar: There are a large number of unbanked and underbanked consumers in the region as half the population doesn't have a bank account, and about 80% don't have a credit card. Sea created its own local payment system, called Sea Money, to address this need -- a segment that's small but has been rapidly growing. 

The company's second-quarter results tell the tale. Total revenue grew 102% year over year with robust contributions from each of its major reporting segments. Digital entertainment grew 67%, while e-commerce and other services climbed 120%, and sales of goods more than tripled. It's important to note that the company is far from profitable, even expanding its losses from $280 million in the prior-year quarter to $394 million.

Sea Limited is tapping into some of the biggest growth trends around and is well positioned to maintain its trajectory far into the future.

CRWD Chart

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Those pesky valuations

As with many high-growth investments, these companies don't come cheap, which is partially a function of their recent soaring stock prices. CrowdStrike, MercadoLibre, and Sea Limited are selling at 43, 21, and 24 times trailing 12-month sales, respectively, when an attractive price-to-sales ratio typically falls between one and two.

In each case, however, investors have thus far been willing to pay up for the impressive top-line growth and the potential for continued expansion in the months and years to come.