No one could have predicted how the year would play out when the market plunged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After shedding about one-third of its value between mid-February and late March, the major indexes have come roaring back, led by the tech-heavy Nasdaq, which has gained an impressive 20% so far in 2020.

At the same time, however, investors sitting on the sidelines waiting for the other shoe to drop have been largely left behind and are rightfully wondering if the train has left the station. The good news is that even in the wake of such impressive increases, there are growth stocks out there that offer plenty of opportunities to prosper -- if investors just know where to look.

Assuming you have an adequate emergency fund and $3,000 (or less) in disposable cash you don't need for at least the next three to five years, here are three companies that have a surefire path to success.

Hundred dollar bills rolling off printing press

Image source: Getty Images.

1. NVIDIA: Gaming and so much more

NVIDIA (NVDA -0.62%) made a name for itself by developing the graphics processing units (GPUs) capable of creating realistic images in video games. The company is the undisputed leader in the discrete GPU market, with a dominant 80% share in the second quarter, and is a favorite among high-end gamers. 

Yet over the past several years, the company has evolved into so much more. Researchers found that the ability of the GPU to handle multiple complex mathematical calculations simultaneously -- which made it perfect for rendering images -- worked equally well in artificial intelligence (AI), as well as in data center and cloud computing applications. It's these newer, high-tech uses that are driving NVIDIA's current explosive growth.

In the second quarter, NVIDIA's revenue grew 50% year over year. In an astonishing turn of events, the company's data center revenue -- which includes AI and cloud computing -- soared 167% and overtook gaming revenue for the first time, which still climbed a respectable 26%. At the same time, the company's adjusted earnings per share vaulted an impressive 76% from the prior-year rate. 

NVIDIA recently introduced its newest processor, the RTX 30 series -- powered by its Ampere architecture -- which the company called the "greatest-ever generational leap in GeForce history." This next-generation technology will no doubt increase demand from gamers eager to deploy the latest capabilities.

Finally, NVIDIA announced earlier this month that it would acquire mobile chip designer ARM Holdings in a deal valued at $40 billion. This acquisition will significantly expand NVIDIA's reach, creating a powerhouse in the process. 

NVIDIA was already a surefire hit, but recent developments make the stock as close to a no-brainer as you can get in investing.

Woman's hand hovers over keyboard while other holds credit card.

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Amazon: A large and growing e-commerce empire

You might find it surprising to find Amazon (AMZN -0.91%) on this list, but even as online retail has exploded in 2020, it still represents just a small percentage of total retail. For the second quarter of 2020, e-commerce in the U.S. soared 44.5% year over year to its highest level ever, but still accounts for just 16% of total retail. 

Amazon was already the undisputed e-commerce leader in the country, but the pandemic has changed the way many consumers approach shopping. The company became a lifeline for those unable -- or unwilling -- to leave the comforts of home and brave brick-and-mortar retail stores for fear of contracting the virus.

The accelerated adoption was evident when Amazon announced its second-quarter earnings. Net sales increased 40% year over year, accelerating from 27% gains in the first quarter, and notching its highest growth rate in nearly three years. It wasn't just the top line that surged, as Amazon's earnings per share nearly doubled, increasing by 97%.

Other facets of Amazon's business help make it a sure-fire winner. Companies are turning to cloud computing in growing numbers, another area that Amazon absolutely dominates. In 2019, the company controlled an estimated 45% of the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market -- more than its four next-largest rivals combined.

The ongoing pandemic makes it unlikely that the adoption of either e-commerce or cloud computing will slow, playing right into Amazon's wheelhouse. Given the company's dominant position in both and its increasing momentum, investors should be adding this surefire winner at every opportunity. 

A person making a mobile payment with a smartphone.

Image source: Getty Images.

3. Shopify: The other side of the e-commerce coin

Any company that didn't already have an online presence prior to the pandemic faced a grave reality once the lockdowns began. With the new normal also came a life-or-death choice for many businesses: Get online or go out of business. Unfortunately, many mom-and-pop shops lacked the technological know-how necessary to set up and maintain an e-commerce business. Shopify (SHOP -1.05%) was there to provide that know-how.

The company provides easy-to-use templates that make website building a snap, but it also incorporates payment processing, shipping and returns, and digital advertising to provide merchants with a one-stop shop (pun intended).

Not only does the company provide everything sellers need to make the jump to the internet, it also helps them integrate across a number of channels like social media, online marketplaces, and physical retail locations. Shopify's platform can also manage inventory across multiple locations, handle cross-docking and logistics, and even provide established merchants with working capital loans.

Shopify was already hugely successful, but has vaulted further ahead this year. In the second quarter, revenue grew 97% year over year, and the company posted a profit of $0.30 per share, up from a loss of $0.26 in the prior-year quarter. At the same time, merchant solutions revenue soared 148%, accelerating for the third consecutive quarter. The number of stores on the platform grew 71%, while gross merchandise volume climbed 119%.

Shopify booked sales of $1.58 billion in 2019, but it estimates its market opportunity at $78 billion, which shows just how far this high-flyer has yet to grow.

NVDA Chart

Data by YCharts

The proof is in the pudding

While each of these companies is already at the top of its game, the evidence suggests that they still have much longer growth runways ahead. While past performance is no guarantee of future results, it's important to remember that winners tend to keep winning -- and each of these high-flyers has shown it has what it takes to succeed.