This has been an odd year for Wall Street and the investment community. The first quarter was nothing short of a dumpster fire, with concerns surrounding the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic pummeling equities. Comparatively, the subsequent eight months have featured a nearly unstoppable rally. When 2020 does come to a close, the benchmark S&P 500 may wind up delivering pretty normal gains (based on its long-term average) for investors.
But this hasn't been the case for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. A shift in sentiment catapulted the largest digital token on the planet to a record high this past week, putting it within a stone's throw of eclipsing $20,000. On a year-to-date basis, bitcoin is up 161%, through Dec. 1, 2020. That's approximately a 150 percentage-point outperformance of the S&P 500.
Yet you won't find this Foolish investor buying into the bitcoin hype now or potentially ever. That's because I view bitcoin as having a number of fundamental flaws.
For example, bitcoin is often touted for its scarcity, much like gold. However, there's a big difference between a commodity having physical scarcity and a digital token having scarcity because of how its computer code was written. We can't create more gold than what we can mine on Earth. By comparison, the crypto community can, in theory, change the code governing bitcoin's 21 million token hard cap. In other words, it's perceived scarcity and not actual scarcity.
The bigger beef I have with bitcoin is the token's limited utility. Even if it were to hit $20,000, giving its mined supply a value of $371.2 billion, this wouldn't even remotely come close to having game-changing transactional potential. Roughly 40% of the 18.56 million mined bitcoin are being held tightly by investors and aren't in circulation. This leaves maybe $223 billion worth of bitcoin in circulation for payments. That's about one-quarter of 1 percent of global gross domestic product for 2017.
I don't even agree with the premise of buying digital tokens. The real value of the crypto revolution is the underlying blockchain technology. Buying bitcoin gives investors zero ownership in the underlying digital ledger that's fueled cryptocurrency hype for the past decade.
Personally, I'd rather buy the following three hypergrowth stocks than own bitcoin.
Interestingly, one of the three fast-growing stocks that I believe can run circles around bitcoin is actually a company that's been generating big-time revenue from the most popular cryptocurrency -- Square (SQ 1.02%).
For close to a decade, Square has operated as a payment facilitator for small businesses. The company's seller ecosystem provides point-of-sale solutions and analytic tools to help these smaller businesses thrive. Since this is a merchant fee-driven operating segment, seeing gross payment volume (GPV) soar from $6.5 billion to $106.2 billion between 2012 and 2019 has led to serious sales and gross profit growth in this segment.
What's noteworthy about the seller ecosystem is that it's been drawing in larger businesses, based on annualized GPV, over the past couple of years. If bigger merchants adopt Square's seller platform, the company's already impressive growth rate could be adjusted even higher.
However, the real lure for investors is peer-to-peer payment platform Cash App. The monthly active user count for Cash App more than quadrupled to 30 million between the end of 2017 and June 2020, with approximately 7 million users adopting Cash Card (a debit card that links to a user's Cash App account). Cash App gives Square the ability to generate revenue from merchant fees, bank transfers, investments, and (drum roll) bitcoin exchange. In fact, Square purchased $50 million worth of bitcoin this year to help facilitate this rapidly expanding area of its business.
The point is, Square allows investors to take advantage of the hype surrounding bitcoin without being directly exposed to a potentially flawed token.
Another hypergrowth stock that I'd much rather buy instead of bitcoin is edge cloud-computing company Fastly (FSLY 2.55%). Fastly helps deliver content quickly and securely to end users for its clients.
Despite losing 40% of its value since reaching an all-time high in mid-October, Fastly's stock has still more than quadrupled in value since the year began. This fourth-quarter tumble is associated with the company revising its third-quarter sales guidance on account of reduced usage by TikTok, Fastly's largest customer (12% of total first-half revenue). This revenue revision also came after the Trump administration threatened to block downloads of TikTok stateside.
Though deleveraging its sales from TikTok might sound like bad news, it's actually been a blessing in disguise. Fastly has continued to add new customers (96 in the third quarter) and has seen the average spend for its enterprise clients climb every quarter. The fact is, more people are shopping online, and internet-based content consumption is on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic took this existing trend and gave it a supercharged push. That's great news for Fastly's content delivery and security solutions.
Investors should also know that Fastly isn't just picking up small businesses as clients. It's already the preferred edge cloud platform for the likes of Pinterest, Twitter, Shopify, and the potentially soon-to-be-public Airbnb.
Investors should look for Fastly to double its sales every two to three years this decade.
In the healthcare space, I believe telemedicine kingpin Teladoc Health (TDOC 0.05%) has what it takes to handily outperform crypto's most popular digital token. Teladoc also happens to be the stock I'm most excited about right now.
As you can imagine, it's received one heck of a boost from the pandemic. In an effort to keep coronavirus-infected patients out of doctor's offices and hospitals, as well as keep at-risk people in their homes, we've witnessed a huge uptick in virtual visits. In each of the past two quarters, Teladoc's virtual visit count has more than tripled from the prior-year period. But keep in mind that the company's compound annual growth rate prior to the pandemic (2013-2019) was a healthy 74%. COVID-19 has helped, but the company was growing like a weed well before it hit.
The telemedicine operating model also comes with a number of perks. It's more convenient for the patient (they don't have to travel) and physician (can fit in more visits). Additionally, health insurers typically pay less when patients conduct a virtual visit, relative to an in-office visit.
Another key puzzle piece to the Teladoc growth story is its recently completed acquisition of applied health-signals company Livongo Health. Livongo collects mountains of data on patients with chronic illness and, using artificial intelligence as an aid, sends its enrolled members tips and nudges to help them lead healthier lives. Livongo already has over 400,000 U.S. diabetics enrolled in its monthly subscription service.
The combined Teladoc and Livongo represent the future of personalized care in the United States. With the ability to cross-sell and gain new clients, Teladoc should consistently be one of the fastest-growing healthcare stocks.