Innovative technology companies are building the future as we speak. Engineers and creative professionals under the administration of forward-thinking business leaders are thinking up the technologies that will define the way we'll live over the next few decades. Investing in the best game-changers early on should set you up for life-changing returns in the long run.
The stocks listed below have one important thing in common. I own them because I expect them to define the future of their chosen industries for many years to come. All three have crushed the market over the past 52 weeks, and they should continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
1. Tesla isn't a car company
Everybody thinks of Tesla (TSLA -1.47%) as the leading electric-car company. That's true enough today, but CEO Elon Musk has much larger ambitions for the long haul.
You don't have to take my word for it. Musk explained his true long-term goals way back in 2006 and updated the plan in 2016. The cars are just a temporary stepping stone toward sustainable energy practices and the long-term survival of the human race. For real.
Overhauling how humans travel is a commendable first step on that epic road but far from the final target. It's all about solar power, deep-space travel, and artificial intelligence in the end. Tesla's stock may have to split into several separate entities along the way but I'd be happy to own all of the resulting stocks.
In many cases, a plan like Musk's might sound ridiculous and unrealistic. This man is getting things done and I believe in his utterly humanistic business goals. That makes Tesla a fantastic stock to own for the very long term.
2. Google is more than a search engine
Stop me if you've heard this before, but Google parent Alphabet (GOOG -3.05%) (GOOGL -3.12%) is more than meets the eye today. The leading operator of search engines and online advertising services has built a massive war chest from which it can strike out in many different directions.
The company formerly known as Google changed its name and company structure in order to support an evolving business model. Come back in 10 or 20 years, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the old Google business transformed into just a minor contributor to Alphabet's multi-industry operations.
The company is already exploring medical science, self-driving cars and their concomitant ride-hailing services, a drone delivery network, mapping the ocean floor, and data-based agriculture. Like Musk, Alphabet is taking a hard look at battery-based energy systems on a massive scale. Most of these ideas are burning cash right now and most will never become profitable businesses -- but those that do have the potential to become game-changers with massive markets for the long haul.
I don't know exactly where Alphabet's chips will fall in the next decade or two, and neither does the company itself. Putting Alphabet's huge heft behind many different ideas will surely result in a few true winners, though. This company has dominated many markets before with products like Android, Chrome, Google Search, and YouTube. It'll happen again, and I want to be invested in the next bunch of big wins.
3. Roku is the future of entertainment
The media industry is changing before our eyes. Luckily, investors don't have to pick a winner in the content wars. Roku (ROKU -3.14%) is a winner in every reasonable scenario.
As a leading provider of battle-tested hardware and software platforms for streaming media services, Roku doesn't really care who becomes the leading provider of digital media. This company will be in the mix regardless because nobody else can match Roku's expertise in user-friendly media portals. On top of that, Roku has assembled a content channel of its own and dabbles in cross-platform advertising services. This Friday, the company acquired the advanced video advertising division of my former employer, media measurement expert Nielsen Media (NLSN). That's just one fresh example of how Roku strives to broaden its business horizons.
This particular innovator may have somewhat less lofty goals than Tesla and Alphabet, but maybe that's just because it's a much smaller company right now. CEO Anthony Wood may very well evolve into the next Elon Musk. My crystal ball is in for repairs, so I'm not quite sure yet. In the meantime, disrupting the media industry is a fantastic start and I can't wait to see where Roku is going next.