For well over a century, the stock market has stood head-and-shoulders above all other investment vehicles. Though stocks won't generate a positive return every year, the market has delivered the highest average annual return over the long run, relative to other assets, such as bonds and gold.
But over the past couple of years, equities have come in a distant second to cryptocurrencies. In a little over 11 years, we've watched Bitcoin (BTC 0.11%) gain more than 7,700,000,000%. There's also meme-based coin Shiba Inu (SHIB -1.05%), which has racked up gains of greater than 5,000,000% since it debuted less than 15 months ago.
Jaw-dropping gains like these have investors flocking to the cryptocurrency space like never before. These investors are counting on continued euphoria and growing real-world adoption to drive life-altering returns.
Cryptocurrency investing comes with a lot of risk
However, I'm unconvinced that the crypto craze has staying power. With few exceptions, the real-world use-case for digital currencies is practically nonexistent. For example, Dogecoin (DOGE -1.11%) has been incessantly hyped on social media for the past year, yet has only around 1,700 businesses that accept it as a form of payment, according to online business directory Cryptwerk. Shiba Inu has even less real-world use, with only 91 merchants accepting SHIB as a form of payment.
Another major issue with cryptocurrencies is that investors always overestimate the adoption and utility of new technology. Whether it's genomics, business-to-business commerce, 3D printing, or some other innovative advancement, bubbles are a common occurrence. While blockchain technology does have the potential to become mainstream at some point in the future, we're a long way off from pivoting away from existing financial payment infrastructure.
Maybe the most damning aspect of cryptocurrency is the lack of a barrier to entry. CoinMarketCap.com lists nearly 13,000 cryptocurrencies, as of this past weekend. Every month, new projects are debuted, all of which threaten to become more popular, useful, or efficient than existing cryptocurrencies. For instance, multiple popular cryptocurrencies offer a cheaper and significantly faster means of completing a payment than Bitcoin.
A trio of growth stocks to buy before any cryptocurrency
Instead of putting my money to work in cryptocurrencies, which could be the next in a long line of asset bubbles, I'd buy the following trio of high-growth stocks in a heartbeat.
First up is cloud-based advertising technology company PubMatic (PUBM -2.21%), which aims to benefit from a shift in the way advertisers reach users.
Since the dawn of the internet, advertising has become more and more programmatic. In other words, humans are increasingly removed from the equation, with machine-based algorithms handling the buying, selling, and optimization of ads.
PubMatic is a sell-side platform whose clients are publishers. It effectively sells the display space of publishers to advertisers. However, it doesn't just auction off this space to the highest bidder. The company's cloud-based platform aims to optimize the experience for users, which means showing them relevant ads. This keeps advertisers happy, and it generally gives publishers better pricing power.
What makes PubMatic such a no-brainer investment is the ongoing shift to digital advertising. According to PubMatic, digital ad spending for the entire industry should grow by roughly 10% annually through 2025. However, PubMatic has been easily doubling up the industry's average growth rate. That's because the bulk of its revenue is coming from connected TV/over-the-top programmatic ad spending.
Considering that PubMatic's existing clients spent 50% more with the company in the June-ended quarter than they did in the comparable quarter in 2020, I'd say it's at the center of a surefire growth trend.
Another high-growth stock I'd buy in a heartbeat long before any cryptocurrency is marijuana company Trulieve Cannabis (TCNNF -0.68%).
Trulieve is a U.S. multistate operator (MSO). Although Canadian pot stocks were once the hot buy, it's U.S. pot stocks that offer the best long-term prospects. Cannabis analytics company BDSA is forecasting a compound annual growth rate of 14% for the U.S. weed industry through 2026, ultimately leading to $47.6 billion in sales.
What'll cause folks to raise an eyebrow at Trulieve is its concentration. Even though it's expanded into new states, Trulieve recently opened its 100th dispensary in Florida. By concentrating so many retail locations in medical marijuana-legal Florida, Trulieve has been able to keep its marketing costs down. As a result, it's been profitable on a recurring basis for more than three years. It's also gobbled up roughly half of the Sunshine State's dried cannabis and oils market share.
Trulieve plans to grow inorganically, too. Earlier this month, it closed an all-stock acquisition of MSO Harvest Health & Recreation. Harvest Health had a five-state focus, with its home state of Arizona being the most lucrative. Inheriting Harvest's 15 dispensaries in the Grand Canyon State could allow it to control yet another billion-dollar cannabis market.
There's simply no pure-play marijuana stock generating more green than Trulieve Cannabis.
A third and final growth stock I'd pile into well before I'd buy into any cryptocurrency is cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software provider Salesforce.com (CRM -1.16%).
CRM software is used by consumer-facing businesses to enhance existing customer relationships and boost sales. Aside from accessing real-time client information, it can be used to manage online marketing campaigns, handle service issues, and run predictive analyses to determine which clients might purchase a new product or service. Sales of CRM software are expected to grow by a double-digit percentage through at least the midpoint of the decade, if not longer.
What makes Salesforce so special is its absolute dominance of the CRM space. According to data from IDC, Salesforce brought in 19.5% of global CRM spend in 2020. For some context, this was more than the No.'s 2 through 5 in market share on a combined basis. Salesforce's seat at the head of the table for this hot trend won't be rivaled anytime soon.
Salesforce also has an insatiable appetite for acquisitions. CEO Marc Benioff is always looking to build his company's ecosystem and expand its potential user base to small and medium-sized businesses. This has been done in recent years with the buyouts of MuleSoft, Tableau, and more recently Slack Technologies.
Inclusive of organic and acquisitive growth, Salesforce can double its revenue about every four years. That's insanely strong growth for a proven mega-cap winner.