It's tough seeing a cryptocurrency like Shiba Inu (SHIB -14.64%) and realizing that you might have missed the boat on some insane once-in-a-lifetime returns. But the fact of the matter is that very few people saw it coming and the reality is that Shiba Inu is an extremely speculative investment that trades with very few fundamentals behind it and lots of volatility.

The good news is that there are lots of other crypto-related investments still out there with tons of growth potential. We've compiled a panel of Motley Fool contributors to give you some great crypto plays that are backed with real fundamentals. The three we'll discuss here are Customers Bancorp (CUBI 3.75%)Workiva (WK -2.65%), and Mercadolibre (MELI -1.45%). Here's why all three of these can be winners.

An emerging crypto opportunity

Bram Berkowitz (Customers Bancorp): Customers Bancorp has long been at the top of the banking sector when it comes to developing industry-leading technology. The bank has built a small business banking platform that is uniquely positioned in U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) lending. Management believes the platform, which allows business borrowers to apply, get a decision, and close on loans up to $350,000 within 30 days, is the only one of its kind in the country. The bank used this platform to become one of the top Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lenders in the country when the pandemic struck, originating roughly $10 billion of total PPP loan volume.

Digital-looking landscape with lots of bright light.

Image source: Getty Images.

In addition to building on this platform and cross-selling other banking products to the 315,000 businesses it helped with PPP, Customers is also getting into the crypto world. The bank has recently built a payments platform called the Customers Bank Instant Token (CBIT), a real-time payments system where parties on the network can clear transactions instantly with one another.

Although the platform can be used for a variety of industries such as real estate, manufacturing, and logistics, the main use case right now is to better facilitate crypto trading between over-the-counter trading desks, crypto exchanges, market makers, and institutional investors. The U.S. currently doesn't operate on a real-time payments system but cryptocurrencies trade around the clock, so these types of payments systems can be very helpful.

And once the network is better established, Customers may also look into doing some digital asset lending as well, where it collateralizes U.S. dollar loans with cryptocurrencies. Early indications show great promise for CBIT. In Q3, Customers did a soft launch of the platform and quickly gathered $1.5 billion of deposits it don't have to pay interest on from customers joining CBIT.

There are only a few other banks that offer this kind of real-time payments platform right now, and they have benefited immensely from them because the platform brings in lots of non-interest-bearing deposits and new customers to sell other traditional banking products to. The other banks that have this kind of platform trade at much higher valuations than Customers, so I think this is a stock with a lot of runway left.

This company's growth opportunities aren't fully understood

Keith Noonan (Workiva): Workiva's business is a bit difficult to understand on the surface of it. The company's core software services revolve around providing streamlined financial reporting that is transparent and accurate.

Between the rise of cryptocurrencies, surging prices for homes and other assets, and the increasingly complex nature of equites markets, financialization is a major trend in today's investment markets. The recent surge of companies going public and the need to provide accurate business performance data is also creating demand for fintech services that make it easy for companies to enter and transfer information across databases.

That's where Workiva comes in. Workiva provides a subscription-based software platform that makes it easy for companies to record, transfer, analyze, and submit financial reporting data. In the process, its software removes risk and reduces sources of potential instability for its customers. The company is benefiting from strong demand momentum, with revenue climbing roughly 28% year over year in the third quarter and its number of customers with annual contracts valued at over $150,000 surging 41% compared to the prior-year period.

Workiva is already expanding into new categories. The company recently debuted Marketplace -- a platform that allows third-party participants to bring templates and apps into the company's ecosystem and make them available for enterprise customers. It's too soon to say for certain whether this offering will go on to be a big hit, but it could become a huge performance driver if things pan out. The company's recent acquisition of OneCloud should also help boost data sharing and analytics capabilities across the Workiva suite.

With a market capitalization of roughly $7.2 billion, Workiva still has room for big growth over the long term. There's a good chance that financial data gathering, analysis, and reporting will only become increasingly important and complex from here on out, and the company's ability to simplify the challenges related to this trend put it in good position to post strong growth over the long term. 

Latin America's pioneer of commerce digitization keeps growing

Nicholas Rossolillo (MercadoLibre): I decided to fire up a position in Latin America's e-commerce market leader MercadoLibre earlier this month, and I plan on buying more shares soon. The stock is down 15% year to date despite putting up impressive numbers, including a 67% year-over-year revenue increase (up 73% when excluding foreign currency conversion rates) to $1.9 billion in Q3 2021. With an enterprise value of just $73 billion, this is still a small company in the massive greater Latin American economy.

But what does MercadoLibre have to do with crypto? For one thing, the company added a little Bitcoin (BTC -1.49%) to its balance sheet earlier this year. The company has supported Bitcoin payments and acceptance for a long time as well, and with El Salvador adopting the original crypto as its official currency this year, MercadoLibre's early adoption of the crypto market could pay off if more consumers turn to digital currencies to combat inflation. In fact, some reports show that some of the countries in Latin America like Colombia and Argentina have above average adoption rates of cryptocurrency ownership.  

For now, MercadoLibre's exposure to Bitcoin and other cryptos is small, but the digitization of the emerging economies of South and Central America are still in the early stages. And MercadoLibre with its e-commerce marketplace, digital payments, and banking and investment services has huge market opportunity options available to pursue further growth -- including cryptocurrency.

At about 10 times expected full-year 2021 revenue and profitable in spite of heavy investment to support its expansion, MercadoLibre stock could be trading at a serious long-term value right now. This company is an economic powerhouse for Latin America and has already helped the region take great strides forward into the digital era. If you're looking for an investment with huge upside in the decade ahead, there's a lot to like about this e-commerce stock.