It's been just two summers since Shiba Inu launched, and the meme coin is still hoping to latch on to some use cases beyond its clever tie-in to Elon Musk's pet dog. The microscopic price is a dinner bell to speculators, and it did just get listed on a well-known but fading trading platform.

What happens if Musk moves on to a different breed for his next pet? Will it still play out with its metaverse ambitions? I prefer a bit more of a tangible buy thesis. I think investors can get that with Terra (LUNC 1.76%), Avalanche (AVAX 2.88%), and Decentraland (MANA 0.72%). Let's take a closer look at why these three are already mastering areas where ApeCoin wants to be in a couple of years.

Someone tracking an investment moving higher than another on a stock chart.

Image source: Getty Images.

Terra

Terra isn't exactly sneaking up on crypto investors. It's a rising star in decentralized finance (DeFi) apps, and investors have seen its value soar more than fivefold over the past year. A quick background on Terra, helping explain why it's become a hot digital currency. Terra is the native token of the TerraUSD (USTC 3.88%) stablecoin platform. TerraUSD is a stablecoin that aims to be pegged as close to the U.S. dollar as possible. There are other Terra-fueled stablecoins tethered to other currency denominations. The project allows for cross-border value exchange and instant swaps.

Terra's hot. There's nearly $27 billion of Terra currently in assets pledged -- or total value locked (TVL) -- within DeFi applications, making it the second-most popular crypto in DeFi chains. The cherry on top for Terra is that its market cap of $29 billion, as of Friday night, is barely more than its TVL.

The DeFi appeal here is that investors can generate high yields on TerraUSD through the Anchor savings and lending protocol that Terra introduced last year. The chunky payouts are not sustainable over the long haul, but Terra's too popular to ignore right now.

Avalanche

There's a need for speed in the world of crypto transactions, and Avalanche's calling card is its lightning-quick finality. Finality is when a crypto exchange has been fully completed. Avalanche uses three interconnected blockchains to excel in making smart contracts more efficient, and each one of those blockchains is laser-focused on a dedicated task like scalability or security.

Avalanche has $10.7 billion in TVL, making it the fourth-most popular DeFi chain on the planet. It's a popular tool with other denominations. There are 198 different protocols leaning on the crypto to improve efficiency with its Layer-1 network. It's shaking up the market, like -- well -- an avalanche.

Decentraland

Cryptocurrency investing is risky, and unlike stocks, it's not as if you have revenue multiples or analyst estimates to get a good read on what a particular digital currency is worth. Decentraland is a name that stock investors may appreciate because it's tied to a popular online community that bears its name.

When Decentraland launched, it billed itself as the original virtual world owned by its users. You can enter the community for free, but you'll need Decentraland's MANA tokens to improve your experience with digital enhancement and other assets. There's also a second, less popular digital currency that is basically an NFT that controls the parcels of virtual land in the game.

There were more than 300,000 monthly active users within the Decentraland community a few months ago. The crypto has cooled since spiking in October, but it's an intriguing option for investors who have hands-on experience with the platform and can see whether it's growing or shrinking in relevance.