Revolutionary technologies are not always built during rosy economic periods. In fact, two of the most popular tech companies of today were forged in 2008 and 2009, around the global financial crisis. They're none other than Airbnb and Uber Technologies

The U.S. has two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, but as history suggests, that doesn't mean innovation will grind to a halt. In fact, one technology known as the metaverse is receiving billions of dollars in investment right now, and Facebook parent company Meta Platforms (META -4.13%) is leading the charge.

The financial opportunities in this virtual world could dwarf anything seen by the traditional social media industry over the last decade, and with Meta stock down 58% from its all-time high, here's why investors should take it as a chance to buy now. 

A person using a virtual reality headset while sitting in a cafe.

Image source: Getty Images.

Meta Platforms is placing big bets on the metaverse

What is the metaverse? Truthfully, the tech sector is still working that out. Meta Platforms has demonstrated virtual reality headsets that immerse the wearer entirely in a digital world, which could be the next frontier for social networking. But the company recently unveiled a new headset under a program dubbed Project Cambria, which uses mixed reality to weave digital enhancements into the wearer's physical surroundings.

Cambria could have significant utility for office-based workers, for example, as the wearer has the ability to flick through computer-style pages that are beamed into their vision. This could replace the typical workstation, and since the headset isn't fully immersive, employees could still interact with their physically present colleagues. 

Meta has already made significant investments in the metaverse project through its Reality Labs segment, including $10 billion in 2021 and a further $2.9 billion in the first quarter of 2022. The company also just released its second-quarter results on July 27 and they revealed another $2.8 billion contribution to the virtual world. 

It marks a small quarter-over-quarter decrease as Meta navigates a difficult economic environment by cutting some costs. High inflation is hitting the bottom line of the corporate sector, negatively impacting advertising spending among businesses, and therefore, Meta's revenue. 

But that hasn't stopped Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg from outlining an ambitious goal to initially attract 1 billion users to the metaverse, who could spend hundreds of dollars each on digital goods and services to enhance their experience. 

Meta Platforms is already a strong business

Meta has a fortress balance sheet with over $40 billion in cash, equivalents, and marketable securities to draw on to bring its vision for the metaverse to life, which is probably its greatest differentiator compared to small start-ups in the space. 

But that's only made possible thanks to the company's existing platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, which attract 3.65 billion users every month. Over the last four quarters, Meta has generated $119.4 billion in revenue overall, in addition to $33.6 billion in net income (profit), which translates to $12.07 in earnings per share. 

However, in the second quarter of 2022 just ended, Meta delivered its first ever year-over-year decline in revenue. The 0.9% contraction was minor, but it ended a remarkable run of growth for the company. 

Meta faces a few key challenges that continue to impact its business, beyond the broader economic weakness already mentioned. Primarily, Apple's changes to its privacy laws last year could cost Meta $10 billion in revenue during 2022, and the company faces elite competition from ByteDance's TikTok, which has become the fastest-growing app in history. 

Meta has introduced Instagram Reels to stave off the threat from TikTok, and it's growing rapidly. In the second quarter alone, Meta reported a 30% jump in engagement on Reels from the previous quarter, thanks to rapid advancements in its artificial intelligence algorithm that feeds content to users. The format is now on track to deliver $1 billion in annual revenue going forward. 

Meta stock is a great value

Broader weakness in the economy won't last forever, and Meta is likely to recover from Apple's privacy changes over time. This also isn't the first time the company has faced competitors -- there was a time when Snap's SnapChat platform was set to dominate the social media landscape but instead, Meta adapted and thrived. 

Meta stock trades at a price-to-earnings multiple of 13.3 right now, which is a hefty 48% discount to the broader tech sector represented by the Nasdaq 100 index (its multiple is 25.7). It implies Meta stock will have to nearly double just to trade in line with its peers in the tech market. 

The company will likely continue to face pressure in the near term, but its progress on Reels is highly encouraging. Longer term, its investments in the metaverse will make it a leader in the space. The industry is still new, but several estimates place the value of the virtual opportunity in the trillions of dollars by 2030. 

Investors might do well to buy Meta stock here at a 58% discount to its all-time high, because this chance might not stick around until the metaverse comes to life.