Analysts are watching tech stocks like a hawk this earnings season. As a recession looks more likely and inflation remains high, investors believe businesses could pull back their spending. One way to do that is by cutting out specific software products or services.

Confluent (CFLT 0.22%), however, saw almost none of that in the second quarter. Demand for its data-streaming products remained resilient, signaling that the company provides mission-critical products. Shares popped after the impressive second-quarter report -- released on Aug. 3 -- but the stock is still down over 64% from its all-time high. At this price, you might want to consider buying this stock before it climbs higher over the coming years. 

Demand for Confluent is resilient

Confluent is on a mission to set data in motion for its customers, and it does so by helping businesses analyze data in real time rather than in daily, weekly, or even monthly batches. Many companies can benefit from the immediate insight into their operations, and traditional batch processing doesn't allow them to do that. Confluent can help businesses stream data at scale with either a fully managed, cloud-native solution or as a self-managed software platform.

In the second quarter, Confluent showed that its products are resilient in any market environment for two reasons. First, they are critical to business operations. Here's how Confluent's founder and CEO Jay Kreps puts it: "Our product sits in the operational stack, powering applications that directly serve critical business operations and real-time customer experiences. Given this criticality, it can't be switched off without a complete disruption to the operations of the business."

The second reason for Confluent's resiliency is its status as a high-quality, cost-effective option for real-time data streaming. If businesses tried to build this in-house, it would be difficult and complex to scale, which would drive operating costs higher.

Confluent saw strong demand despite macroeconomic headwinds

The factors that make Confluent unique weren't surprises going into this quarter, but they were validated after the company announced healthy adoption despite the macroeconomic headwinds. In the second quarter, revenue soared 58% year over year to $139 million, driven by its net retention rate exceeding 130% for the fifth consecutive quarter.

The company's cloud-native solution saw the most growth, however. Confluent Cloud revenue soared 139% year over year, accounting for 34% of total revenue versus 22% in the year-ago period. Cloud is quickly becoming the future for Confluent, and it also represented over 50% of new annual contract value bookings during the period.

What might be even more impressive is that Confluent expects this expansion to continue for the rest of the year. Remaining performance obligations jumped 81% year over year, signaling that businesses are planning to spend increasing amounts with the company in the future. Management also expects full-year revenue to reach $569 million (at the midpoint of the range), a 47% jump compared to 2021. 

What risks remain

While softening demand might not be a concern right now, what is concerning is the company's deep losses. Confluent's second-quarter net loss surpassed $117.6 million, which resulted in a net loss margin of 84%. That said, this is actually an improvement from the year-ago period when its net loss margin was just under 100%.

The company's cash-generation skills also aren't anything to write home about. Confluent's free cash flow burn reached $37 million for the period. This marked another improvement from the prior-year quarter's $45 million outflow, but it's worrisome, nonetheless.

On a more positive note, Confluent has almost $2 billion in cash and securities on the balance sheet (with only $1.1 billion in debt) to sustain its operations and investments for some time.

Why Confluent looks appealing now

Confluent is trading at 16.5 times 2022 sales, which is far from a cheap valuation, but it's looking more and more attractive. Data-focused peers like Datadog, Snowflake, and Cloudflare are all trading above 20 times forward sales estimates, so Confluent stands out as a relative bargain.

What's more important, however, is that the company is executing. It's seeing continued adoption in the space, and its clients rely heavily on its services. Confluent is proving to be a necessity for its customers, meaning it could capitalize on its opportunity -- one that management believes will be worth $91 billion by 2024. The company's profitability, while still poor, is moving in the right direction. 

Down over 60% from its all-time high, now is a good time to start a small stake in Confluent.