In 1901, a group of America's most successful businessmen came together to create United States Steel by consolidating some of the country's largest steel producers and fabricators. The deal marked the birth of the first ever billion-dollar company. More than a century later, in August 2018, technology giant Apple became the first company to surpass a market valuation of $1 trillion. Today, the trillion-dollar club also includes Microsoft and Alphabet.

Steel dominated the business world in the early 1900s, and software and computers dominate the business world today. But what's in the cards for the future? And more importantly, how can investors benefit? What follows are three stocks that could be the next members of the trillion-dollar club. Investors might want to consider buying in before they get there. 

1. Nvidia: Leading the artificial intelligence arms race

Nvidia (NVDA -2.61%) is best known for producing some of the most advanced semiconductors (computer chips) in the world, but its future is set to be driven by something with far more potential: artificial intelligence (AI). 

The capabilities of AI are already stunning the tech world thanks to language model chatbots like ChatGPT, which is trained using Nvidia's powerful chips. The semiconductor giant could be at the center of the AI revolution. Nvidia has developed a suite of AI applications in addition to building the world's most advanced AI supercomputers, and millions of businesses can soon access their capabilities through popular cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.

It could make Nvidia the most widely distributed provider of AI tools on the planet

Ark Investment Management, which is led by noted tech investor Cathie Wood, recently issued a bold prediction for the AI industry. It says AI could add a whopping $200 trillion to the global economy by 2030 by substantially boosting the productivity of knowledge workers -- as much as tenfold for the average computer programmer, for example. 

Nvidia has generated $26.9 billion in revenue over the last four quarters and currently has a market valuation of $578 billion. If it captures even a fraction of the potential the AI industry has to offer over the next decade, Nvidia's valuation could easily rocket past the $1 trillion mark. 

2. Tesla: A diversified bet on the future

When it comes to the potential to create value for investors, Tesla (TSLA -4.02%) has more irons in the fire than most companies. It's no stranger to the trillion-dollar club because it joined it briefly in 2021, but the recent sell-off in the tech sector has sent its stock price down 51% from its all-time high. 

But its sliding stock price isn't necessarily reflective of what's going on with the company. Tesla delivered a record 1.3 million electric vehicles (EVs) to customers in 2022 and brought in an all-time high $81 billion in revenue. While EVs are core to Tesla's business right now, investors are keenly observing other segments that could grow substantially in the near future.

Self-driving software is one of them, which is powered by AI and machine learning. Tesla is a leader in this field and it intends to release a fully autonomous robotaxi in 2024. That forms part of the basis for Ark Invest's lofty $1,533 price target for Tesla stock, which represents 678% upside from where it trades today. Ark has also issued a prediction for the autonomous ride-hailing industry, which suggests it could be a $14 trillion opportunity as soon as 2027.

Speaking of 2027, that's the possible release year for Tesla's humanoid robot, Optimus, which could change the workforce forever by automating low-skill jobs. The company anticipates it could sell millions of units per year with a price tag of $20,000.

Tesla has outlined plans to produce 20 million cars per year by 2030, meaning greater than tenfold growth between now and then in its core business.

Realizing the potential of any one of the aforementioned businesses is plenty to see Tesla reclaim a $1 trillion valuation. But combined, getting there could be a breeze in the medium to long term.

3. Meta Platforms: The metaverse could deliver big returns

Meta Platforms (META 0.20%) is another former member of the trillion-dollar club. It entered in 2021 before the tech sell-off dealt a 55% blow to its stock price from its all-time high. Meta is the parent company of popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, though it shifted its focus to developing the metaverse over the last few years, much to the disappointment of investors.

A global economic slowdown is hurting Meta's core advertising business across Facebook and Instagram. Meanwhile, the company is plowing billions of dollars into its Reality Labs (metaverse) segment despite it generating a mere pittance in terms of revenue. Reality Labs' total loss for 2022 came in at an eye-popping $13.7 billion.

But Meta quashed some concerns by laying off 11,000 employees in November last year and committing to cost cuts to help rejuvenate its earnings. It's also focusing on adding new features to Instagram to keep users engaged, including Notes and Candid Stories. That's on top of its recent success with Reels, its short-form video feature developed to compete with ByteDance's TikTok. 

The fourth quarter of 2022 brought welcome relief for investors as the improvements boosted Meta's revenue to the highest quarterly level for the year. Plus, its net income jumped sequentially after three straight quarters of declines. A continued bounce-back in Meta's ad business could be enough to inch the company closer to reclaiming a $1 trillion valuation.

But investors shouldn't discount the metaverse, despite the recent pessimism. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg thinks the company's virtual world could eventually attract 1 billion users who would each spend hundreds of dollars on virtual goods and services. Further, an estimate by Bloomberg Intelligence suggests it could be a $1.6 trillion opportunity by 2030. 

Since Meta is committing so many resources on both the software and hardware side, it's likely to lead the way. If virtual reality truly is the next frontier of social and professional connections, then Meta Platforms should have no trouble rejoining Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet in the trillion-dollar club.