Technology stocks have been among the greatest casualties of the recent bear market. The Nasdaq-100 index plunged 33% in 2022, well beyond the 20% threshold that usually defines bear territory.

But it's on the rebound in 2023 with a 16% gain so far, and history points to a positive return for this year overall. It might even mark the beginning of a new bull market. 

While there are plenty of quality technology stocks trading at discounts to their all-time highs, here's why Sea Limited (SE -2.65%) and Workiva (WK 0.48%) might be two standout performers when a new bull market comes around.

1. Sea Limited has set its sights on profitability

It's fairly typical for technology companies to invest heavily in growth at the expense of profitability, because building a large customer base is often key to making a business' economics work. Plus, it opens the door to more monetization opportunities in the future. Sea Limited is a perfect example of that phenomenon; it owns a portfolio of digital platforms spanning the e-commerce, gaming, and payment industries.

Its gaming segment grew from 87.8 million quarterly active users in 2017 to 485.5 million at the end of 2022, though that number is down 33% from its pandemic highs. It's led by the Free Fire mobile battle royale game, which amassed 1 billion downloads to date. 

Sea Limited's e-commerce segment, which is driven by its Shopee hybrid consumer-to-consumer and business-to-consumer platform, posted even greater growth. It attracted $244.8 million in gross orders in 2017, which has since soared 30-fold to $7.6 billion in 2022. It's primarily focused on serving the fast-growing Southeast Asia region. 

But that blistering growth has not come cheap, because Sea Limited burned more than $8.3 billion at the bottom line in the period from 2017 to 2022. Sales and marketing has been the company's largest investment. It spent more than $3 billion per year in each of the last two years on that line item alone. 

But I've taken you on this journey for a reason: In the fourth quarter of 2022, Sea Limited delivered $422 million in net income -- a profit that took investors by surprise, and sent the stock surging more than 21% on the day following the result's announcement. The company is committed to balancing growth and profitability going forward, which will be a welcome sight in this difficult economic climate, where investors have shunned loss-making tech companies.

From a valuation standpoint, Sea Limited stock is near its cheapest level. Based on its $12.4 billion in 2022 revenue and the company's current market capitalization of $46.6 billion, it trades at a price to sales ratio of just 3.7, a long way from its peak of 22.9. With profitability now in the cards, Sea Limited stock could be a top performer in the next bull market.

2. Workiva is targeting a powerful future industry

There's one acronym on the minds of global governments, corporations, and investors alike at the moment: ESG, which stands for environmental, social, and governance. It describes a framework companies can use to measure the impact of their operations beyond what shows up in their financial statements. 

Governments across Europe, the United Kingdom, and even the United States have either introduced, or already implemented, new rules that require large companies to report a series of ESG metrics. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions, improve the environment, and promote a diverse workforce, to name just a few initiatives. But tracking and reporting the necessary metrics requires a unique software tool, and that's where Workiva comes in.

But let's back up for a moment.

Up until this point, Workiva succeeded on the back of its flagship data aggregation platform, which helps complex organizations consolidate key information onto one dashboard from a range of leading applications. In the digital age, companies could be using dozens of online programs in the course of their day-to-day operations, from Microsoft Excel to Oracle E-Business Suite to Salesforce.

Workiva has the ability to connect with all of them, so its platform becomes a single source of data that drastically improves management's visibility. It also provides hundreds of reporting templates for executive review, and to speed up filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission, for example. 

The point is, Workiva has the expertise to lead the charge in the new world where ESG reporting will be commonplace. The segment is just ramping up, but the company has 5,664 business customers overall that might all fall under ESG mandates eventually, and that would drive organic growth for Workiva. To begin with, its 1,345 large customers spending $100,000 or more annually might be the most viable candidates.

Workiva generated $537 million in revenue in 2022, but the ESG reporting industry might already be worth north of $10 billion, according to an estimate by one firm associated with consulting powerhouse PwC. If a new bull market coincides with Workiva capturing more ESG market share over the next few years, its stock could deliver strong gains. Since it currently trades at a 39% discount to its all-time high, now might be a great time for investors to buy.