You may know blockchain as the technology behind Bitcoin and several other cryptocurrencies. However, many investors don't have a thorough understanding of blockchain or the best ways to invest in this exciting tech trend.

Here's a brief overview of blockchain technology, followed by some of our favorite blockchain stocks -- and one important principle blockchain investors should keep in mind.

Translucent chain lit up with points of connection on black background
Image source: Getty Images

What is blockchain?

What is blockchain?

Blockchain is a form of ledger technology (also known as distributed ledger technology) that keeps records in a decentralized manner. A bank, for example, can store information (say, payment transactions) on its internal servers, but blockchain technology allows the creation of an unchangeable public ledger that's accessible to all users. Blockchain ledgers are a very secure means of storing data since they cannot be modified retroactively, and they can be used anonymously to protect users' privacy.

It's worth noting that blockchain and cryptocurrency are two different concepts. Blockchain is the underlying technology that powers cryptocurrencies, but it has many other potential applications that have nothing to do with Bitcoin (BTC 2.81%) or other digital currencies.

Think of cryptocurrencies as a car and blockchain as its motor. Sure, you need a motor to power a car, but there are many other potential applications for motors. Just to name a few, blockchain has implications for:

  • Digital IDs
  • Rewards and loyalty programs
  • Copyright protection
  • Digital voting
  • Real estate transfers
  • Medical records
  • Wills

Best blockchain stocks

Best blockchain stocks to consider

Dozens of publicly traded companies now incorporate blockchain into their operations, offer blockchain-related services to customers, or play a role in the cryptocurrency industry. Some are exclusively focused on blockchain innovation and/or cryptocurrencies, while others are using blockchain-related products and services to complement an existing successful business.

With that in mind, here's a list of nine excellent blockchain companies to consider if you want exposure to this exciting technology in your stock portfolio.

1. Nvidia

1. Nvidia

Nvidia (NVDA 4.0%) is the leading manufacturer of graphics processing units (GPUs), which are essential components in such important technological areas as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and gaming.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is the use of machines to mimic human intelligence.

In addition, GPUs are key hardware components of cryptocurrency mining. In a nutshell, "miners" use specialized GPUs to process transactions on the blockchain and are rewarded with newly minted digital coins. Although sales of Nvidia's crypto-targeted CMP chips have cooled off as cryptocurrency prices have declined, sales could rebound if the crypto market recovers. And, even if it doesn't, the rest of Nvidia's business is an absolute powerhouse market leader.

2. Block

2. Block

Financial technology (fintech) company Block (SQ -0.28%), formerly known as Square, has two main components to its business -- its payment-processing ecosystem for small businesses and its Cash App personal financial platform. The company also has operations in business lending, a stock trading platform, and buy-now-pay-later financing. The company also operates the Square Online Store platform, which helps merchants build out e-commerce and omnichannel capabilities.

E-commerce

E-commerce is the buying and selling of goods online and the related businesses that facilitate it

Block is a blockchain stock in two main ways. Most obviously, Cash App allows users to buy and sell Bitcoin quickly and easily. With the company reporting more than $10 billion in Bitcoin purchases in 2021 alone, this is a significant part of the company's business. Also, Block has its own team of Bitcoin developers, known as Spiral (formerly Square Crypto), that has several exciting projects, as well as an open-developer platform for blockchain applications known as TBD. The company's new name is indicative of its shift in focus toward blockchain technology solutions.

3. IBM

3. IBM

Although IBM's (IBM 1.71%) performance in recent years hasn't been stellar, the company recently made some big moves to jump-start growth. For example, its acquisition of open-source software developer Red Hat gave it plenty of cross-selling opportunities with its enterprise clients.

On the blockchain side of things, IBM Blockchain has already provided transformative solutions for clients such as Home Depot (HD 1.01%), Renault (RNSDF 4.27%), Albertsons (ACI -0.15%), and many more. It could have a major growth runway if blockchain-based solutions gain more traction in the future. As an example, IBM Blockchain is focusing on helping customers build more dependable and efficient supply chains

4. Mastercard

4. Mastercard

Payment processing giant Mastercard (MA 0.39%) has grown tremendously for several years as the trend toward a cashless economy has led to increasing volumes of debit and credit card transactions. Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the cashless payment space, particularly when it comes to cross-border money transfers, which have historically been slow and costly.

Mastercard has announced partnerships with blockchain technology companies and has formed a Crypto Card partner program, joining several leading Asia-Pacific cryptocurrency companies to launch crypto-funded Mastercard payment cards. Mastercard also recently helped launch the first crypto-backed payment card in partnership with crypto lender Nexo.

5. Amazon

5. Amazon

In addition to operating the world's largest e-commerce platform, Amazon (AMZN 0.83%) also operates the leading cloud infrastructure service, Amazon Web Services. The AWS platform offers Amazon Managed Blockchain, which allows customers to create and manage their own blockchain networks.

There's also definite potential for Amazon to eventually incorporate blockchain technology into its massive e-commerce business. Blockchain currently makes up a minuscule percentage of Amazon's revenue, but, as the technology evolves, there are possibilities for much more.

6. Coinbase Holdings

6. Coinbase Holdings

Coinbase (COIN 1.09%) is the world's largest cryptocurrency exchange, with more than 100 different digital assets available to trade on its platform. The company has roughly 98 million verified users in more than 100 countries around the world, and there is more than $1.2 trillion in annualized cryptocurrency trading volume flowing through the platform. About $256 billion in cryptocurrency assets are stored on Coinbase's platform.

Coinbase's business has taken a hit as cryptocurrency prices have recently declined, but it could also be one of the biggest beneficiaries if the assets rebound. One of the best things about Coinbase -- at least from a blockchain investor's point of view -- is that no matter which cryptocurrencies end up leading the way, the company should be a big beneficiary as the technology grows.

7. GlobalX Blockchain ETF

7. GlobalX Blockchain ETF

Maybe the best way for you to invest in blockchain technology isn't through a single stock but through an exchange-traded fund (ETF). The GlobalX Blockchain ETF (NASDAQMKT:BKCH) was formed in mid-2021 and is designed to allow investors to gain exposure to an entire basket of blockchain stocks with a single investment.

Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF)

An exchange-traded fund, or ETF, allows investors to buy many stocks or bonds at once.

The GlobalX Blockchain ETF has an expense ratio (annual investment fee) of 0.50% of assets, which is reasonable for a targeted fund. It invests in 25 different companies, including several previously discussed (Coinbase is the fund's top holding), as well as some that aren't directly listed on U.S. stock exchanges. In short, if you believe in the long-term potential of blockchain technology but don't want to try to pick the winners in the space, this ETF could be right for you.

Related investing topics

One important takeaway

Notice that all seven of these stocks are either well-established businesses or leaders in their respective industries.

Although blockchain technology has been around for about a decade, it’s still early days in its real-world implementation. Blockchain could certainly become a major part of finance, technology, and many other industries in the next few years, or it could take much longer. For this reason, it's a smart idea to focus on companies that will certainly benefit from the growth of blockchain technology but will be just fine even if their blockchain ambitions don't work out.

Blockchain FAQs

Blockchain FAQs

Is cryptocurrency a good investment?

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Cryptocurrency is a good investment if you want to gain direct exposure to the demand for digital currency and the projects or businesses they facilitate. Several publicly traded companies can provide limited exposure to the cryptocurrency market, but those investments won't come with the same focus on a cryptocurrency or blockchain project as investing directly in a crypto asset.

Are blockchain stocks cyclical?

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As assets with finite supplies, cryptocurrencies go through cycles since price swings result from fluctuating supply and demand. Businesses that make use of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies may also be cyclical; however, since revenue-generating organizations are not the same as a raw asset like currency, they have different cycles from crypto assets such as bitcoin.

What is ethereum?

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Ethereum is the decentralized, open-source technology that powers much of the crypto world. Applications ranging from decentralized finance to non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to enterprise blockchain solutions rely on Ethereum blockchain technology. Ethereum's native token, Ether (CRYPTO:ETH), is the second-largest coin after Bitcoin (CRYPTO:BTC) by market size and value.

John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Matthew Frankel, CFP® has positions in Amazon and Block. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon, Bitcoin, Block, Coinbase Global, Home Depot, Mastercard, and Nvidia. The Motley Fool recommends International Business Machines and recommends the following options: long January 2025 $370 calls on Mastercard and short January 2025 $380 calls on Mastercard. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.