Investors love to read about a shareholder who bought around $3,000 worth of a stock and became a millionaire. A few fortunate and patient investors accomplished this feat through Home Depot, Tesla, and others.
To that end, investors who want to find the next Home Depot or Tesla early should be looking for companies that grow by creating new business lines or upstaging existing industries. It is next to impossible to predict such a move with certainty, and even the most promising growth stories can get derailed.
Nonetheless, stocks with low nominal prices like Palantir (NYSE: PLTR), SoFi (NASDAQ: SOFI), and Upstart (NASDAQ: UPST) hold such potential, offering low share prices well suited for those with a budget of $3,000.
Palantir has leveraged AI to develop analytical insights, particularly in the defense and commercial fields. It rose to prominence after the CIA credited the software with helping to find Osama bin Laden, and increasing numbers of commercial customers have applied Palantir's software to solving business problems.
The company may take its insights to a new level with its artificial intelligence platform, or AIP, which has shown staggering productivity gains early. According to the third-quarter 2023 earnings call, one customer accomplished more in a day than in the previous four months. Another client claimed to build 10 times faster with three times fewer resources. Such results should give Palantir tremendous pricing power over time.
Admittedly, the financials do not reflect such results since it has only made a trial version of AIP available. Still, its $1.6 billion in revenue for the first nine months of 2023 rose by only 16% compared to 2022. Also, a net income of $120 million in the first three quarters of the year is a vast improvement from the $405 million loss during the same time frame last year.
Consequently, investors have bid up Palantir's share price significantly this year. This has led to a price-to-sales (P/S) ratio of 21, a level likely to scare off some prospective shareholders.
However, given the power of Palantir's AIP software, its shares could rise considerably higher even with the pricey valuation.
SoFi continues to stand out for its adaptability. The student lender pivoted heavily into banking and fintech during the pandemic.
Its purchase of Golden Pacific Bancorp gave SoFi a banking charter. It also added fintech assets such as Galileo and Technisys, making it the "AWS of fintech." These capabilities that come with these acquisitions provide competitive advantages, allowing SoFi to offer banking products without involving partners.
This approach continues to expand its customer base. It now boasts nearly 7 million customers who have purchased more than 10 million SoFi's products. In the year-ago quarter, SoFi claimed only 4.7 million customers and 7.2 million products.
Not surprisingly, this growth has shown up in the financials. In the first nine months of 2023, its $1.5 billion in revenue surged 35% above year-ago levels.
Admittedly, expenses rose during this time, taking the net loss for the first nine months of the year to $349 million, more than the $280 million loss in the first three quarters of 2022.
Nonetheless, the fintech stock is up almost 50% this year since the moratorium on student loan payments was finally lifted. Also, a P/S ratio of just over 3 probably makes this stock a bargain. As customers keep flocking to this digital bank, it is unlikely the growth will stop anytime soon.
Upstart offers an AI-based loan evaluation tool. It seeks to replace the FICO score, which rose to prominence in 1989 and has experienced no major changes since then.
Hence, the industry is ripe for disruption. With more than $4 trillion in loans originating each year, the potential for growth is astronomical. Upstart started by evaluating personal loans only, but it is in the midst of an expansion into evaluating loans for cars, small businesses, and home equity lines of credit.
Unfortunately for Upstart longs, these new business lines have not compensated for the business lost to rising interest rates. Hence, revenue growth that reached triple digits as recently as the first quarter of 2022 has since turned negative.
In the first nine months of 2023, revenue of $373 million dropped 46% from year-ago levels. Also, what was a $53 million loss in the first three quarters of 2022 has turned into a loss of $198 million for the same period in 2023.
With little improvement expected for Q4, investors should expect the pain to continue. And even though the AI stock's price is up over 80% this year, it is still down almost 95% from the all-time high.
However, the credit industry will miss significant opportunities by not embracing AI-based scoring, which probably means Upstart remains well-positioned to drive massive returns from its credit scoring software. At a P/S ratio of 4, this is arguably the low-hanging fruit in the AI industry that growth investors seek.
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Will Healy has positions in Palantir Technologies, SoFi Technologies, and Upstart. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Home Depot, Palantir Technologies, Tesla, and Upstart. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.