3 Growth Stocks That Could Put Shopify's Returns to Shame

Shopify (NYSE: SHOP) is the poster boy for growth stocks: Shares of the cloud-based e-commerce platform have returned a staggering 441% since listing in mid-2015. It's not easy to replicate those returns, but that doesn't mean there aren't other stocks out there with similar or even greater returns potential.

So we asked three Motley Fool contributors to identify a stock they believe could be potential multibaggers that could put even Shopify's returns to shame. Here's why they chose NV5 Global Inc. (NASDAQ: NVEE), Raven Industries (NASDAQ: RAVN), and Square Inc. (NYSE: SQ).

An even smaller player in another massive market

Jason Hall (NV5 Global): As a Shopify shareholder -- and one who intends to hold my shares for the very longvterm -- I continue to love the company's prospects for years of market-beating returns. But I can't ignore the reality that its billion-dollar market capitalization has increased almost 800% since its IPO and now sits at over $15 billion. That in and of itself is a cap on its future prospects, but the right small-cap or micro-cap stocks could make for even bigger gainers if their growth prospects are big enough. I think that could be the case for small engineering and infrastructure consultancy NV5 Global.

Interestingly enough, it's been the better investment since its IPO than Shopify, delivering more than 1,000% in returns since 2013, versus 462% in gains for Shopify stock since its more recent IPO in 2015. But with a market capitalization of $947 million at recent prices, it's barely 6% of Shopify's market value.

And infrastructure is a multitrillion-dollar industry that's set to see multiple decades of increased spending. Developed countries like the U.S. must modernize aging infrastructure, while developing nations are going to see their middle-class populations add more than 1 billion new members in less than 20 years.

Also like Shopify, NV5 global is founder-led, and that founder has a substantial stake in the company. He also has a multi-decade track record of success in the industry, and he's relatively young and should remain at the helm for years. Add it all up, and NV5 could be the best stock to own for the next decade or even longer.

A rock-solid balance sheet shouldn't fail

Neha Chamaria (Raven Industries): Raven Industries manufactures a wide range of products, including cloud-based applications used in precision agriculture, aerospace radar systems, industrial polymer films and sheets, and scientific hot-air balloons (think Google's ambitious Project loon, which counts Raven among its partners).

Raven's revenue growth pales in comparison with Shopify's, but Raven's top line is growing steadily quarter after quarter at a double-digit rate. More importantly, Raven is already profitable and cash-flow positive, unlike Shopify.

Raven is also generating solid profit margins: In the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, the company doubled its net income on roughly 36% growth in sales. Raven is off to a strong start to fiscal 2019, having reported 19% higher sales and 18% growth in operating income despite weakness in agricultural markets that capped growth in its largest segment, applied technology.

Yet management is confident that new product launches and expansion into Brazil should help the applied technology segment surpass its fiscal 2018 performance this year. Meanwhile, its engineered films division is setting new sales and profit records, thanks to a mix of acquisitions and organic growth.

The best part: Raven is debt-free, which means it can not only plow all of its cash flows into the business or return some to shareholders, but it can also easily use leverage to fund growth in the near future if required without having to worry about margins. For a company expanding its footprint in future technologies like automation in agriculture, a clean balance sheet could go a long way toward driving its fortunes, and share prices, higher.

Hip to be Square

Dan Caplinger (Square): Shopify has played a key role in helping entrepreneurs make the most of the opportunities that e-commerce has given them. But some companies have an even wider addressable market than the business world. Square is a great example, because not only does it help its business customers accept payments from customers, but also has started to build out a more comprehensive array of related services that can attract new business clients and retain its loyal current customers.

Square has seen huge growth recently, including a 60% jump in adjusted revenue and a nearly 90% rise in adjusted pre-tax operating income. Gross payment volumes were also up sharply, and Square is proving that it can take a stranglehold over arguably the most important aspect of e-commerce. Yet the company has also diversified its suite of business services, building a microloan business to give entrepreneurs access to capital. Restaurant businesses have access to a Square platform that offers some capabilities that are especially useful to that industry, including the ability to accept online orders and requests for delivery.

For Square to thrive, it needs to keep identifying the needs of its customers even before those customers realize it themselves. So far, the company's doing a great job of doing that, and Square has even more room to grow than Shopify does.

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Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Dan Caplinger owns shares of Alphabet (A shares). Jason Hall owns shares of Alphabet (A shares), NV5 Global, and Shopify. Neha Chamaria has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), Shopify, and Square. The Motley Fool owns shares of NV5 Global and has the following options: short September 2018 $80 calls on Square. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.