No one can know which companies will become the next Microsoft or Salesforce.com, but your odds of finding one of the next big winners can be improved by focusing on fast-growing companies that are revolutionizing how people work. If you’re hunting for stocks that fit that description, let me introduce you to Elastic NV (NYSE:ESTC), Anaplan (NYSE:PLAN), and ZScaler (NASDAQ:ZS).
A new take on search
One of the more intriguing IPOs of the past year, Elastic NV allows companies to search, analyze, and visualize data more easily.
Often, big companies produce truckloads of hard-to-parse data. If you know precisely what you’re looking for, you can find it, but if you don’t, then you’re likely not going to know it exists. Like a Google search of the Internet, Elastic’s solution highlights the most relevant data across an organization via search terms, then allows users to drill down into that data for additional insights, and if desired, visualize the information.
The company’s only 6 years old, yet it already counts over 7,000 companies as customers. It works with large enterprises, such as Sprint, but no customer accounts for more than 10% of its revenue. A software-as-a-service style company, Elastic’s revenue comes from subscriptions, and its growth comes from both new customers and more users at existing accounts. Management’s doing well on both fronts given that the company had only about 5,500 customers last July, and its net expansion rate has exceeded 130% for nine consecutive quarters.
Speaking of management, the company’s founders have a vested interest in Elastic’s success. Founder and Chairman Shay Banon owns 15% of the company. Founder, former CEO and current director, Steven Schuurman owns 21%. Add in the stakes held by Chief Financial Officer Janesh Moorjani and Chief Revenue Officer Aaron Katz, and the total comes to just shy of 40% of Elastic.
The IPO lock-up period expired in March, after which insiders, including venture capital owners, were able to sell shares. Elastic’s stock price had popped significantly from its offering level, so it probably shouldn’t be surprising that it came under some pressure once the insiders were free to sell.
Nevertheless, this company’s revenue growth is impressive. Sales were $88.2 million in fiscal 2017, $159.9 million in fiscal 2018, and management’s guidance is for $265 million for fiscal 2019, which ends on April 30. For the soon-to-begin fiscal 2020, industry watchers’ consensus estimate is that revenue will reach $365 million. If that proves accurate, the company’s compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) from fiscal 2017 through fiscal 2020 would be about 43%.
Yes, Elastic’s still reporting net losses, but it’s trading at a forward price-to-sales ratio of about 16. For risk-tolerant investors considering adding this company to their portfolios, that shouldn’t seem like an unreasonable valuation.
A better forecasting approach
Anaplan markets a cloud-based software solution that improves corporate planning by allowing thousands of concurrent users to instantly see how changing inputs impact forecasts and budgets. The tool brings planning into the 21st century in important ways, because historically, corporate planning efforts have been hamstrung by the challenges associated with accessing and manipulating the most relevant information quickly.
Anaplan has already attracted more than 1,100 corporate customers, and its revenue growth opportunities come both from signing up new ones, and from expanding existing relationships. Its net expansion rate at existing accounts has exceeded 120% for three consecutive years; that growth, plus new account acquisition, produced sales of $241 million in fiscal 2019 (which ended Jan. 31), up 43%. In fiscal 2020, management is forecasting that sales will rise 28% to $310 million.
Now could be a good time to buy this stock because the share price slid ahead of its April 10 post-IPO lock-up period expiration, which unleashed over 100 million shares. Long-term investors might want to look beyond the dip generated by insiders locking in some gains.
CEO Frank Calderoni, was previously the CFO of Red Hat, while CFO David Morton formerly held that role at Seagate. Their backgrounds mean that Anaplan’s C-suite understands well the pain points leaders experience when it comes to financial planning, and those insights could help them capture a growing share of a total addressable market estimated to be worth over $20 billion.
Security where and when you need it
Protecting a company against cyber threats used to be as easy as encircling your corporate data, and limiting entry and exit points — like building a wall and moat around a castle. It’s not so simple anymore. Increasingly, companies are shifting data and employees outside the castle walls. Hosting data and applications in the cloud, and allowing workers to access that data from any device anywhere on the planet is creating new gaps in security, and addressing those gaps requires a more dynamic approach than what’s been used in the past.
Incorporated in 2007, Zscaler connects corporate users to data or apps directly, regardless of where they reside, thereby reducing the need for redundant, existing security architecture. Distributed across over 100 data centers worldwide, Zscaler detects more than 100 million threats to its 2,800 customers daily. Its client base is geographically diverse, with 53% of revenue coming from the Americas, 40% coming from Europe, and 7% coming from the Asia Pacific region, which includes Japan.
The company’s revenue grew from $54 million in fiscal 2015, to $80 million in fiscal 2016, to $126 million in fiscal 2017, and to $190.2 million in fiscal 2018. Yet it’s only working with about 200 of the Forbes Global 2000 so far. In fiscal 2019, its revenue is expected to reach $289 million before climbing to $380 million in fiscal 2020. If it delivers on the fiscal 2020 estimate, it will hit a CAGR of nearly 40% since fiscal 2014.
A serial entrepreneur who has founded and sold four separate cyber-security firms since the 1990s, CEO Jay Chaudhry owns about 25% of Zscaler. His family’s trust owns an additional 28%, so there’s good reason to think management’s interests are aligned with those of the shareholders.
Given that the business world is likely to continue its ongoing shift to the cloud, and that it’s still early days for Zscaler in terms of market penetration, this could also be a great stock to stash away in your portfolio alongside Elastic and Anaplan.