Meme-investment mania took off like a rocket last year — and with it, the prices of a number of cryptocurrencies. Prices of tokens like Dogecoin (CRYPTO:DOGE) and Shiba Inu (CRYPTO:SHIB)soared and plunged at various points throughout 2021 as a direct result of social-media hype, but still ended the year far above where they began it.
While putting money into such tokens might seem like an intriguing investment strategy, in my opinion, it’s nothing more than speculation. And that’s no way to manage your hard-earned capital.
There are better places to park your money. Here’s why you’ll want to consider buying Upstart (NASDAQ:UPST), a young fintech company that’s remakting the lending business, instead of Dogecoin or Shiba Inu.
Look at this surging fintech
Upstart is disrupting the traditional FICO-based lending model, which rates borrowers based on a handful of metrics and has been used by financial institutions since 1989. Instead, Upstart is using artificial intelligence (AI) to develop and hone a proprietary algorithm that gauges a would-be borrower’s credit risk based on a vastly greater number of data points, from employment history to educational background.
Upstart partners with banks to make credit more accessible, particularly to people whose traditional credit scores may overstate the actual risk that they’ll default. When its client banks, which take on the credit risk, approve loans at the same rates as large U.S. lenders, the result is a remarkable 75% fewer defaults.
This fast-growing company’s revenue jumped 242% year over year in Q3, its most recently reported quarter. Its partners originated $3.1 billion in loans during Q3, more than three times the volume of loans it facilitated in the prior-year period. Although Upstart was only founded in 2012, it has already achieved profitability, with positive earnings per share in each of the last three quarters.
And its management team consists of tech superstars, including former Google employees who bring substantial expertise in product development, data science, and operations. Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Dave Girouard holds a 14% stake in the company, so he has significant skin in the game.
Upstart’s software is currently being used to make credit decisions on personal loans, an $81 billion market, and auto loans, a $672 billion market. But management has plans to enter the gargantuan $4.5 trillion mortgage-lending industry. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting lending partners to use Upstart’s platform.
Upstart’s management team certainly has huge ambitions. However, if the company can carve out even a tiny sliver of these huge lending markets, then the stock could see incredible upside. Shares of Upstart today are also a better bargain than they were a few months ago — down 76% since peaking in October. The stock now carries a price-to-sales multiple of 13, the lowest level it’s been since the company went public in December 2020.
This investment wouldn’t be without risks, of course. The bear case for Upstart centers on how much of its revenue — 84% — comes from just two lenders, a clear sign of substantial customer concentration. Additionally, the company’s AI credit-approval technology hasn’t been tested in a normal (not pandemic-induced) economic recession. If default rates skyrocket in this scenario, bank partners would definitely be skeptical about using the platform.
But overall, I think buying this stock would be a much more prudent and potentially lucrative investment than speculating on Dogecoin or Shiba Inu.
Ignore the meme coins
Dogecoin and Shiba Inu are both nothing more than meme tokens, with branding inspired by an admittedly cute picture of a Shiba Inu dog. But they have no real competitive advantages when compared to the monsters in the crypto industry, Bitcoin and Ethereum, making their long-term viability as stores of value or useful mediums of exchange extremely questionable. Yet as of Tuesday, both of these tokens were among the top 15 most valuable cryptocurrencies.
Dogecoin is a payments network that was meant to be a fun rival to Bitcoin. But beyond the fact that it has attracted some attention from billionaires Mark Cuban and Elon Musk, it has limited utility. Even Dogecoin’s founders, Jackson Palmer and Billy Markus, are no longer involved, having left the project in 2015.
Shiba Inu is a smart-contract-enabled blockchain built on top of Ethereum’s network. Although there are some updates in the works to increase its functionality and make Shiba Inu more appealing to developers, it’s still lightyears away from Ethereum’s dominance in the world of decentralized applications.
As such, it’s best to stay far away from these meme coins, and Upstart will offer you a much better opportunity to increase your wealth.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.