You don't need tons of money to get started in the stock market. A $500 investment could help set the foundation for life-changing returns if you bet on the right companies. Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Curiosity Stream (NASDAQ:CURI) have what it takes to deliver multi-bagger returns because of their rapid growth rates and economic moats in the streaming industry. Let's dig deeper to find out why. 

1. Walt Disney

At a price of $185 per share (and a market cap of $336 billion), $500 buys 2.7 shares of Walt Disney. That looks expensive, but it's a small price to pay for a slice of one of the world's most iconic entertainment brands. Disney can create long-term value for investors with its industry-leading streaming business and compelling valuation. 

Bullseye on dollar symbol.

Image source: Getty Images.

Disney currently boasts 174 million paid subscribers across all its streaming platforms, and management sees that number soaring to between 300 million and 350 million by 2024. If Disney can achieve an average revenue per user of $10 (up from $4.16 currently on Disney+), streaming could add a jaw-dropping $3.5 billion to its top line per month -- or $42 billion annually. And if it can match Netflix's operating margin of 22%, that would be an extra $9.2 billion in operating profits.

While streaming will be Disney's key growth driver, its amusement park and studio entertainment divisions are also important. These businesses grew 18% and 308% (to $12.7 billion and $4.3 billion, respectively) year over year against easy comps in the second quarter. A full recovery will likely depend on the normalization of the pandemic, but Disney is helping speed up the process with new attractions such as the brand-new Avengers Campus at Disney California.

The company also plans to release more films in theaters exclusively before moving them to Disney+. 

Disney's bottom line has been choppy for the last several quarters, so its pre-pandemic numbers can help give perspective on its valuation. The company earned $6.27 per share in 2019 and currently trades for 30 times that figure -- lower than the S&P 500's average of 35. To be fair, there is no guarantee Disney will regain or exceed its old profitability. But with a healthy amusement park recovery and a surging streaming business, the odds look great. 

2. Curiosity Stream

Trading for a little over $11 at the time of writing (market cap of $583 million), Curiosity Stream is ideal for investors who want to get in on the ground floor of a long-term growth opportunity. A $500 investment would snag roughly 42 shares, which isn't too shabby. And the company's spectacular expansion and relatively modest valuation give it clear multi-bagger potential. 

Analysts at Grand View Research expect the video streaming industry to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21% to $224 billion by 2028, helped by the trend of cord-cutting, which is seeing more consumers ditch cable subscriptions in favor of online content. With its focus on factual documentaries, Curiosity Stream is positioning itself as an alternative to educational cable TV programs like the History and Discovery channels. 

Second-quarter revenue increased 27% year over year to $15.3 million, and paying subscribers soared 40% to 20 million. Management expects revenue of at least $71 million in full-year 2021, representing an 80% annual growth rate. To help reach this target, the company is expanding the availability of its content, signing a multi-year distribution deal with streaming television service fuboTV in August. 

With a market cap of $583 million, FuboTV trades for just 8.2 times projected sales, which is modest for a rapidly scaling growth stock. Its focus on documentaries also helps it stand out in the competitive streaming industry. 

Two different strategies 

Walt Disney and Curiosity Stream would both make excellent long-term investments in the streaming industry. But that's where most of the similarities end. As an established blue chip company with a long track record of success, Disney is the safer bet. But Curiosity Stream may enjoy more growth potential because of its smaller size and reasonable valuation. 

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.