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8 Startup Success Stories to Inspire Your Big Company Dreams

Are you thinking about putting together your own startup, but are afraid of failure?

As much as we’d like to say that failure is unlikely, the statistics tell a different story. In fact, out of all the small businesses started in 2014, only 56 percent of them made it to the 5th year.

But, just because a lot of small businesses don’t make it, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.

If you have dreams to one day own a big company, then it can help to get a little inspiration to keep you going.

Check out this guide to learn about the top startup success stories to inspire big company dreams.

1. Facebook

There’s no doubt that Facebook is one of the most successful companies in the world.

But, if you haven’t seen the movie Social Network, then you probably don’t know that this company was started by a student at Harvard (Mark Zuckerberg) as a hobby project.

The company was first started on February 4, 2004, and membership was initially limited to Harvard students. Later on, membership was expanded to students in the Boston area, then to students in Ivy League colleges, and then gradually students across the United States and Canada who attended universities, as well as corporations.

Pretty soon, Facebook was open to anyone who had a valid email address and was 13 years of age or older.

Today, Facebook has over 2.45 billion monthly active users. What was once a one-man operation, Facebook now has over 35,000 employees. And, the company now makes over $40 billion each year.

2. eBay

eBay, originally called AuctionWeb, was founded in September of 1995 by a French-born Iranian American named Pierre Omidyar.

Omidyar founded the website in his San Jose living room, and he meant to start the site as a marketplace for the sales of services and goods for individuals.

Omidyar co-founded the site with Jeff Skoll, and in 1998, they brought in another partner, Meg Whitman, to help sustain their success. Meg had studied at Harvard Business School and was known for being a branding genius.

Pulling staff from major companies like Disney and PepsiCo, Meg created an experienced management team that built a strong vision for the company.

Instead of marketing themselves as a business that’s in the market of selling things, they started to market themselves as a business that connects people.

They shed the image that the site only markets collectible items and instead moved into a variety of upscale markets in which the average sale price is higher.

Today, eBay employs approximately 14,000 people globally, and last year, they made about $3.9 billion in revenue.

3. Apple Inc.

Most of use Apple products on a daily basis. Yet, a lot of people probably don’t know that this multinational corporation started in a garage in Cupertino, California.

On April 1, 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created Apple Computer. On January 3, 1977, they incorporated the company.

For over three decades, Apple focused on manufacturing personal computers, including the Power Mac, the Macintosh, and the Apple 2. However, during the 1990s, it faced rocky sales and low market shares.

In 1985, Jobs was actually ousted from the company. However, in 1996, he was brought back in again after his company NeXT was purchased by Apple.

The next year, he became the interim CEO for the company, which later became a permanent position. Jobs then turned the company around by focusing on simple design and recognizable products, starting with the first iMac in 1998.

With the introduction of the iPad in 2001 and the iTunes Music Store in 2003, Apple established itself as a leader in media sales and consumer electronics.

Now, the company is known for a wide range of iOS products, including smartphones, media players, and tablet computers.

Apple became the first US corporation to be valued at over $700 billion. Today, they employ over half a million workers. And, in 2018, Apple announced its highest revenue to date, generating $265.5 billion in revenue.

4. Microsoft

Right around the same time, Steve Jobs was founding Apple, Bill Gates was founding Microsoft.

In fact, Microsoft was founded just about one year before Apple, on April 4, 1975.

Bill Gates founded the company with his friend in Alberquerque, New Mexico. To focus on the project, Bill Gates took a leave of absence from Harvard, and due to the success of the company, he never went back.

In the mid-1980s, Microsoft began dominating the personal computer market with the MS-DOS. They then followed this with the Microsoft Windows, and thanks to their rise in share price, the company created 3 billionaires and around 12,000 millionaire employees.

In April of 2019, Microsoft became the third company in the world to be valued at over $1 trillion, following Amazon and Apple.

5. Amazon

For many of us, Amazon is the go-to site for home products, gifts, books, tech gadgets, and pretty much everything else.

And, thanks to Prime Video, many of us also use Amazon to watch movies and television shows.

But, before Amazon was the e-commerce powerhouse that it was today, it was a tiny company started by Jeff Bezos in the garage of his Bellevue, Washington home.

Luckily, Bezos was able to get some help starting the company from his parents, who gave him business loans in the amount of $250,000.

When starting the company, it actually took Bezos quite some time to land on the name Amazon. First, he named the company Cadabra, Inc. However, he decided to change the name after a lawyer misheard it as “cadaver”.

After this, he purchased the domain name, but friends convinced him to keep brainstorming, as they believed the name sounded sinister.

To this day, Bezos still owns this domain name and it still redirects to the retailer.

Bezos eventually settled on the name Amazon because he thought it was “exotic and different”. The Amazon River was the largest river in the world, Bezos noted, and, he planned to make his company Amazon the largest online bookstore in the world.

He also liked choosing a name that started with the later “a” because it would appear at the top of the alphabetized list.

When Bezos first started Amazon, he initially chose five products to focus on selling: books, computer software, computer discs, computer hardware, and videos.

From there, he narrowed the list down even further and just decided to sell books.

In July 1995, the company launched, and the very first book they sold was  Douglas Hofstadter’s Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought. 

In the first two months of operating, Amazon sold products in all 50 states and in 45 different countries. And, within 2 months, the company was selling 20,000 books per week.

In the next five years, Amazon faced two major legal battles, being sued by both Barnes and Noble and Walmart. While both lawsuits were eventually settled out of court, it goes to show that every company has had its ups and downs.

Today, Amazon sells more than 606 million products, and they employ nearly 650,000 full-time and part-time employees.

6. Airbnb

It used to be that when we needed a place to stay at night in another city, we’d all scour online for the best hotel deals.

Well, thanks to Airbnb, we all now have the option to rent out other peoples’ homes during our vacations, and usually for a much better deal.

In 2007, Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky couldn’t afford the rent on their San Francisco apartment. There was a big design conference coming to San Francisco and all of the hotels were fully booked. This is when the two came up with the idea to rent out three airbeds on their living room floor.

And this is how Airbnb went from renting out air mattresses on floors to a $10 million company.

To rent out the mattresses, they set up a simple blog and got three people to rent out the mattresses on their floors for $80 each.

After this small success, they hired a former flatmate who was a computer science graduate to help them develop their website and join the venture.

They worked on the company for months, but were only making $200 a week and the company wasn’t growing.

Finally, they realized that the photos of the places they were marketing for short term rentals were not pretty. So, they decided to go from home to home in NYC and take photos of the rental properties.

From there, the business started to grow and the team was able to attract more and more investors, one of whom was Ashton Kutcher.

Now, Airbnb operates in more than 81,000 cities and 191 countries. And, during an average night, over 2.1 million people stay at an Airbnb rental.

7. Snapchat

Reggie Brown, Brian Murphy, and Evan Spiegel were having a casual conversation in college when Reggie said something along the lines of, “I wish these photos I’m sending a girl would disappear”.

Shortly after, Spiegal referred to this as a “million-dollar idea”, and they worked on an app that was originally named Picaboo in July of 2011.

In the fall of 2011, Evan and Brian had a falling out with Reggie and they changed the name of the app to Snapchat. Around this time, Snapchat had around 100,000 users per month.

They then launched an Android version of their app in December of 2012, and this new version of the app allowed for video snaps.

In the same month, Facebook launched an app that can only be described as a Snapchat clone called the Poke app. However, instead of dethroning Snapchat, this moved only resulted in Snapchat getting more publicity.

After this, the number of users and daily snaps only started to grow, and in February 2013, Mark Zuckerberg offered to buy the app from the pair for $35 billion.

They refused to sell, which proved to be a smart move, as the app has only continued to grow.

8. Whatsapp

The story of Whatsapp, the favorite messaging app in many countries, is a true rags to riches story.

It begins with Jan Kuom, who was born in Ukraine in 1976 and then came to the US with his mom when he was 16. When they came to the US, they had to go on food stamps and Kuom worked as a janitor.

At the age of 18, Kuom taught himself to code and started going to college. However, he ended up hating college and drops out. But, his smarts were enough to make a name for himself, as at the age of 21, Kuom was working for Yahoo.

It’s here where he met his friend and later co-founder, Brian Acton. The two were frustrated with having so many advertisements on a page, and so the two left Yahoo and both took a year off to decompress.

They also both applied to work at Facebook, but were rejected.

After a lot of ups and downs, the two decided to launch Whatsapp in 2009, with the goal that their app would not carry any advertisements and that their app would deliver a reliable, gimmick-free user experience.

7 years after creating the app, they sold it to Facebook for $19 million.

8. Linkedin

It used to be that when you were hunting for new employees, you’d post ads in newspapers or hang signs in your business.

While these practices are still alive today, many companies now turn to Linkedin to search for new employees.

Linkedin began in 2002, when Reid Hoffman put together a team of colleagues from Paypal and SocialNet to work on his new idea.

In May 2003, Hoffman launched Linkedin out of his living room and he invited 350 contacts to create resume-like profiles.

While the business started slowly at first (around 20 signups per day), it eventually attracted interest from big investors like Sequoia Capital.

Today, Linkedin has over 575 million users, with over 260 million active monthly users.

Are You Ready to Launch Your Big Company?

As you can see, there are a lot of big companies out there that once started as small startups with just a few people and one great idea.

Now that you’ve read about these successful startups, it’s time to get out there and launch your own big company.

And, if you liked this article, be sure to check back in with our blog for more inspirational stories like this one.

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