Behind the massive popularity and success lies the story of their humble beginnings. By Satyaki Sarkar
From Microsoft to Groupon to Udemy, some of the world’s biggest companies had very humble beginnings and founders had to go through years of struggle before they achieved success. Tales of their journey are as inspiring. Not all started off with a bang, in fact many were simple, side ventures started with small, short term goals and prospects in mind. But before long the founder’s unique idea had caught on and the company went from strength to strength, becoming the behemoths that they are today.
This is probably the one story that everyone the world over is familiar with. Apple’s journey from a humble tech startup to the multibillion dollar giant that it is today is really inspiring. Steve Jobs and his friend Steve Wozniak started the company in 1976 while they were working at Atari and Hewlett Packard respectively, and they built personal computers in Jobs’s parents’ garage in their spare time. After the first Apple I was built, the company had several hits and misses, but a few years and a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears later, the company took off with a bang, and all of a sudden, they owned one of the most coveted tech companies of all. The company had an especially rough phase when Jobs was ousted from the company, with its popularity falling rapidly. But when he was brought back in 1997, it picked up speed again and before long became the technology behemoth that it is today. Currently, the company is valued at over $750 billion.
Photograph: Fabio Bini/Flickr
2. Under Armour
One of the most well known footwear, sports, and casual apparel brand, Under Armour is popular all over the world, and even supplies tactical wear to the US Military. However, the company began simply out of necessity, in 1996, when its founder, Kevin Plank, a University of Maryland football player, grew increasingly frustrated with the heavy sweaty shirts he had to wear under his jersey during matches. He designed and created a special undershirt for himself that stayed dry even during intense workouts and physical activities. Seeing how successful it was Kevin decided to try and sell it to other athletes as well. He actually drove up and down the East Coast for a year, advertising and selling his shirts. Due to the brilliant product that he had created, sales grew rapidly and soon he was selling to entire teams instead of individual players. Two years later, in 1998, he expanded operations to a legitimate warehouse and headquarters, and now the international brand does nearly $4 billion in annual sales.
Photograph: Dcavalli/Creative Commons
While it might be hard to believe, the massively popular photo sharing app, Instagram, actually began as a side venture of founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. It was thought of as a check-in app similar to Foursquare, with integrated smartphone photography, which was rapidly gaining popularity. The company at that time was known as Burbn, and comprised only of a rented desk in a shared office where they’d work in the evening and on weekends as Kevin had a full-time job at Nextstop, a location recommendation startup, and Mike was a user experience designer and engineer at Meebo, an instant messaging platform. Although progress was slow, they soon changed the name to Instagram, and focused specifically on mobile photography. The app started gaining popularity rapidly, and two years later, in 2012, Facebook purchased the company before they could figure out a way to monetise it. Now, with Facebook’s massive user base being added to it, the app is one of the most popular ones and has more than 700 million active users at the moment.
Photograph: Mike Krieger/Instagram
Etsy, a curated marketplace for unique craft items, handmade items, etc, is popular for its creative products. Founders Chris Maguire, Robert Kalin, and Haim Schoppik launched it in 2005 as a simple, online portal for individual artists and artisans to showcase and sell their works. The small Etsy team operated out of an apartment in Brooklyn. However, they soon discovered that there was a huge demand for an online marketplace where handmade and unique items could be bought and sold. Thus, the three founders, along with Jared Tarbell, revamped the website to serve this need. In just a couple of years, the company was earning several millions in annual revenue, and in April 2016, had an IPO of $100 million.
Photograph: Robert Scoble/Flickr, Chris Maguire
The go-to source for reliable SaaS inbound marketing tools, HubSpot is one of the most celebrated digital marketing firms in the world. It was started in 2005 by two MIT grad students Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah simply as a way of sharing their marketing knowledge with others while making some money off it. At the time, they were both working as independent contractors assisting startups with their marketing strategies. Upon realising its potential, they teamed up and started working with smaller companies before moving on to larger ones. Today, HubSpot has become one of the most trusted and dependable providers of digital marketing services in the world, earning revenue of over $270 million in 2016, and growing bigger each year.
Photographs courtesy: HubSpot
Photographs (lead image): Toby Jagmohan/Flickr, Robert Scoble/Flickr, Dcavalli/Creative Commons, Mike Krieger/Instagram, Betsy Weber/Flickr, HubSpot