The Internet has been around for a long time now, and in that time we’ve seen hundreds of startups launch to change the world, or at least the way we see it or do things in it. The 10 companies on this list all had one thing in common: they succeeded in doing so, and they continue to be influential many years after their founding. While most businesses fail within the first few years, these companies set an example for others to follow as startup success stories. Read more about them below to learn about what made them famous and why you should know about them!
Given that computers have long been common fixtures in the modern office, bosses have been looking for ways to make their employees spend less time playing video games and more time working. Thus, it’s not without irony that one of today’s most popular tools for workplace productivity originally was conceived as a video game.
Previously, the makers of the workplace collaboration software created a massively-multiplayer online game called Glitch. The game focused on players communicating and collaborating with one another. Although that didn’t turn the gaming world around, the format was perfect for companies—particularly at a time like now with COVID.
Legions of new remote office workers have relied on platforms like Slack to connect with teammates who are not in the same time zone. The latest quarterly earnings report from Slack blew away investors, proving that their business model is great for the future.
Andrew Mason, founder of Groupon, created Tipping Point, a site that let people pledge donations to nonprofits without any risk. Once the goal amount was reached, the donations would be carried out.
Tipping Point was met with only limited success, but when Mason applied the same idea to merchant offers, it was clear he was onto something big. While declining from its 2014 peak, Groupon still has over 34 million users.
Yelp, the now-famous rating site, was invented when its CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, got angry with the poor information he was finding for doctors. Early on, Yelp was about letting users connect with each other to exchange feedback on products and services. After the idea didn’t pan out, the founders realised that many people left reviews on the site, so they had the idea that made the site successful.
This year, controversy seemed to follow Yelp wherever it went. Recently, Yelp faced a major scandal that involved allegations of them extorting business owners to buy advertising and tamper with their ratings. Then there was the major argument with Google. More recently, Yelp faced some backlash over its controversial racism alerts. But even after so many years, Yelp is still here.
Originally conceived as an e-commerce app, Pinterest realized its worth early on and soon became something more, evolving from Tote. Tote had connected shoppers with their favorite stores and given them updates about sales or news related to those stores.
As long as you’re a Pinterest fan, you might be able to guess where this is going. The founders of Pinterest noticed that — even though Tote’s effectiveness as a shopping app never came together — people seemed to love the feature that let them create wish lists for things they eventually wanted to buy. The pivot and narrow focus have been quite successful and Pinterest boasts about half a billion active accounts in a single year.
One reason why the name Airbnb stuck with this organization is that they wanted people to associate it with helping people find a place to stay while at a conference. The two founders’ living room housed air mattresses on which attendees to a design conference could sleep as a way to supplement their income. Breakfasts were included in the deal, so they called it Airbnb.
Whilst focusing on the niche of conferences, it was found that there wasn’t enough business to sustain the platform, which left the company in debt. This led to the Airbnb marketplace broadening their market to travelers in general, looking to avoid pricey hotel stays or people who are hosting. Now, they’re anticipating a spike in business once travel becomes viable again. Just in time for summer and, indeed, all future vacations to some indeterminate point in the future, TripAdvisor announced today the launch of a new service called Flexible Search.
Well, if you go all the way back to the early 1970s when it first opened, Starbucks’ purpose was selling espresso… machines. In fact, its founders had a lot of what it takes to run a successful business. When Americans became ready to indulge their craving for high-quality coffee, Starbucks was there to take care of it.
It wasn’t until Howard Schultz joined the company that they figured out the last component—namely, that the give a man a fish philosophy works in both directions. The company could have continued giving people the opportunity to make their own espresso drinks, but in reality they discovered that their biggest profit wasn’t in the empowerment, but in charging them $5 to buy one each morning.
Before PayPal was called PayPal, it was called Confinity, a mobile payment site around sending money to people.
In the 1990s, however, the world wasn’t ready for device-to-device payments – most people didn’t even have a handheld device. In 1999, however, the company pivoted to offer an email-based service to transfer payments. This helped bring the PayPal you know and love to the masses.
Now, PayPal is right on the front lines of the newest currency since it’s invested so much in cryptocurrency.
Starting as a site that sold snowboarding equipment called Snowdevil, Shopify’s founders found it difficult to maintain the site’s current look. Instead, they built their own e-commerce platform.
Naturally, snowboarding equipment became a peripheral component and the merits of the platform were revealed. When they discovered that they could recreate the process and offer the same services to medium and small businesses, the Eureka moment occurred. More than 44 million people shopped from Shopify merchants in 2020.
It may be hard to believe, but the original version of Instagram wasn’t about applying sepia-toned filters to pictures of your food. Indeed, when Burbn was initially founded it was meant to serve as a service that connected the game play and map worlds of games like Mafia Wars and Four Square. As it turns out, Kevin Systrom disclosed on Quora in 2011 that they were really just aiming to integrate Foursquare and Mafia Wars into one easy app.
But while the Burbn didn’t exactly meet perfection, one little part of it did. One tiny part that would eventually become one of the most successful social media platforms in history. The founders rethought Burbn and all it had become, deleting it all but for the photo-sharing and comment features, leaving the developers with the little it originally was. The number of active monthly users has exceeded one billion.
As YouTube, the top video site and number two most-popular website in America, you may not know that the company started out as a dating service.
The site was built so that people could upload videos of themselves in order to snag a potential mate. Though this didn’t work out, the founders realized that the uploading service of their website was the one piece of their plan that could have world-changing potential.