Five Startup Success Stories

Many of the world’s most successful businesses and entrepreneurs started out with a simple idea that grew into a product, and those products exploded into multi billion dollar enterprises. We all know the story of Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, made famous by the film, The Social Network (2010). Facebook grew to become the most popular social media platform on the web, and Zuckerberg, just 32 years old, is worth a whopping $58 billion, making him America’s richest entrepreneur under the age of 40.

Zuckerberg, who dropped out of Harvard at the age of 19, is not the only entrepreneur who went from zero to hero, so to speak. The truth is, many startups never take off, but most of those that do begin as crazy ideas that eventually gain traction with a growing audience and skyrocket into the beasts they are today. According to Mashable, “The best startups seem obvious in retrospect- this is because by the time we find out about them as users, they have already reached critical mass.”

Here are five lesser-known startup success stories that demonstrate the power and potential of an innovative idea:

1.Pandora: Could you imagine life without internet radio? If you work a desk job, how would you get through your work day without being able to plug into your favorite personalized station? Well, Pandora, founded in 2000 as Savage Beast Technologies by Will Glaser, Jon Kraft, and Tim Westergren was initially a flop. The company, which began as an idea to provide users with separate, individualized radio stations containing only the music they liked, quickly blew through its $2 million budget, and the founders convinced their 50 employees to work without pay for two years. Today, Pandora is worth $1.38 billion and has 250 million registered users.

2. Snapchat: No one had even heard of Snapchat a few years ago, and now the name is a part of every teenager’s basic vocabulary. The initial concept behind the now wildly-popular photo-sharing app, originally called “Picaboo,” was to allow users to send images to each other that would disappear after a few seconds. The transient nature of the images encouraged users to send explicit images, but now Snapchat is used by a wide audience for just about everything. Users can do everything from selecting  photo filters to change their appearance to capturing the highlights of their day to add to their “story,” to following stories from their favorite brands. Snapchat turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook in 2013, and has grown to be worth over $20 billion.

3. Uber: Uber does not seem like the kind of invention that would take off. We already had taxi services, and that’s essentially what Uber is, except it utilizes technology to streamline the process. It’s a deceptively simple concept; hail a ride through your phone and track its arrival. However, the concept took off since its launch in 2009; an expert in valuation believes the company to be worth $28 billion.

4. Airbnb: Airbnb is another example of a startup that rose to fill a need in an already crowded industry. There are millions of places providing lodging around the world, and AirbnB simply connects users with short-time housing including vacation rentals, apartment rentals, homestays, hostels, and hotel rooms. The company, founded in 2008, was named Inc’s 2014 Company of the Year, and today it reaches 150 million users and is valued at $30 billion.

5. Pinterest: Where would we be without Pinterest to bring some order and categorization to our lives? The ridiculously popular “digital scrapbook” website allowing users to save everything from recipes to wedding ideas raised an initial $800 million from its investors, launching as a beta in 2010. Today, it’s valued at $11 billion, more than double its $5 billion valuation in 2014.


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