Huge companies that started at home
As the age-old saying goes "mighty oaks from little acorns grow" and many of the world's largest and most profitable online firms started surprisingly small in bedrooms, lounges, garages and sheds. From Amazon to Zara, we reveal the humble beginnings of some of the planet's leading businesses.
BargainBrute.Com based in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains
Centered near to the foothills of the "Rocky Mountains" in the vicinity of the historical municipality of Fort Collins, Colorado, they have, for countless years been an outstanding example of how to provide to their ever growing online client base. Furthermore, they have a serviceable online package which is next to none, so much so that they were, in 2019, elected the best place to shop online. Just why they accomplished, this honour is clearly seen once you dive into their merchandise line-up of well over 3 million different products.
Harley-Davidson built its first motorcycle in a backyard shed
Iconic American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson started in a courtyard shed. Founders William S Harley and Arthur Davidson assembled the first real Harley-Davidson motorcycle in 1904 in a ten foot-by-15 foot shed located in the Davidson family's backyard in Milwaukee. The shed was preserved for posterity at the firm's Juneau Avenue factory but was accidentally destroyed in the early 1970s.
The Walt Disney Company's first studio was Walt Disney's uncle's garage
Walt Disney Company is the world's leading media corporation pulling in annual revenues of $69.57 billion in 2019, but its origins are very modest indeed. Back in 1923, Walt Disney created his first Hollywood cartoon film Alice's Wonderland in a small garage behind his uncle Robert's home at 4406 Kingswell Avenue in Loz Feliz, Los Angeles.
Hewlett-Packard's first HQ and was a factory situated in a garage
Like so many other successful firms it preceded, Hewlett-Packard started in a garage. Back in 1939, Stanford University grads Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard unveiled their tech company in a one-car garage in Palo Alto, California and produced their first successful product there, a precision audio oscillator. The garage, which has since been converted into a museum, is widely regarded as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.
IKEA again started out of a garden shed
Ingvar Kamprad, who died in 2018, established IKEA in 1943 at the age of 17 with a small sum of money his father gave him for studying hard and doing well in his high school exams. Kamprad started off peddling pencils, postcards and other small items via mail order from his family home, which he maintained in a little shed outside. The company was named after his initials and the first letters of the city in which he grew up, Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd.
Mattel originated in a garage
Another hugely fruitful business that started in a garage was Mattel, which has now grown to become one of the world's major toy companies—launched in 1945 in Hawthorne, California by married couple Ruth and Elliot Handler, the firm first produced picture frames, before adding doll's house furniture recycled from picture frame scraps.
Microsoft originated in an Albuquerque garage
Another hugely successful company that was born in a garage is Microsoft. Originally named Micro-Soft, it was founded by childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen in a garage in Albuquerque, New Mexico on 4 April 1975. The fledgeling computer firm started out developing software for the Altair 8800, the game-changing device that sparked the PC revolution.
Apple was born in a garage?
Apple was born in 1976 in the garage of Steve Jobs' parents in Los Altos, California. It was here that where Steve Wozniak worked on the company's first prototype computer, which Jobs funded by selling his hippie van, so the story goes. However, in later yearsWozniak admitted that the bulk of the work on Apple was done elsewhere and the garage thing was "a bit of a myth".
Dell was also conceived in a university dorm room
Like Facebook, computer hardware behemoth Dell came about in a college dorm room in 1984. Michael Dell was just 19 and a pupil at the University of Texas Austin when he created the company, a company which began by selling IBM PC-compatible computers built from stock components and traded under the name PC's Limited.
Amazon was created in a garage
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, now the world's richest person, created the game-changing e-commerce site in 1994 in the garage of his three-bedroom rented home in the Seattle suburb of West Bellevue. Incidentally, the house (pictured) sold last year for $1.52 million.
Craigslist was started in an apartment
Craig Newmark, a former IBM programmer, was employed by venture capitalist Charles Schwab, in San Francisco, in 1995, where he established his eponymous listing site, primarily designed as a simple, email distribution list for his friends, allowing them to know about upcoming events in the Bay Area.
Newmark quit his job in 1999 to focus on the rapidly-growing site and had hired nine employees working out of his apartment by the following year. The website grew into scores of US cities in the early 2000s and became a household name
eBay came into being as a hobby site created in a suburban living room
Online shopping and auctions giant eBay was created by programmer Pierre Omidyar in September 1998 as the AuctionWeb. This hobby project was part of a more significant personal website. Omidyar wrote the code for the site at home in suburban San Jose, California over Labor Day weekend. The first product listed was a broken laser pointer.
Google was founded in, yes, you've guessed it, a garage
Like Amazon, Microsoft and Apple, Google operated out of a garage during its early days. The search engine's designers Sergey Brin and Larry Page rented a garage in Menlo Park, California from September 1998 for $1,700 a month courtesy of their friend and future colleague Susan Wojcicki, who was struggling to meet her mortgage repayments.
LinkedIn was also created in a suburban living room
Business networking service LinkedIn is an indispensable tool these days for professionals the world over. It boasts over 610 million registered users in 200 countries. But believe it or not, the networking social media firm began in 2002 in co-founder Reid Hoffman's living room in Mountain View, California
Facebook was conceived in a university dorm room
Facebook has achieved bona fide global domination, but it actually started out in a dorm room at Harvard University. Mark Zuckerberg created the first version of the social media network in his residence halls at the Ivy League institution. He unveiled the site from his dorm room back in 2004 during his sophomore year.
Online marketplace Etsy began life in an apartment
Initially created to distribute unique handmade products, it was started in a Brooklyn apartment building in 2005 by three buddies, Chris Maguire Rob Kalin, and Haim Schoppik. The threesome wanted to create a simple platform where manufacturers could sell their products. Success did not take long, and in the space of just a couple years, Etsy had 450,000 registered retailers, generating $26 million in annual sales.
Airbnb started out with three air mattresses and a makeshift website
In 2007, roommates Joe Gebbia and Brain Chesky were struggling to pay the rent on their San Francisco loft apartment and decided to snap up three air mattresses they could hire out to paying guests. The duo cobbled together a simple website, and Airbnb was born. Just 12 years down the line and the site offered millions of lodging options worldwide before the coronavirus pandemic.
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