Ever wonder how the products and services you use every day got their start? For some, it wasn’t a straight path to success. Whether it is difficulty securing funding or a necessary rebrand, startups aren’t always successful overnight. These entrepreneur success stories highlight resilience, creativity, and, in some cases, a stroke of good luck. If you’re ready for entrepreneurial inspiration, keep reading for 15 of the most motivating startup success stories.
Recommended: Read our full guide on how to start a startup.
15 Entrepreneur Stories of Success
When Facebook was launched in 2004, it took only 24 hours to gain over 1000 users. Flash forward to today, Facebook is one of the most valuable and influential companies in the world. Originally developed as a platform for college students to connect, Facebook rapidly grew to become the most popular social media platform for users of all ages and walks of life.
One of the most wildly successful (and profitable) startups, Airbnb was created by Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia to provide a different kind of lodging experience — one that was less expensive and more accessible. It started with the duo purchasing cots to rent out in their New York dwelling to the $100 billion company it is today that provides homeowners the opportunity to make supplemental income through short-term lodging.
Pinterest founders Ben Silbermann, Evan Sharp, and Paul Sciarra wanted to create a startup that would appeal to everyone — not just tech-focused Silicon Valley workers. They didn’t stop there; however, the founders continuously improved on Pinterest, basing their changes on the customers they had rather than trying to focus on markets that weren’t using the platform. This strategy created an optimal experience for users and built Pinterest into an $11 billion company.
The origin story of Robinhood, a stock-trading app worth over $1.3 billion, starts with a lot of rejection and entrepreneurs who just wouldn’t give up. It took founders 75 pitches to find venture capitalists willing to back the app that hadn’t even been fully developed yet. Robinhood is a great example of the power of a great idea and founders that are dedicated to making their idea a success.
Many startups are designed out of a desire to solve a widespread problem; OfferUp is just one example. When founder Nick Huzar simply had too much stuff at his house that he wanted to get rid of, he created an alternative to eBay and Craigslist with OfferUp, a user-friendly app that allows users to buy and sell items easily and safely. In addition, the app includes shipping options, setting it apart from platforms like Craigslist. Today, OfferUp is reportedly worth $1.4 billion.
Another example of an entrepreneur solving a widespread problem with their startup idea, Uber was created by StumbleUpon founders Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick to address San Francisco’s taxi problem. Uber is worth $75.5 billion today; however, the road to success was not always smooth. By overcoming challenges concerning local government regulations and pricing, Uber is a great example of meeting challenges head-on to create a sustainable, rapidly growing startup model.
Food & Beverage
Apoorva Mehta, the founder of the grocery-delivery app Instacart, started with only one shopper: himself. To improve the app and create the best possible experience for shoppers and customers alike, Mehta would use the app to order, shop, and deliver groceries to himself. This process paid off with Instacart becoming a startup valued at $2 billion just three years after the inception of the business.
When Siggi Hilmarsson moved from Iceland to the US to attend business school, there was something missing - an Icelandic yogurt known as Skyr. Using recipes sent from his mother in Iceland, Siggi’s was born. At the time, yogurts in the US were mostly super processed and loaded with sugar. Siggi’s provided a healthy alternative that ended up making the startup a global success.
In 2011, Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown decided to leave behind his career as a biochemistry professor at Stanford University to pursue another goal: start a plant-based meat alternative company that would reduce the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. Today, Impossible Foods is worth billions and served in restaurants all over the US.
Clothing & Fashion
Allbirds, the wool-based athletic shoe company, wouldn’t exist if co-founder Tim Brown hadn’t received a $100,000 research grant from the New Zealand wool industry to create a product he thought of while captain of a college football team in New Zealand. Moreover, the startup was funded initially through crowdfunding via Kickstarter. A testament to the power of creative funding sources to power a great startup idea.
The founders of Warby Parker asked themselves one question: why can’t you buy eyewear online? So, they set out to provide an answer and give customers the opportunity to try on five pairs of glasses that were delivered directly to their door. However, the start of the popular eyewear company began with a mistake that ended up paying off. They launched their website without a sold out function, and when orders flooded in after a GQ article titled the startup “the Netflix of eyewear,” Warby Parker reached its first year sales target in three weeks with over 20,000 orders.
Reformation, a sustainable fashion company with a cult following, was created by Yael Aflalo in 2009 with the intention of creating a new kind of millennial-clothing company. With an emphasis on doing things differently, Reformation began producing sustainably made garments with an unorthodox presentation and providing quarterly sustainability reports to hold the company accountable. Today, Reformation brings in an annual revenue of roughly $100 million, an impressive feat for a startup of its kind.
Health & Wellness
What started as a beauty blog turned into the culture-shifting, millennial pink beauty company that is now valued at $1.2 billion. The founder, Emily Weiss, prioritized branding and providing products that women wanted — not what they were told to want. The strategy paid off and within four years of starting Glossier, the company was already worth $400 million. With accessible price points and a range of product offerings, Weiss’ goal to “democratize beauty” was a rousing success.
After years of frustration trying to find solutions to health problems, Everlywell founder Julia Cheek decided to take matters into her own hands. She then went on to offer the same option to consumers. Everlywell is a direct-to-consumer medical test service that provides a range of at home medical tests from food sensitivity to metabolism that takes on the traditional lab testing method and gives agency to consumers over their health. Today, Everlywell is worth roughly $175 million and started on the popular TV show Shark Tank.
Classpass, the platform that gives users access to fitness and wellness classes at a discount on one easy subscription platform, is a testament to the power of retooling a business to make it work. Founder Payal Kadakia took what was a great idea with no investors or users to create a new business model. Now, Classpass estimated worth is $610 million with partnerships more than doubling through the years 2018 and 2019.
As you can see, there is no one size fits all approach to creating a successful startup company. However, there are some commonalities between these wildly successful entrepreneurs — they were creative and dedicated to making their business idea work. Whether your startup idea is a solution to a widespread problem or a unique take on an existing industry, your startup success story begins with your hard work and commitment.