50 Big Companies that Started with Little or No Money - Deepstash

Keep reading for FREE

Automate Your Workflow

The easiest way to build a useful product is to automate some part of your daily workflow which ensures you’ve got proven demand for your product and a pre-existing funding source.

Successful examples:

  • MailChimp: built a tool that would streamline the process of email newsletters created.
  • Lynda: produced training films for her students. She spent the next two decades building a content library and tech assets.
  • PluralSight: Like Lynda.com, PluralSight offers remote software training. 

19

93 reads

Start With a Capital Efficient Product

Start With a Capital Efficient Product

Instead of trying to compete with a company like Apple, these scrappy startups filled the gap left by RadioShack and built multi-million dollar businesses worthy of emulation.

  • AdaFruit Industries: Limor Fried started her DIY electronics eCommerce empire as a student at MIT by assembling DIY kits comprised of off-the-shelf parts. 
  • SparkFun: Nathan Seidle started Sparkfun from his dorm room by selling electronics kits and oddball components to engineers who wanted to explore exotic new sensors and systems. 

19

92 reads

Old Problem + Existing Business Model + New Tech = $$$

Solving an old problem with a new technology or UX layer can be enough to build a multi-billion dollar business.

  • Shopify: Shopify’s founders were searching for a shopping cart solution when they were setting up an eCommerce site for snowboarders. Unable to find one, they decided to scratch their own itch and built a bespoke solution on the then red-hot Ruby on Rails framework. 
  • Braintree Payments: Exchanging money online, without being fleeced by fraudsters, is one of the oldest problems on the web. 

21

104 reads

Scratch Your Own Itch

Scratch Your Own Itch

  • Ipsy: Youtuber Michelle Phan leveraged her online celebrity — 8M+ YouTube subscribers — to turn it into a phenomenon. 
  • ShutterStock: Jon Oringer combined his set of skills and used 30,000 photos from his personal photo library to start a stock photo service.
  • Quizlet: it was founded by a precocious 15-year-old who wanted to ace his French final.
  • Skyscanner: The company started as a bespoke spreadsheet to help its founder find the best flight prices.

19

60 reads

Everyone’s Money is Green

Funding doesn’t always come millions of dollars at a time. Founders can scrape together money from grants, incubators, and angels, or even pre-sales.

  • CoolMiniOrNot: it started out as a website where geeks could show off their ability to paint Dungeons & Dragons figurines. 
  • The Wirecutter: Who says blogging doesn’t pay? Founded by a former Gizmodo editor, the Wirecutter promised more thorough and fair-minded reviews, and paired that with Amazon affiliate feed.

20

66 reads

Sell! Sell! Sell!

  • RXBar: When one of the entrepreneurs behind RXBar shared his ambitious business plan with his father, he told his founder son “You need to shut up and sell 1,000 bars.”
  • Scentsy: They sold candles at swap meets when they couldn’t afford to buy ads.
  • Spanx: Shark Tank judge Sara Blakely turned a $5,000 investment into an Oprah-approved approved garment that generates $400M in revenue annually. 
  • Grammarly: Spell checkers around for decades, but Grammarly made enough improvements that they could charge over 800 universities and hundreds of thousands of writers.

19

133 reads

Be Miserly with Marketing

  • ButcherBox has thrived, earning as much as a million dollars a week by skipping expensive ad channels and developing ongoing, capital-efficient relationships with influencers.
  • Cards Against Humanity: They’ve sustained their brand with a series of canny marketing stunts, selling cow poop, cutting up a Picasso, etc.
  • GoFundMe: Viral marketing is dismissed, rightfully, when it is tacked on to a business model, but it can be a powerful driver when properly integrated into a product. Paired with hyper-efficient Conversion Rate Optimization, it can be unbeatable. 

20

62 reads

Efficiency > Capital

  • PaintNite: While their competitors relied on a slow, expensive franchise sales model, PaintNite paired art teachers with existing bars that wanted to sell wine on weekdays and created a business that did $30 million in revenue the year before it raised venture capital.
  • Tough Mudder: Track & field entrepreneur Will Dean turned $7,000 in savings into a company with over $100 million dollars in annual revenue. 

20

47 reads

Build a Community

  • Mojang: The masons behind Minecraft never raised any venture capital, employed just 50 people, and earned nearly a billion dollars in profit before selling to Microsoft. Minecraft grew by charging users a flat fee, resulting in a $2.5 billion dollar acquisition.
  • Craigslist: Craigslist parlayed an early launch in the first dot-com boom into a durable long-term advantage. Craigslist is the #17 most visited site in the US.

19

32 reads

Fortune Favors the “Boring”

  • SurveyMonkey was founded in the dot-com bubble of the 90s; it survived the dot-com crash and steadily grew into a nine-figure run rate, only raising $100 million 11 years after getting started.
  • Grasshopper is a phone networking company that had 150,000 customers, over $30 million in annual revenue, but no VC on the books, and was eventually acquired by Citrix.
  • GitHub took the pain out of version control and became a critical part of the tech ecosystem before raising capital.

19

31 reads

You Can Always Raise Capital Later

Wayfair was profitable from its first month of operation and grew profitably for a decade until they ultimately raised a series A. the company is currently worth $6 billion dollars and because they suffered little dilution, the founders are worth a billion dollars each. Zip recruiter: “we started out with humble ambitions, to Bootstrap a lifestyle business,” said Co-Founder/Ceo Ian Siegel.

19

27 reads

Blessed are the Unfundable

  • Wayfair: The company is currently worth $6 billion dollars and because they suffered little dilution, the founders are worth a billion dollars each!
  • Zip Recruiter: “We started out with humble ambitions, to bootstrap a lifestyle business,” said Co-founder/CEO Ian Siegel in an interview with Alex Konrad from Forbes. Those ambitions were met and superseded.
  • Nerdwallet: The personal finance service that promises to help young people save money lived on a tight budget from the time it was founded in 2009 until it a raised $64M series A in 2015.

19

23 reads

Don’t Design Your Business Around VC

Venture capital has powered nearly every major tech company from Apple to Zappos. Just remember that you don’t need a penny to get started. You don’t need permission from funders to found and scale a startup. So the next time a VC tells you they “pass,” remember these three principles:

  • It’s possible to get a tech-enabled business off the ground with no capital.
  • It’s feasible to scale a tech business rapidly with very little capital.
  • It’s often in the founder’s best interest to limit the amount of capital they take.

20

16 reads

CURATED BY

kimtrevi

Recruitment consultant

Ready for the next level?

Read Like a Pro

stash-superman-illustration

Explore the World’s

Best Ideas

200,000+ ideas on pretty much any topic. Created by the smartest people around & well-organized so you can explore at will.

An Idea for Everything

Explore the biggest library of insights. And we've infused it with powerful filtering tools so you can easily find what you need.

Knowledge Library

Powerful Saving & Organizational Tools

Save ideas for later reading, for personalized stashes, or for remembering it later.

# Personal Growth

Take Your Ideas

Anywhere

Organize your ideas & listen on the go. And with Pro, there are no limits.

Listen on the go

Just press play and we take care of the words.

Never worry about spotty connections

No Internet access? No problem. Within the mobile app, all your ideas are available, even when offline.

Get Organized with Stashes

Ideas for your next work project? Quotes that inspire you? Put them in the right place so you never lose them.

Join

2 Million Stashers

4.8

Stars

5,740 Reviews

App Store

4.7

Stars

72,690 Reviews

Google Play

Ashley Anthony

This app is LOADED with RELEVANT, HELPFUL, AND EDUCATIONAL material. It is creatively intellectual, yet minimal enough to not overstimulate and create a learning block. I am exceptionally impressed with this app!

Shankul Varada

Best app ever! You heard it right. This app has helped me get back on my quest to get things done while equipping myself with knowledge everyday.

Sean Green

Great interesting short snippets of informative articles. Highly recommended to anyone who loves information and lacks patience.

samz905

Don’t look further if you love learning new things. A refreshing concept that provides quick ideas for busy thought leaders.

Ghazala Begum

Even five minutes a day will improve your thinking. I've come across new ideas and learnt to improve existing ways to become more motivated, confident and happier.

Giovanna Scalzone

Brilliant. It feels fresh and encouraging. So many interesting pieces of information that are just enough to absorb and apply. So happy I found this.

Jamyson Haug

Great for quick bits of information and interesting ideas around whatever topics you are interested in. Visually, it looks great as well.

Laetitia Berton

I have only been using it for a few days now, but I have found answers to questions I had never consciously formulated, or to problems I face everyday at work or at home. I wish I had found this earlier, highly recommended!

Read & Learn

20x Faster

without
deepstash

with
deepstash

with

deepstash

Access to 200,000+ ideas

Access to the mobile app

Unlimited idea saving & library

Unlimited history

Unlimited listening to ideas

Downloading & offline access

Personalized recommendations

FAQ

Claim Your Limited Offer

Get Deepstash Pro

BLACK FRIDAY

75% OFF | 1-Year Pro Subscription

Claim Offer