Massive Companies That Started During a Recession

Salesforce, Google, and Facebook

These are honorable mentions.
They didn't technically start during recessions, but all of them were launched right before major economic meltdowns: Google (1998) and Salesforce (1999) right before the dot-com bubble burst, and Facebook (2004) shortly before the Great Recession.


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Massive Companies That Started During a Recession

Massive Companies That Started During a Recession


Key Ideas

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."

What entrepreneurship is about

Challenging times can create even more obstacles between you and success. But entrepreneurship is about leaning into the obstacles and finding and creating opportunities in places others have overlooked or written-off.
As others run away from the chaos, there will be more opportunity than ever to deliver real value to the world.

General Electric (1892)

Thomas Edison officially got his start years earlier (and survived several smaller recessions during the 1880s), but launched General Electric right as the nation was heading into the Panic of 1893 (16 months where business activity dropped nearly 40% across the nation).

General Motors (1908)

His business was still manufacturing horse-drawn carriages in the late 1800s, but General Motors Founder William Durant made his transition into the newly-created automobile industry in 1904 with his purchase of the Buick Motor Company. 

Early 1908 (in the middle of the 30% business declines experienced during the 13-month Panic of 1907) Durant decided to launch GM as a holding company to acquire even more automobile manufacturers. 

IBM (1911)

It was launched by Charles Flintas the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) in June of 1911 and it got its start selling commercial and business machines right in the middle of a long two-year panic. 

While industries everywhere saw double-digit declines in activity, CTR thrived, later changed its name to IBM, and became the leader in technology that would support the digital revolution.

Disney (1929)

In 1928, brothers Walt and Roy Disney introduced the world to Mickey Mouse via their short-animated feature Steamboat Willie. A year later in 1929, the duo incorporated Walt Disney Productions right as the nearly 4-year Great Depression was getting started. 

It was in those times that America needed a smile more than ever, and was able to navigate the challenges of the depression.

HP (1939)

It was during the 1937–1938 recession (one of the worst recessions of the 20th Century, with GDP decline reaching nearly 19%) that William Hewlett and David Packard, recent Standform graduates, decided to formulate a plan for their new electronics company, Hewlett-Packard. 

Still feeling the sting of the recession, the duo incorporated their business on January 1, 1939, and would go on to build one of the worldwide powerhouses in computers.

Hyatt (1957)

During the Recession of 1958, entrepreneur Jay Pritzker purchased the Hyatt House motel near Los Angeles International Airport. 

Even with business activity and travel slowing during the tough economic times, Pritzker pushed on, opening two additional hotels before the end of the decade. This collection would grow to nearly 900 properties, and annual revenues exceeding $5 billion dollars!

Trader Joe’s (1958)

Born during the Recession of 1958, Trader Joe’s got its start under the name Pronto Markets in Southern California. 

After founder Joe Coulombe returned to the U.S. from a vacation in the Caribbean, he sensed an opportunity to provide unique international food offerings in his stores to consumers that were becoming increasingly more global. 

FedEx (1971)

FedEx Founder Fred Smith eventually launched the business right on the tail end of the Recession of 1969–1970. 

Though this recession was relatively short-lived and mild, Smith faced major challenges trying to sell a new, unheard of type of service to a business community that was more hesitant than usual to spend money on untested vendors.

Microsoft (1975)

The 1973 oil crisis (that, coupled with a stock market crash, led to a 16-month recession where the GDP took its worst hit in nearly 20 years)  did not stop Bill Gates and Paul Allen from developing their new computer software business Microsoft, which launched on April 4, 1975, literally just days after the recession was considered officially over. 

Electronic Arts (1982)

During the 1981–1982 Recession (which brought some of the worst unemployment rates seen in decades), Trip Hawkins left his secure job at Apple to start a new software company called Electronic Arts. 

The company would quickly grow to become a leading provider of games for the booming home computer and entertainment system market.

Salesforce, Google, and Facebook

These are honorable mentions.
They didn't technically start during recessions, but all of them were launched right before major economic meltdowns: Google (1998) and Salesforce (1999) right before the dot-com bubble burst, and Facebook (2004) shortly before the Great Recession.



Disruptive companies are gold

Disruptive companies are well-liked by investors and stakeholders, in this tough and cutthroat industry.

According to a study, 70% of startups fail, usually within two years of operation.

How to be a Disrupter

Four strategies for being a disrupter in this volatile industry:

  • Be ready to disrupt yourself
  • Don't get distracted by economic conditions
  • Harness the power of data
  • Understand that people are your biggest asset
Disrupt yourself

There was a time when Netflix used to deliver DVDs on mail, but now they have disrupted the digital distribution of content. Google didn't have a viable business model till 2002, but now Youtube, Android, and its ads businesses are shattering records consistently.

We need to disrupt ourselves instead of getting comfortable in what we do now.

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Understanding recessions are vital
Understanding recessions are vital

Recessions are part of the fabric of a dynamic economy. The average investor fears recessions because they mean lower home prices, lower stock prices, and less or no work.

Several things ca...

Naming a recession

Recessions are really "depressions," but the term "depression" seems too terrifying. After the Great Depression, economists began to use the word "recession" instead.

The 2007-09 recession involved a financial crisis, high unemployment, and falling prices, and was named the Great Recession. Our current recession is still without a name.

An official recession

A standard measurement for a recession is two-quarters of consecutive GDP contraction. But the official arbiter of recessions and recoveries, the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), prefers domestic production and employment indicators instead. Other signs of the recession include:

  • Declines in real (inflation adjusted) manufacturing, wholesale-retail trade sales, and industrial production.
  • Extended declines in production, employment, real income, and other indicators.

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The Inventor Of Rock & Roll
The Inventor Of Rock & Roll

… was originally, according to Billboard Magazine, Rhythm & Blues music. This was until Producer Sam Phillips (Sun Records), the ‘inventor’ of Rock & Roll, started promoting little known ar...

Sam Phillips

He was not looking to make big money. His heart always wanted to do something great and original, to leave a mark. He recorded new music from upcoming artists, only to stop doing that once the real surge in sales was about to begin.

Race Music

... was the original name given by Billboard to the genre which was later called Rhythm & Blues.

Black artists were more creative, edgy, talented, and had a wild style that was light years ahead of white performers. This made ‘race music’ popular across all demographics and regions, something that was picked up by many record companies, including Sun Records.

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