Startup Success Stories: From Side Projects to Million-Dollar Startups

startup success stories

If you’ve ever thought about starting your own business, you probably came across numerous questions. Aside from all the business decisions, you have to make the main question remains: “How do I make my business a success?”

That said, it’s also important to note that success is a very personal thing. To some, success means having job security and making enough money to sustain their lifestyle. To others, it means boosting their endeavors until they reach a favorable price on the market.

In this digital age, there are numerous startups on the market that showcase true potential. What’s unique about this is that some of the most successful startups started off as side projects. However, with hard work and devotion, they’ve managed to evolve in million-dollar ventures.

Here are just some of the best startup success stories

Why startups?

The fact of the matter is that startups have the biggest chance of success. Usually, startups are created to fill an existing blank on the market. In their nature, startups are quite innovative. That’s why they usually have a far greater chance of making it big.

1) Twitter

You probably already know the story behind Facebook, but do you know how Twitter came to be? The podcasting company Odeo is where the idea of Twitter was born. Initially, Twitter’s original name was twitter because the domain was already in use. Twitter was first used as an internal SMS service by the Odeo employees.

It was only in 2006 when Twitter was introduced to the public. Nowadays, Twitter’s estimated worth – as of June 15, 2020 – is around $26.21B.

Twitter is not only a great example of a side project that became a huge success, but it also entirely reshaped the way in which we communicate online.

2) FundAPeer

FundAPeer was created back in 2013. The idea was to create a platform where people could pitch their ideas and receive funding from other members, as well as their friends and family. Even though similar startups already existed in the world, FundAPeer was the first of its kind in India.

3) Groupon

In its early days, Groupon was initially created as a social network for activists. However, it slowly turned into a useful website with great daily deals.

It managed to spread through 45 countries and reach a $1B valuation in just two years since its origin. Groupon was originally called The Point and it was used to gather individuals behind a specific cause.

The founder, Eric Lefkofsky started noticing the trend where users would join together and order items in bulk to receive a discount. In 2008, prompted by the economic collapse, Groupon was launched in Chicago. Soon, the potential of such a platform became recognized and welcomed by many others.

4) AppSumo

AppSumo, a daily deals site for digital goods and services, was started for just $50. Of course, it was initially launched as a side project that enabled users to get better deals when shopping online.

However, the users quickly recognized the benefits of having such a website in place. Within the first year of operating, they’ve managed to earn $1 million in sales. Of course, they’ve quickly assembled a sales team whose main goal is to keep that number rising each year.

5) AskGamblers

The AskGamblers resource website was initially created in 2005 by Igor Salindrija, a law student from Serbia. During his college days, Salindrija started working as a bartender in a local casino.

Since his bartending skills were borderline non-existent, he was considering quitting. But the casino owner heard about his designer skills and decided to hire him to design the casino’s website.

This gave Salindrija the idea to create a resource website for any and all online casino visitors. The AskGamblers web portal became one of the most visited iGaming portals in the world. In 2016, AskGamblers was acquired by the Maltese Catena Media for EUR 15 million.

6) Craigslist

In the early ‘90s, Craig Newmark decided to create an email list that was primarily intended to help him meet locals. That’s where the name Craigslist came from.

However, soon after Craigslist became a thing, people started using it for much more than just meetups. As Craigslist continued to grow, Newmark decided to quit his day job and commit to growing his business.

Soon, Craigslist became a billion-dollar venture with more users than Netflix. You might also be surprised by the fact that such a huge company actually only has about 50 employees.

7) Oculus

Oculus can be sorted into one of those “garage” startups, just like Apple, Amazon and Google. Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, was literally working in his garage, trying to improve the future of VR.

He started a Kickstarter campaign to generate enough funds to sustain his idea. After successfully turning his idea into reality, Luckey sold Oculus to Facebook for $2 billion.

8) Houzz

Every home-décor and home-improvement lover out there has probably already heard of Houzz. Today, Houzz reportedly has more than 40 million monthly users and around 1,000 employees.

But in its early days, Houzz was created out of the pure need for such resource on the market.

The founders, Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen along with 20 parents from their kids’ school came together and built their own online resource.

Nowadays, Houzz is defined as a marketplace/community/directory for anything and everything home-improvement. Nowadays, it’s estimated that Houzz is worth around $4 billion.

9) WeWork

Nowadays, WeWork is one of the most valuable startups. However, it is also one that almost didn’t happen. The founder, Adam Neumann tried his luck in the business world by selling baby clothes with padded knees called Krawlers.

Soon, he realized that this business idea is not something that will help him reach his goals.

So, in order to try and make some side cash, Neumann and his co-founder rented space and opened up a co-working space. After selling their stake in the previous company, they’ve started WeWork – a co-working space that’s now worth $20 billion.

10) Instagram

That’s right, Instagram is another side project that managed to make it big. It all started with the app called Burbn. This app was originally designed for whiskey lovers to share their location and opinions about various whiskey bars.

But the app wasn’t really used as intended. Instead, people were mostly sharing aesthetically pleasing photos of their drinks.

That’s why the founders of Burbn decided to launch a photo-sharing app called Instagram. It was a huge hit right off the bat, with 25,000 people signing in just the first day. Nowadays, Instagram has about 800 million monthly users and was sold to Facebook for $1 billion.

11) Angel’s Music Academy

Angel’s Music Academy was founded by Shaiphali Saxena in 2015. As a middle-class citizen, opening up an academy was not something that was easily-achievable by Saxena. But hard work and devotion enabled her to open up a musical academy whose main goal was helping struggling artists to recognize their true calling.

12) Udemy

Udemy was created by Gagan Biyani in 2009. The original idea was to create a platform where various IT consultants could get together and create – and sell – their own online courses. This project was met with great interest by both creators and users alike. Nowadays, Udemy has around 42,000 available courses and is worth well over $170 million.

13) Twitch

Have you ever heard about No, we haven’t either. But chances are you’ve heard about Twitch. Before Amazon bought Twitch, this social media platform for gamers was called because it allowed users to Livestream the founder’s – Justin Kan – life for 24 hours. Twitch actually became a thing when it opened up to allow other users to post streams as well. As it gained in popularity, Amazon bought it for $970 million in 2014.

14) Imgur

Alan Schaaf, a student at Ohio State University got annoyed by the fact that there were no resources for image hosting on Reddit. That’s why he decided to build his own website called “My Gift to Reddit”.

The reaction of Reddit users was more than positive, as Imgur recently raised $40 million. On top of that, Imgur also has billions of page views on a daily basis.

15) Slack

Slack was founded by Stewart Butterfield in 2009. Originally, the founder wanted to build a game but he kept putting the project off. His previous side project Flickr became almost an instant hit. He managed to sell it to Yahoo for somewhere between $22 and $25 million.

Realizing that his attempts to build a game were constantly pushed aside, he decided to take a different route. That’s why he decided to launch Slack, which was originally created as an internal communication tool. In just well over a year, Slack managed to hit a billion-dollar valuation.

While seemingly different at first glance, all of these side projects and startups have something in common. All of them were pioneers in their niche and offered the audience to experience something that was previously not possible. That’s why all of them managed to reach what seems like an overnight success.

Subscribe for exculsive Startup News & Updates

Don't worry, we don't spam

      Leave a reply

      The Startup INC