It is incredibly hard to imagine a giant company like Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, ever being a tiny startup, sometimes, as small business owners, we feel our tiny businesses will never get to the point where you have a huge workforce and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. As hard as "Unicorn" status is to imagine when starting out, it is worth knowing that there are some pretty big companies that started with just a lonely entrepreneur with big plans.
Here are a few such firms with humble beginnings:
Founder Sara Blakely first got the bright idea to start her company when she was getting ready for a night out. Due to the fact that she was having a hard time finding a form-fitting piece to wear under her white slacks, she snipped off a piece of her control top pantyhose. She would subsequently launch her now famous Atlanta company with $5000 of her own savings. She even wrote a patent application and filed it herself to save on legal fees. Blakely still, surprisingly, owns 100% of the $400 million a year company without any outside investors.
The founders of Spotify, while looking for a shopping cart tool, started a site for snowboarders. They would later decide to build their own custom cart solution due to a lack of options in the marketplace. Turns out there were a bunch of folks out there looking for such a solution. They built and ran the company for six years till they sought and raised outside funding and took the company public, which rewarded them with a billion-dollar valuation.
When Nick Woodman's entertainment and promotions website FunBug went bust in 2001, he decided to clear his head by with a surfing trip to Australia and Indonesia. Inspiration struck when he noticed the cameras that surfers wrapped around their wrists to photograph their adventures usually ended up breaking loose. Using his personal savings and a $35,000 loan from his mother, Woodman launched GoPro (originally known as Woodman Labs) in 2002. He bootstrapped the San Mateo, California-based business until 2012, when tech manufacturer Foxconn invested $200 million. Two years later, the company went public at a $2.96 billion valuation, according to Bloomberg.
The founders of fundraising platform tapped into an unexpected source of growth when they started their, now famous company. They were able to tap into the power of viral marketing with a genuine need for folks to raise money for a diverse array of causes. Driven by these forces, the founders were able to bootstrap a business to the point where it was valued at ~$600 million.