5 Booming Businesses that Started Out Small Online
With modest beginnings comes great success. Many of the household names you know of today were birthed quietly out of homes, offices and dorms – and now they’re worth billions. If you’re looking for some inspiration to try it yourself, here’s five examples of booming businesses that started out small online.
The start of Facebook is so intriguing and inspiring that it actually got made into a film. Mark Zuckerberg started the social networking site with the sheer intention of connecting the undergraduate students at Harvard University where he was studying psychology; launching “Thefacebook” in February 2004, half of all the undergraduates at Harvard had a profile within a month.
Fast forward to September 2006 and, after expanding to all US high schools and universities as well as those in the UK, Facebook opened up beyond educational purposes to anyone with a valid registered email address. Now, over ten years later, with companies such as Instagram and Whatsapp to its name, Facebook is indisputably the frontrunner of social networking platforms and one of the leading businesses not just online, but in the entire world – at the time of writing, the company is worth a staggering $522 billion.
It’s been 22 years since eBay’s beginning. Started in September 1995 by Pierre Omidyar, from his home in San Jose, it began as AuctionWeb, a side project under his business of Echo Bay. However, upon discovering the domain name echobay.com was already taken in 1997, ebay.com was settled upon – and, after selling a broken laser pointer for $14, the business quickly began growing.
Within two years eBay had sold over one million items, and that number has grown exponentially over the years. With the company expanding worldwide in 1999 and purchasing the now-household name PayPal in 2002, there was no turning back for Omidyar. Now, for every $100 spent online worldwide, it is estimated that $14 of it is spent on eBay. That’s big money.
Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, two former PayPal employees, needed somewhere to share a video. YouTube was the result of years of planning and considering; with the help of Jawed Kawim, the site was born out of an urge to share clips that were too big to send via email or load them to the web – the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl XXXVIII slip-up were two events that spurred them further.
The first video uploaded on YouTube – “Me at the zoo” – was shared by Kawim, and from there things didn’t exactly take off. With people initially confused at the purpose of the site, Kawim populated it with videos of Boeing 747s. However, after a year, the first viral videos appeared. A clip from Saturday Night Live reached a million views in December 2006, and from there attention grew rapidly. Now, 300 hours of video are shared to the site a minute with over 30 million visitors a day.
The UK-based clothes retailer Asos has quickly become the number one choice for clothes shopping online in the country. With Nick Robertson and Quentin Griffiths being spurred by the idea of being able to purchase the clothes celebrities had been seen wearing.
An abbreviation of “As Seen on Screen”, the website was shortened to asos.com in 2001. This name transition continued through the next few years and, eventually, the site gained prominence on the web. It finally reached a fully-fledged status in 2003 and, from there, became the household name it is today.
Here’s a fun fact: Amazon originally started out as a bookstore. Launched to the public in 1995 by Jeff Bezos, he began selling things straight out of his garage in the beginning. However, Amazon’s growth was unprecedented, so fast that Bezos appeared on the cover of Time Magazine as Person of the Year in 1999.
Now, with nearly 350,000 employees worldwide and 189m unique visitors to the site in the USA last year alone, Amazon has become a force in ecommerce. Indisputably the frontrunner of all online businesses, it’s now a household name you’re absolutely familiar with.
Are you feeling inspired to get started? Here are a few tips to get you going:
- Hosting providers are perhaps the most important thing to consider in starting your online store. Think about whether you’ll need a shared or dedicated server, and which service caters more to your desires.
- If you’re a beginner, services such as Shopify can simplify the process of setting up your own online store and getting you on your way.
- Make sure you’re establishing a good level of customer service from the jump, too. It’s the most important part of any business.
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