The Real Story Behind the World’s 10 Most Successful Startups

When you look back, the greatest products/apps were totally different than what they are today. They underwent several iterations before becoming market fit.

If you’re on the path to build an app first startup like we are, then you should go through this list of 10 most successful startups. They all started with an idea, excellent execution and here they are today.

1. Uber – In a conference in Paris, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp were complaining about the pains of finding a cab while being packed with luggage amid heavy rains. No taxi passed by and this led the duo to brainstorm about ways to find cars anywhere at any time. Two things they were sure off since the start was that the process had to be mobile first and fast.

Source- Gulf Elite

2. Snapchat – Originally started as Picaboo, Snapchat was founded by Evan Spiegel, Reginald Brown and Bobby Murphy, over a conversation between Spiegel’s fraternity brothers over the problem of sexting. Snapchat was started as an ephemeral app with self-disappearing photos from the Stanford dorm. An equity tussle led to Bobby being asked to leave and they later changed the name of Snapchat after receiving an infringement letter from a photo sharing book company of the same name.

Source- Grey Entourage

3. Facebook – Facebook was started by a 19 year old Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg as a side project in his sophomore year in 2004. It was initially was for Harvard students and from 2006, anyone above the age of 13 with a valid email id could signup. The first funding of $500,000 was from PayPal’s co-founder Peter Theil in 2006.

Source- Mashable

3. Twitter – Jack Dorsey, an undergrad at that time came up with the idea of using SMS to tell small groups of what you are doing. It was the outcome of a day long brainstorming session by the people working at a podcasting company Odeo which was later shut down. The transition from Odeo to Twitter is considered one of the greatest pivot of all times.

Source- Mashable

5. AirBnB – In 2007, two designer friends Brain Chesky and Joe Gebbia couldn’t afford the rent of their San Francisco apartment. During a design conference when the hotel space was limited, they decided to rent air mattress on the floor and cook them breakfast. They made a website ( with a blog, maps and added pictures of their place. 2 men and 1 woman turned up paying $80 and following the subsequent success roped in a former roommate and engineer Nathan Blecharczyk as the cofounder to build the website.

Source- Funders and Founder Notes Video

6. LinkedIn – Reid Hoffman started building LinkedIn in 2002 with a team of old colleagues from SocialNet and PayPal. Six months later in 2003 LinkedIn was launched, Hoffman invited his 350 contacts to join the network. Initially the traction was around 20 signups per day but exhibited enough potential to attract investment from Sequoia Capital.

Source- Coporate Alley

7. Instragram – Originally started as a location sharing app Burbn by Kevin Systrom wherein the users could check-in and share their location and images. After receiving funding from Baseline Venture and Andreesssen Horowitz, Systrom started building a team and his first hire and future co-founder was Mike Krieger. Mike was a programmer at Meebo and both were unhappy about the clutter in Burbn. They then decided to chop off all features except the photo, comment and like and built the first prototype in 8 weeks. Burbn was then named Instagram, a combination of instant and telegram.

Source- Founders and Funders Notes

8. Pinterest – With his parents and sisters all doctors, Ben Silbermann started studying medicine until his junior year when we decided to enter into business. He started as a consultant in Washington DC, followed by a customer support gig at Google. Silbermann teamed up with Paul Sciarra and Evan Sharp to come up with a product Tote, pivoted from Tote to Pinterest (Silbermann’s girlfriend thought of this name on Thanksgiving). They wanted to make Pinterest a board with an interactive pin-board where people could show their collections. Silbermann personally wrote thank you notes to the first 7,000 users.

Source- Founders and Funders Notes

9. Angry Birds – Angry Birds was the 51st game made by the mobile games developer company Rovio. This shows how much it takes time to succeed! Even if you fail 50 times, you only need to succeed once.

Source- Founders and Funders Notes

10. WhatsApp Two ex-Yahoo employees, who applied to Facebook but ..
This is the story of Jaun Koum and Acton Brian two friends and ex-Yahoo employees who hated the idea of having so many ads on a single page. Both quit their jobs in 2007, took a year off, applied to Facebook and were rejected. Soon after, WhatsApp was started as a platform where people could share their statues with contacts in their phone book and then pivoted to become a messaging platform. They launched WhatsApp as an advertisement free platform, with the login, signup being and user interface being frictionless.

Source- Founders and Funders Notes