Startups are a huge risk. They are the paths into uncertainty, and the entrepreneurs leading them need to be comfortable navigating unstable terrain and unpredictable obstacles. Nine out of 10 startups end up going out of business and the ones that survive still have challenges to face.
One of the fundamental factors in the lasting success of a startup is the vision and dedication of the entrepreneur behind it. Startups that are based on the desire to overcome a challenge or the urge to prove a concept are often the ones that end up on a path to success. Below are the stories of some of the most successful startups that began in just that way.
Airbnb got its start in 2007, when founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, both 27 at the time, met at the Rhode Island School of Design. The two were living in San Francisco and having a hard time paying their rent. When a design conference came to town and all the hotels were quickly booked, they decided to rent out three airbeds on the floor of their living room. The idea quickly turned into a website, and Gebbia and Chesky realized that creating a business based on renting something that already existed was a perfect business plan. The men used a combination of merchandise sales and angel funding to take their business to the next level. The company is currently valued at close to $10 billion.
PayPal began in 1998, after Peter Thiel was giving a lecture at Stanford University, with Max Levchin happening to be in the audience. The two started brainstorming about an idea to develop a way to store encrypted information on handheld mobile devices. They saw a need for a digital wallet that was convenient and safer than carrying around cash, because it couldn’t be stolen. They continued to improve their system, and in January of 2000, eBay approached them and asked to incorporate their payment system into the eBay business model. This increased PayPal users to over 100,000, and three months later, they had one million users. PayPal currently supports over 150 million active accounts and is valued at around $31.5 billion.
Lyft came into being when founder John Zimmer got frustrated with the transportation options in Santa Barbara, where he was living at the time. He was working on the transportation board and saw the shortcomings of a tax-funded system. He decided to create a transportation model that could only grow and improve over time. Zimmer created an app that allowed people with cars to sign up to provide rides to people for payment. The driver makes money and the rider gets a dependable transportation option. The idea took off, first in San Francisco and now in many cities across America. The company is currently valued at more than $700 million.
Leah Busque was waiting for a cab to take her to dinner one night when she remembered that her dog was at home and in need of food. She thought about how convenient it would be for her to pay someone to swing by and feed the dog for her while she was at dinner, and the idea for TaskRabbit was born. The company immediately attracted investors and is now one of the best new startups in Silicon Valley, allowing users to sign up to provide services and run errands, as well as to hire people for errands and odd jobs.
All of these startups became hugely successful by simply developing a way to put a service into the hands of the people who need it. This is the kind of entrepreneurial thinking that has helped these companies become some of the most successful startups in the world.