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9 Billionaires Who Started With Nothing

They caught on, and soon he went from making individual sales to making team sales. They created a small website to solicit input and look for contractors, and it proved to be a hit. The next year, their little side hustle became a fully fledged company and came out with an iPad app.

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Just a few short years later, Houzz had an international presence, and by , the company had over 40 million unique users per month around the world. It started in as a small marketplace for individual artisans to hawk their wares, and as it turned out, there were a lot of people who wanted to both buy and sell handmade and one-of-a-kind items.

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What started as a way for founder Andrew Mason to have some leverage in order to cancel a cell phone contract has evolved into a way for millions of people to save on all sorts of things, simply by working together. Back in , though, it was pretty small; Mason created a web tool called The Point, which allowed people to come together to accomplish a specific goal. After Mason noticed that more often than not, the specific goal was saving money, The Point became Groupon in November , focusing on offering group discounts on things like food, entertainment, services, and more.

The rest, as they say, is history.


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Founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah were working as independent contractors helping startups with their marketing strategies. Shah also had a blog that had a remarkably wide readership, but they thought they could do more. Halligan and Shah joined forces to found HubSpot in , and they began working with small companies.


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Their early successes gave way to medium and soon large companies, and now Hubspot is one of the most respected digital marketing services around. Founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger created a check-in app much like Foursquare but also incorporated photography from the increasingly popular smartphone cameras. Soon, Systrom and Krieger changed the name to Instagram, changed the focus to almost entirely mobile photography, and the app took off.

Perhaps one of the most positive uses of our constant connectivity is education, and Udemy founders Eren Bali, Oktay Caglar, and Gagan Biyani were definitely onto something when they launched the platform in It was small at first for several reasons: first, they were unable to raise any venture capital to fund their new online course website, and second, they were starting with hardly any courses.

Then They Started Shooting | Bellevue Literary Press

Udemy quickly grew by leaps and bounds, with 2, courses and over 10, users in the first few months. Investors finally followed, and the small side hustle was well on its way to becoming an educational powerhouse. Currently, Udemy boasts over 55, classes in topics ranging from computer skills and foreign languages to advanced makeup techniques and test preparation for a phlebotomy certification exam.

As a recent book title says, those obstacles are the way itself.

How They Started Digital: How 25 good ideas became spectacular digital businesses

It was here that Sam finally saw the opportunity for much bigger discount stores and got to work on the 1st Walmart. Read more stories like this in my newsletter How It Actually Works.


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  • Founding Stories Are Myths Company founding stories are almost always non-malicious lies. Sam was devastated: It was the lowpoint of my business life. But with a retail store you have none of that. The Waltons literally had to pack up their family of 6 and go find a new town.

    How They Started

    No one writes about all the random tangents and mistakes you make here. It Would Seem Obvious It was here that Sam finally saw the opportunity for much bigger discount stores and got to work on the 1st Walmart. Sam asked other store owners, entrepreneurs, competitors… basically everyone said no. The 1st Wal-Mart Finally, the point where most people look at to learn, is the end of our story.