When you think about startups in the world today, you can’t forget about the geniuses behind the most intriguing and successful companies out there. Although you might not have realized, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a lot of these headline-worthy companies were brainchildren of people who have worked for even bigger names, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple.
Find out the story behind the success of these startups, and how they managed to avoid the hidden traps that could have caused failure.
Enjoy: Ron Johnson
As Apple’s former retail chief, Ron Johnson had the perfect background to make his startup company, Enjoy, a success. Launched in 2015, Enjoy partners with companies such as AT&T, Sonos and DJI to offer a different kind of delivery experience. Consumers can go to the partner site, buy tech products and enjoy free delivery and set up by one of Enjoy’s Experts — all in the same day. The best part is that this service comes at no extra cost to the consumer.
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Flipboard: Co-Founder Evan Doll
In mid-2009, Evan Doll left his job as a senior iPhone software engineer at Apple to co-found Flipboard, Inc. with his partner Mike McCue. Flipboard, Inc. is known for its role as a news aggregator and social media aggregation company, as well as its app Flipboard. The app allows users to follow their favorite topics and social news feeds, flip the articles they like into an appealing magazine format and share single articles or an entire magazine by text, email or social media. Although Doll left Flipboard in 2015 to pursue other ventures, the company is still going strong.
StockTwits: Co-Founder Soren Macbeth
StockTwits was co-founded in 2008 by Soren Macbeth, former senior information security analyst at Apple, and his partner Howard Lindzon. The company was originally started as a social media platform to let investors and traders communicate and share ideas. And even though Macbeth is no longer involved in the company, more than 400,000 investors, traders and public companies utilize the platform.
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LinkedIn: Co-Founder Reid Hoffman
Before Reid Hoffman co-founded the professional network powerhouse known as LinkedIn and launched it in 2003, he was a former user experience architect at Apple. In 2006, the company really started to gain speed when it introduced public profiles, as well as some of its well-known features such as “Recommendations” and “People You May Know.” By 2013, the company had reached over 225 million members and was adding about two new members per second. Today, LinkedIn has doubled in size with over 562 million users worldwide.
Inkling: Matt MacInnis
In 2009, former Apple education marketer, Matt MacInnis struck out on his own to create Inkling — a platform designed to publish interactive digital textbooks. Due to lack of growth, Inkling started licensing its tools to companies who wanted to convert their training materials into digital content. Then, MacInnis expanded the business by targeting retail businesses and offering tools to simplify everyone’s jobs, from management down, which has turned out to be genius for the company’s success.
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Electronic Arts: Trip Hawkins
Trip Hawkins left his marketing director position at Apple in 1982 to found Electronic Arts. In the beginning, EA functioned as an independent publisher, which promoted the programmers and designers it recruited almost as much as it promoted their work. Today, EA is far from its humble beginnings, even though the company suffered a 2017 setback. It functions as a world leader in the digital entertainment space with over 300 million players globally and a reported net revenue of $5.15 billion in 2018.
Asana: Co-Founder Justin Rosenstein
In 2007, Rosenstein left his position as Google product manager, started working at Facebook and met Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook. In 2008, they both left Facebook to start Asana. Asana is a tool that helps workers bypass their email inbox and fosters effective and effortless collaboration between teams. With over 30,000 teams using its service and a reported company value of around $900 million, Asana seems to be on the right track.
Factual: Gil Elbaz
Before Gil Elbaz founded the location data company Factual in 2008, he was a former engineering director at Google. Elbaz designed Factual to be a steward of the world’s data and ensure that the data is high-quality and easy to access. This data helps companies understand their markets and grow. Elbaz had the genius idea of building Factual before he left Google, but decided not to pitch it to the giant tech company because he wanted the freedom of working on the project on his own terms.
Howcast: Co-Founder Jason Liebman
Jason Liebman, a former director at Google, and another ex-Googler founded Howcast in 2007 — a company that makes expert-hosted how-to videos, often with Fortune 1000 brands and other organizations. Its a professional and informative, yet entertaining, platform for users to learn how to do tons of things they are curious about. Howcast videos are distributed via channels, such as YouTube, Hulu, AOL and mobile apps.
Instagram: Kevin Systrom
Even if you haven’t ever used Instagram, you’ve most likely heard the name more than once, especially when Facebook acquired it for $1 billion in 2012. Kevin Systrom, a former Google corporate development associate, co-founded the wildly popular photo-sharing application in 2010. Since then, the community has grown to more than one billion users who use the platform for visual storytelling.
Orion: Jesse Robbins
Robbins, a former availability program manager at Amazon, co-founded Orion in 2013. Orion serves as a seamless, real-time messaging platform on a variety of devices and networks for people, teams, bots and voice services. It was designed to replace legacy radios and push-to-talk devices. The idea must be working well because in September 2017, Orion completed an 18.25 million expansion fund.
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Twilio: Co-Founder Jeff Lawson
Before co-founder Jeff Lawson started Twilio in 2008, he was a technical product manager at Amazon. But his move from the tech giant to his own startup has definitely paid off. Today, Twilio is the leading cloud communications platform, reporting over 57,000 active customer accounts and revenue up 54 percent from 2017.
Quora: Co-Founder Adam D'Angelo
When Quora was first founded in 2009, some people might have wondered why D’Angelo left his successful CTO position at Facebook to start such a venture. It was due to D’Angelo’s desire to make an impact on the world in a different way. Today, the powerful Q&A platform is still making an impact on people worldwide with over 200 million monthly unique users.
DailyStrength: Co-Founder Doug Hirsch
If you’ve ever wished you could get health information along with a side of emotional support from other users, DailyStrength, established in 2006, is the perfect solution. The social platform’s existence is due in part to its co-founder Doug Hirsch, former Vice President of Product at Facebook. As of 2009, DailyStrength became a subsidiary of ShareCare, Inc., which was created by WebMD founder Jeff Arnold and Dr. Oz.
Hirsch eventually left DailyStrength, and in 2011, co-founded GoodRx, a website dedicated to helping users find the lowest prices for their prescription medications.
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TrialPay: Eddie Lim
Before he started TrialPay in 2006, Eddie Lim worked in product design at Facebook for a mere eight months. Lim’s startup TrialPay revolutionized online payments by offering a free product with every purchase made from one of its partners. For example, shoppers can get free movie tickets when they send flowers. Visa must have liked Lim’s idea, too. In 2015, they acquired the business.
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Disclaimer: Some of the images used in this gallery are representational.
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About the Author
Cynthia Measom is a Texas-based writer specializing in finance, business, parenting and education. With almost a decade of online writing experience, her work has appeared on websites such as Chron.com, The Bump and The Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.