There is a saying in the world of entrepreneurs: “The day I quit is the day before I succeed.” While this theory can’t be proven wrong, some of the biggest and best companies in the world have failed, but lived to tell the tale. The next time you think it’s time to quit your business and move on, take note of these startup stories that prove that anything really is possible, and it’s never time to quit.
Successful companies that were failed startups
Entertainment, social networking and news website Reddit has 430 million unique users. By anyone’s standards, that’s a lot of traffic, even for a website that started 15 years ago. While these numbers may make you wonder if your website can reach such heights, Reddit’s humble beginnings prove that anything is possible.
You see, when Reddit first launched in June 2005, it was just like any other new website: it had no visitors. But instead of resting on their laurels and waiting for people to discover the site, Reddit’s two co-founders — Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian — had other ideas. To get the ball rolling, Huffman and Ohanian set up several fake user accounts. Using these accounts, they create themselves and enter into discussions on a bulletin board-style site. According to Huffman, these fake accounts served two purposes. These fake accounts, albeit fake users, not only filled the site with users, but helped set the tone of the site and steer it in the direction Huffman and Ohanian envisioned when they founded the site.
took offIt’s about herd behavior. When a website has users, the implicit implication to an outsider is that there must be something to see or do. Imagine how you feel when you are walking down the street and a crowd gathers around something. You want to see what the fuss is about, don’t you? The lesson here is to make your business look like it has a large crowd.
In the year Launched in early 2012, The Muse is a one-stop shop for millennials, offering everything from career advice to thriving job boards. Although The Muse received a lot of buzz in its early months — and a site like The Muse was in high demand at the time — co-founder Kathryn Minshew knew she had to find a way to keep the momentum going.
Now, it’s no big secret that one of the fastest and most effective ways to spread the word about your startup business is to tell everyone you know. So Minshew decided to do just that. She checked her Gmail account to find the email of everyone she emailed. By the time she was done, Minshew had an Excel spreadsheet with nearly 1,000 email addresses. She then began emailing each address to “spread the word.
Minshew soon found herself in a bit of a pickle. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Gmail labeled her a spammer and blocked her account. Now, she couldn’t just keep emailing her contact details. She could never email anyone.
took off: There’s nothing wrong with using guerilla marketing tactics to spread the word about your business, but remember the old adage: “If it looks like a duck, it swims like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” Minshew doesn’t intend to spam anyone, but Gmail does that. If you are considering using similar guerrilla marketing techniques to promote your business, try to think ahead to avoid the same risks.
Today, Airbnb is valued at over $25 billion, and the number seems to be growing every day – but it wasn’t always like this. A very stressful start The first days were difficult. This seems unlikely, especially since investors are currently throwing money at Airbnb, but the company in 2015 When it first launched in 2008, investors had nothing. For proof, check out a recent article by Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb Medium. In the article, Chesky discusses seven prominent Silicon Valley investors who turned down Airbnb. It even shares screenshots of the rejection emails you receive. (Who’s laughing now?)
So how did Airbus go from receiving rejection letters to becoming one of the most valuable startups in the world? They did what any forward-thinking entrepreneurial team would do and created cereal boxes. wait what Yes, you read that right. The team came up with the “Obama O” for Barack Obama and “Captain McCain” for John McCain – named after the two presidential candidates running in the 2008 election – using special edition Cheerios cereal boxes – cardboard and hot glue, this quirky yet completely ingenious idea to keep Airbus in business for ten years. It helped him earn thousands of dollars.
took offThe struggle – and the struggle – is real. The Airbnb team is living proof that if you want your business to continue and thrive, even if it means thinking outside the box, even if everyone else says no, you need to hurry like you’ve never been.
Instacart founder Apoorva Mehta wanted to enter Y Combinator at the prestigious Silicon Valley-based seed fund. Unfortunately, Mehta soon found out that he had missed the application deadline by a whopping two months. It was three years ago. Instacart has now raised more than $275 million in investor funding, with Y Combinator being the first to jump ship. So how did Mehta land a spot in the highly sought-after Y Combinator program? He made a decision.
First, Mehta appealed to his network of connections and asked them for introductions to Y Combinator partners he knew. Before long, he had several introductions in hand, so he moved on to the next step: emailing partners. Unsurprisingly, since it was two months past the deadline, there were many rejections. However, Mehta’s keen eye saw a small window of opportunity in one rejected email. Mehta shouted. Gary Tan, a Y Combinator partner, used the Instacart app to ship a six-pack of beer because he knew the key to getting a spot in the program depended on his partners knowing the product. Lo and behold, it was working. Mehta accepted a meeting and managed to impress the team into joining the program shortly after the meeting.
took offIdeally, your product/business should be able to speak for itself. If it works, half your job is done. The other half is simply getting your product/business in front of the right people and letting it win hearts and minds.
GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons had many twists and turns in his life, including a stint in the Vietnam War, when he decided to turn to entrepreneurship. In fact, it was during his time in Vietnam that Parsons developed a way of thinking that served him well – both in combat and in business. Simply put, Parsons has learned to adjust the way he sees things.
In Vietnam, Parsons realized that the key to survival was to take things day by day. Parsons once said. Inc.:
“I’m not worried about injuries. I’m not worried about dying. The next morning I just concentrated on ringing the mail.”
By adjusting his thought process, Parsons was able to overcome this.
Fast forward to 2001, four years after Parsons started GoDaddy. Although GoDaddy had not yet gone bust, it was on its way, and Parsons was considering closing the company before he lost his fortune. But after a while the parson made him refocus. He was in Hawaii when he noticed the valet parking cars looked “happy as a lark.” Then and there, Parsons realized that the worst thing he could do if he broke was that he would become a valet. By suddenly refocusing, “bad” didn’t seem so bad, and it was possible to maintain a positive attitude. According to reports, GoDaddy became profitable after a few months.
took offWhat’s the worst thing that can happen if you’re one of those failed startups? You learn a lesson, and move on. In many cases, your second or third business may be successful. The worst case scenario will always be something you can survive.
6. Marie Forlio
When Marie Forlio first decided to become a life coach, she recognized her age as a major obstacle. While she believes she has the goods, she knows it’s hard to convince her clients to listen to someone so young. Forlio quickly realized that she had to fake it until she made it.
In verse 24 of FounderForlio explains the key to simulating it:
“I used the internet to effectively hide my youth. I’ll never lie but I went out and had headshots done and they were black and white and I put my makeup on somehow and did some hair and I looked like maybe 10 to 15 years older than me.
The move is clearly paying off. Marie Forlio (Brand) was one. Inc.500 Fastest Growing Companies of 2014, with over 275,000 followers worldwide. Recently, Marie Forlio (the woman) became one of the many mentors to mentor up-and-coming entrepreneurs heading to Richard Branson’s Necker Island in September.
took offLook ahead to identify potential obstacles and plan to overcome them. Don’t be afraid to face your fears.
Uber managed to fit the drama of a lifetime in six years.
Although co-founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp conceived the idea in early 2009, the first UberCab (as it was then known) app hit the scene in the summer of 2010. Within a few months of its arrival, it was accepted by UberCab. The first cease-and-desist letter prompted the company to change its name to Uber.
A year later, the Andreessen Horowitz funding deal between Uber and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen fell through. Details about the situation are still iffy.
Since then, Uber has faced other issues: wrongful death convictions; A part-act; Allegations that Uber operates illegally; objections; Allegations of sabotage; Allegations of sexual harassment and abuse; Privacy complaints and security issues.
The list goes on, but still Uber grows. Not only is Uber expected to generate $10 billion in revenue by the end of the year, but the company is rolling out a number of new initiatives.
took off: Uber’s issues are enough to shake even the most hardened entrepreneurs, so how is Uber not only thriving? Simply put, Uber offers a service consumers love. Moreover, they love Uber more than they think about the issues surrounding Uber. That’s enough to get investors to throw money at Uber, which gives Uber more than enough cash to ride out its problems one by one.
Read more: Does business not make money? Here’s the reason(s) why
Don’t be one of the failed startups
The seven startup stories presented above are just a small sample of the many, many companies that came close to disaster before becoming modern success stories. (Don’t forget: serial entrepreneur Evan Williams fired all of Blogger’s staff and then sold Blogger to Google; Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin tried to sell Google again when they tried to sell the search engine for $1 million. For $750,000, it was still rejected; and (A time when Amazon was on the verge of joining a long list of failed startups.)
The proof is in the pudding: don’t give up. Tomorrow is your lucky day. Browse Foundr+ to find all the proven frameworks to start and build your business.