Staying Ahead

The Surprising Origin of Five Great Start ups

Eureka moments are rare and far apart. And sometimes even the inventors themselves are surprised by the moment of revelation, when the big idea strikes. You can’t switch on an idea at the press of a button, nor will brainstorming bring about any extraordinary results. On the contrary, some of the biggest start ups of today had a very surprising origin. Not momentous, not glamorous but simple ordinary events that triggered off the beginning of what are today’s household names

Read on to find out.

Instagram’s idea began in a simple photography class at Florence

Kevin Systrom was attending a photography class in Florence. He had brought with him his expensive SLR camera, but his teacher promptly replaced it with a Holga , that had random light leaks and vignette borders that enabled one to produce interesting pictures. Systrom realized that though it was imperfect, it was beautiful. Later, after graduation it was Systrom’s girlfriend who sparked off the innovation. She wanted her photos to look really good and attractive, which the photo sharing app that Systrom was developing could not produce. She preferred her friends photographs that looked wonderful. Systrom knew that it was the use of filters that enhanced the attractiveness of the photographs and it was then that he designed Instagram‘s first filter and called it X-Pro-II which enabled users to transform ordinary photos into attractive, artistic pictures. Just one month after launch, Instragram had a phenomenal number of one million users.

Twitter is the brain child of a man who spent his childhood listening to a police scanner

As a child, co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, used to spend long, lonely hours listening with fascination to a police scanner. He was amazed by the way the police and emergency personnel shared short burst of information continuously. They would always be talking as to where they were, what they were doing and where they were going. With the advent of cell phone that transformed the way people communicated, Dorsey thought of his days with the police scanner and thought it would be a fantastic idea if he could enable everyone to communicate in the same manner. He and a partner created Twitter in 2006 and it is common knowledge that it is one of the most popular network for friends to update about where they are, what they are doing and more. Twitter with more 232 million users, is the inspirational idea of a lonely boy who spent his childhood listening to police scanner.

An inefficient stock purchase triggered the launch of E Bay

E bay is the largest online auction platform today with 152.3 million active users. It was in 1995 that Pierre Omidyar, who founded e Bay, wanted to invest some extra cash that he had to purchase stock of a gaming company. The opening price was set at $15 and Omidyar called his broker to go ahead with the purchase. Later his broker told him that $15 was the “ideal price” and that he had purchased the stock at $ $24 per share and regular people couldn’t get it at $15. Omidyar decided to bring the power of purchasing right into the hands of regular people and he launched e bay on labor day – 1995. Of course people are not selling and buying stocks on e bay, but it is selling a lot of household articles and so on, and E Bay successfully brought the power of the efficient market to the regular people.

Paying a hefty late fee for movie DVD prompted the idea of Netflix

Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix, had rented a DVD of ‘Apollo I3’ but did not return it on time. He had misplaced it and was more than 6 weeks late in returning it. He had to pay $ 40 late fee for it. He was rather hesitant to tell his wife, because she would surely admonish. On his way to his gym one day, he wondered why DVD rental stores did not operate like gyms and health clubs where you pay flat fee for a month or a membership fee. He also bought some DVDs and mailed them to himself, to check whether they reached him without damage. They did and that was the beginning of Netflix, which he founded in 1997.

An obsession for collections, especially insects started Pinterest

Right from his childhood, Ben Silbermann, founder of Pinterest was obsessed with collections. He was particularly fascinated with insects or bugs. He used to collect them, dry them, label them and display them in shadow boxes. Though both his parents were doctors, he followed his dream of designing apps, after working for sometime at Google. He had many ideas when he left, but the one thing he was really passionate about, i.e Collections came back to him. He thought that a person’s collections speak so much about the personality, and he found that there was nothing on the internet that allowed people to show off their collections. To enable display of collections he, with a partner launched Pinterest in 2009.

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