The Startup Myth Of Overnight Success. 12 Companies It Took Years To Succeed

Startup overnight success is a myth easily talked and considered reality these days. The myth goes like this. You have an idea, you build a product and you get super rich right away. Founders of tech startups are big believers of the myth. Tech press and tech conferences love to reproduce the story.

With billions of cash on the side, companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and others could potentially buy any startup. Every tech founder hopes his/her company will get acquired.

Startup Overnight Success Is A Myth Busted

The reality is that it takes years to make it big and be successful. Offering a product or service that improves people’s lives while generating profits is a tough call. Sure, there are a few exceptions to this rule. They exist to validate the rule. Building a successful company takes more than overnight to succeed. To start a company, grow it and produce products people can’t live with takes time. Not to mention profits and sustained growth.

Below are 12 well known startup companies that took more than overnight to make it big and considered a success story. Companies and products like Twitter, Rovio, Dropbox, WordPress, 37signals, Pebble, AirBnB, Starbucks, Instagram, Facebook, TechCrunch and Square.

Twitter During The Odeo Years And The Obvious Corp

Evan Williams and Biz Stone created the Obvious Corporation who bought Odeo and Twitter and maintained all the intellectual property and infrastructure for years to come before the recent Twitter IPO. Williams explains everything in details in this post from 2006. The following video is taken in 2008 when Twitter had 25 full time employees!

Rovio The Makers Of Angry Birds

Rovio built over 51 games before getting it right and succeed. The makers or Angry Birds tried and failed multiple times. It was only after Angry Birds that the company took off.

Dropbox, Saying No To Steve Jobs

Drew Houston, the founder of Dropbox, said no Steve Jobs when the co-founder of Apple met with him and tried to buy Dropbox. Drew Houston considers Steve Jobs his hero.

Steve Jobs famously said to Drew Houston that “Dropbox it was just a feature, not a product”.

WordPress and Automattic, Not An Overnight Success Story

Matt Mullenweg the co-creator of WordPress and founder of Automattic, busts the myth of startup overnight success and explains that he was only 19 when he created WordPress and he didn’t do it alone. “I was 19. No, I didn’t create it alone, if I did you would have never heard of it. Actually, it entered a rather crowded field, not even close to being first. No, not planning to sell it, there isn’t really anything to sell, it’s more of a movement. No, I didn’t make 60 million dollars in 18 months”. Automattic is a billion dollar company, a unicorn as it’s called, with 12 products and a number of non-profit and Open Source projects. Today WordPress powers 24% of the web as a blogging platform, CMS, backend infrastructure and site building block.

37signals Knows Overnight Success Takes Years

David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails and partner at 37signals explains that overnight success actually takes years to happen. “From the outside, it often seems like certain companies or products just blow up unannounced and become huge overnight. In reality, it rarely works like that. It certainly didn’t for us.” 37signals is 16 years old with more than 6.000 companies signed up to use Basecamp just last week!

Pebble Smartwatch 4 Years Of Failure

Pebble founder, Eric Migicovsky talks about how it got Pebble years of mistakes before the launch of the successful Kickstarter campaign. Entering the smartwatch business was hard and Pebble had to fail again and again. Now Pebble sells 5 smartwatches. Pebble Time Round, Pebble Time Steel, Pebble Time, Pebble Steel and Pebble Classic. Prices range from $299 to $129.

AirBnB Sold Cereals For Breakfast

In an attempt to keep the company running and have enough money to buy food, AirBnB founders sold cereal boxes for breakfast. That kept the company afloat for sometime.

AirBnB is now valued at over $25 billion after on their latest round.

Starbucks Started As One Shop

The first Starbucks coffee shop opened in 1971 in Seattle. It took 16 years for Starbucks to start expanding outside Seattle. The multinational and multibillion business that Starbucks is today started expanding into the global phenomenon after 1988.

Burbn, A Location App Before Instagram

Instagram is probably the darling of the overnight success story myth. No one seems to remember or mention Burbn, the service prior to what is known to date as Instagram. Burbn got funded, failed, pivoted and gave birth to Instagram.

Facebook acquired Instagram for about $1 billion and keeps the company running separately.

Facebook Was The Facemash Before The Facebook

Facebook was initially launched as Facemash back in 2003. It took Mark Zuckerberg almost 9 years to grow Facebook and file for an IPO.

TechCrunch Before AOL

TechCrunch was founded by Michael Arrington and Keith Teare in 2005. It took 5 years for the site to grow and get acquired by AOL in 2010. In the meantime, TechCrunch built additional products like the CrunchBase, TechCrunch Disrupt conference and the Crunchies awards.

Square, Payments Done With Tiny Plastic Reader

Square started in 2009 with a plastic credit car reader for the iPhone. The company went into a money loss deal with Starbucks to get to 2015 and file for IPO. In those 6 years Square introduced several products and services. The Square Reader, Square Stand, Square Register, Square Cash, Square Payroll and more.