5 Early Tech Startups Who Used Gorilla Bootstrapping to Take Over the World

The idea of starting a business from nothing is an easy thing to dream about. Just propel your mind 5 years into the future and suddenly you’re the next Bill Gates or Richard Branson.

However, though not impossible, there’s a long road ahead for most. Unless that is, you’re a savvy tech developer with an astounding idea. One that solves a need that has yet to be fulfilled. One with a hungry market with people standing in line with fistfuls of cash just waiting for the release of your product.

The following 5 tech startups basically bootstrapped their business without any personal finances to their name, but their ideas quickly materialized into multi-national and later, multi-billion dollar businesses due to their early efforts and constant pursuit of excellence throughout the years.

5. Craig Newmark

No, Craigslist is not a multi-billion dollar enterprise. At least not yet, coming in with a valuation that’s leaps and bounds lower than the top 4 companies mentioned at just a few billion, give or take. While Craig wasn’t poor when he started Craigslist, the online classified site literally was bootstrapped with zero capital — save the price of a domain and hosting. The site was a passion project for Newmark, a way to connect with new people after he moved to San Francisco. He never intended for the site to become the definitive classifieds site of the interwebs, he just wanted to connect with people. Word of mouth turned Craigslist into the site it is today and Newmark into a man with enough money to live off for a few hundred years if science is able to extend life indefinitely in the coming decades. Luck and a truly passive attitude, were definitely on Newmark’s side!

Tech Startups

4. Bill Hewlett and David Packard

Go big or go home is the attitude projected by these two software nerds. Regardless of what the ailing company is doing now, and their abysmal $11 a share stock prices, they really were a force to be reckoned with leading up into the mid 2000’s (I spent a year working customer service for their All-in-Ones back in 2004 — what a nightmare!) I digress, it’s said that the duo started the company during a fellowship with one of their Stanford professors with an original investment of just $538.

Startup Founders
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3. Michael Dell

Another PC startup, Dell Computers founder Michael Dell found himself bootstrapping his new company while attending U of T in Austin, Texas. He started the company in his dorm room, struggling to build a company on a student budget, and eventually giving up on his academic pursuits to go at building this now legendary company full-time. His family lent him $1,000 to ramp up production and other investors were soon to follow.

Tech Startups
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2. Bill Gates

The current $76-billionaire and richest man on Earth on any given day, Bill Gates started from humble beginnings, much like everyone else on this list. Gate’s history with regard to Microsoft’s beginnings is mired in controversy. Steve Jobs claimed that Bill simply took Steve’s original GUI for the Apple computer and superimposed his own “warmed over” copy onto it to make the Window’s interface (read more here). From the sounds of it, Bill has never done anything more than affirm this and other suspicions about his thievery. However, he and early partner Paul Allen did have to beg, borrow and (ahem) steal to get the company off the ground. Their first project, a mere simulation of the Altair 8800 Microcomputer, being the concept that eventually propelled them into the big show.

Startup Founders
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1. Jobs and Wozniak

The duo started Apple Computers from the comfort of Jobs’ parents garage. Or did they? In this interview, Woz  unveiled after thirty some years that the idea of the garage startup of the company is a little overblown. He claims the garage was more of a storage facility and a place where he and Jobs unwound at the end of the day.  They outgrew storing their computers in the garage fairly quickly. Jobs quickly found a co-signer for a $250,000 loan and the rest of the company’s sordid history leading up to the first unveiling of its world-dominating “i devices” is history.

Startup Founders
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Which startup on this list do you respect the most given what they did and how they did it?



Main Image Credit: JD Lasica/Flickr