It is abundantly clear that we live in a world that not only wants technology to address everyday issues, but expects it to solve problems many folks didn’t even know they had until the clever solution came into existence. For example, most people rely on text messaging as their primary means of communicating with family, friends, and even colleagues or clients. And they often take photos with their camera phones to send to these people. Of course, many people don’t really think about the things they say in a quick text message to a colleague or confidant, the nature of the photos they send, where those messages and photos could end up, or the fact that something that was intended to be private could become oh so public. Thanks to some embarrassing (and in some instances catastrophic) hacks and leaks of private exchanges, a lot of people started to realize that they needed to be more careful about what they sent out into the cyberworld and how they sent it. Fortunately, a tech startup came to the rescue, delivering an app that allowed individuals to send pictures that the intended recipient could briefly view before it disappeared forever.
These days the term “startup” frequently brings to mind many other words, such as “revolutionary,” “innovator,” and “billionaire.” Although not all startup founders become billionaires, there are quite a few billionaires who founded startups. Many of these billion dollar startups encountered wild success due to their visionary, inspiring leaders, and because most of the companies provided rather unique services that happened to meet a high (unfulfilled and in some cases even unknown) demand (see above). Here is a roundup of some of the most impressive and successful startups that soared to multi-billion dollar valuation in less than a decade.
Those ephemeral pictures we mentioned above are courtesy of a few Stanford grads who developed the Snapchat app just a few years ago (when they were still students). The rather recent startup is already valued around $12 billion and doesn’t seem to have any trouble snapping up investors. Now, in addition to providing a highly desired private photo messaging service, they have added instant mobile payments called Snapcash, sure to rival the particularly popular PayPal. Snapchat achieved success quickly because it provided a simple solution to a common concern.
For travelers who aren’t into sketchy, dingy hotels or just prefer a homey vibe even when they are far from home, Airbnb has the solution. This website connects homeowners and lodging seekers, allowing people to rent unique accommodations pretty much anywhere they are headed. It isn’t as dodgy as it may sound as the site requires users to create a personal profile, and it employs a recommendation and review system to ensure that prospective renters can make an informed decision. It is currently valued around $10 billion, and its rental listings continue to grow. Its extensive database and global reach has propelled this straightforward rental search platform to new places.
Pinterest provides its users with an online, personalized bulletin board where they can pin and share pictures, data, projects, and so much more. It seems to be particularly popular among women, and the most common content seems to be information regarding fashion and beauty, food and drink, home decor, and travel. The company has well over 50 million users around the world, and it is currently valued at $5 billion. Providing people with an online space to display their interests and creativity is such a basic yet brilliant idea and its popularity proves that.
This music streaming service gives its users and subscribers access to an online music catalog with millions of songs by an array of artists in just about every genre. Although some musicians do not allow Spotify to stream their music for various financial reasons, there are plenty of big names who do, as they surely appreciate the fact that the service regularly exposes their music to millions of new users around the globe. The six year old startup founded in Sweden is valued at $4 billion, and they just teamed up with our next pick to enhance those rides around town. Plenty of companies have tried offering online music services, with mixed success due mainly to IP issues, but this company succeeded because it managed to do it profitably and legally.
It is highly unlikely that anyone living in an urban area hasn’t heard of the ubiquitous Uber. This app-based, not really a taxi but basically a taxi service is now available in most metropolitan areas in the U.S., as well as many cities in other countries. Drivers are just a smart phone click away, and the rides can be as much as thirty percent cheaper than a regular taxi ride. It is valued around $40 billion, double what it was earlier this year, and it doesn’t seem like it will stop growing anytime soon. Offering a service that catches the attention of a Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund is impressive and certainly bodes well for the already uber-successful Uber.