35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Imagine the pulse of innovation throbbing in a bustling startup hub. Successful startups—the dream chasers turning bold ideas into market-disrupting realities. Picture tech giants before their IPOs, every global name starting as a fragile seedling growing through grit and strategic allure.

Here, you’ll dive into the thrill-and-spill journey of startup alchemists. Assemble the nuts and bolts from venture capital maneuvers to the lean startup hustle.

Run the gamut from seed funding to scaling up. Navigate perils, embrace innovation, and outpace the burn rate.

Within these paragraphs, discover the lifeblood of entrepreneurship—the trial by fire that filters out the might-have-beens from the unicorns.

By the curtain call, you’ll absorb the essence of startup victory.

Whether it’s fostering a startup culture or finessing your pitch deck, you will glean insights to catapult your venture into the heralded league of market fit champions.

35 Successful Startups to Learn From

CompanyIndustryFounded YearFoundersHeadquarters
AirbnbHospitality2008Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, Nathan BlecharczykSan Francisco, CA, USA
UberTransportation2009Garrett Camp, Travis KalanickSan Francisco, CA, USA
37SignalsSoftware1999Jason Fried, Carlos Segura, and Ernest KimChicago, IL, USA
WhatsappMessaging2009Jan Koum, Brian ActonMountain View, CA, USA
PureStorageData Storage2009John Colgrove, John HayesMountain View, CA, USA
StripePayment Processing2010Patrick and John CollisonSan Francisco, CA, USA
RobinhoodFinancial Services2013Vlad Tenev, Baiju BhattMenlo Park, CA, USA
GrouponE-commerce2008Andrew Mason, Eric Lefkofsky, Brad KeywellChicago, IL, USA
HouzzHome Improvement2009Adi Tatarko, Alon CohenPalo Alto, CA, USA
AirtableSoftware2012Howie Liu, Andrew Ofstad, Emmett NicholasSan Francisco, CA, USA
KalturaVideo Technology2006Ron Yekutiel, Shay David, Yekutiel Shoham, Michal TsurNew York, NY, USA
AtlassianSoftware2002Mike Cannon-Brookes, Scott FarquharSydney, Australia
InstagramSocial Media2010Kevin Systrom, Mike KriegerMenlo Park, CA, USA
MailchimpMarketing2001Ben Chestnut, Dan KurziusAtlanta, GA, USA
GitHubSoftware2008Tom Preston-Werner, Chris Wanstrath, PJ HyettSan Francisco, CA, USA
Epic GamesGaming1991Tim SweeneyCary, NC, USA
The Honest CompanyConsumer Goods2011Jessica Alba, Christopher Gavigan, Sean Kane, Brian LeeLos Angeles, CA, USA
TaboolaAdvertising2007Adam SingoldaNew York, NY, USA
DoordashFood Delivery2013Tony Xu, Stanley Tang, Andy Fang, Evan MooreSan Francisco, CA, USA
SlackSoftware2009Stewart Butterfield, Cal Henderson, Eric Costello, Serguei MourachovSan Francisco, CA, USA
SquarePayment Processing2009Jack Dorsey, Jim McKelveySan Francisco, CA, USA
BrightInsightHealth Tech2017Kal Patel, MDSan Jose, CA, USA
Angry BirdsGaming2009Rovio EntertainmentEspoo, Finland
VoxyEdTech2010Paul GollashNew York, NY, USA
LinkedinProfessional Networking2002Reid Hoffman, Allen Blue, Konstantin Guericke, Eric Ly, Jean-Luc VaillantMountain View, CA, USA
WeWorkReal Estate2010Adam Neumann, Miguel McKelveyNew York, NY, USA
LyftTransportation2012Logan Green, John ZimmerSan Francisco, CA, USA
NetflixMedia Streaming1997Reed Hastings, Marc RandolphLos Gatos, CA, USA
TechCrunchMedia2005Michael Arrington, Keith TeareSan Francisco, CA, USA
ConfluentSoftware2014Jay Kreps, Neha Narkhede, Jun RaoMountain View, CA, USA
ZenefitsHR Software2013Parker Conrad, Laks SriniSan Francisco, CA, USA
ByteDanceInternet Technology2012Zhang YimingBeijing, China
CalmHealth & Wellness2012Alex Tew, Michael Acton SmithSan Francisco, CA, USA
Khan AcademyEdTech2008Salman KhanMountain View, CA, USA
StuDocuEdTech2010Marnix Broer, Jaco Bijlsma, Lucas van den Houten, Sander KuijkAmsterdam, Netherlands


Airbnb 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Encourage word of mouth

The first in our list of successful startups is AirBnB.

Recommendations play a huge role in business, and also in society. Many day-to-day conversations are about things people love, things their friends should try.

This is the form of free advertising that AirBnB used to find its success. It provided a service that people loved.

As a result, their customers wanted to share AirBnB with others. Word of mouth was more valuable to AirBnB’s business than any other form of advertisement.


Uber 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Solve a problem

Finding and flagging down a taxi is frustrating. There may be no taxis nearby, they might not see you, and they might choose a different passenger instead.

Uber saw that situation and founded a business aimed at fixing that problem. Customers loved that startup for making their day easier.

Now Uber is providing its service in cities all over the world. 93 million people use Uber because it found a problem to solve.


37signal 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Experiment With Variety

Like so many other businesses, 37Signals made web applications. What set it apart was its dedication to making a variety of simple and focused apps.

37Signals went from a cash-strapped startup to having a fleet of useful apps, both free and paid.

That experimentation eventually led to the Basecamp app. This app became so successful they named the company after it.

Only by experimenting with many different apps did they finally find success.


Whatsapp 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Focus on the Product First

Whatsapp wasn’t conceived of as a business. Jan Koum and Brian Acton put their energy into making the product first.

Only later did they think about a company. This was how Whatsapp became so successful.

Their revolutionary product created their startup, not the other way around. Whatsapp was the first mobile messaging app that could compete with SMS.

In 2020 this user-friendly app had revenue in the area of 5 billion USD. Not bad for a business started in 2009.


PureStorage 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Look For The Need

As IT technologies grow, so too do the industries that support them. Like a house supported by a foundation, IT technology is built on data storage and analytics.

Pure Storage used that need and based its business around providing that foundation.

Its business produces flash drives with a storage capacity of 250 terabytes. It also makes the software that connects these drives to the cloud.

This means incredible speeds of data transfer for virtual servers.

Pure Storage provided a high-demand product for the IT industry. Doing so won them the title of “Innovation of the Year” from The Wall Street Journal.


Stripe 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Do It Easier

Sometimes the service or market you want to break into is already well-established. As was the case with the payment services.

Stripe made its mark by making the process of payment easier. They focused on giving small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs an easy way to collect payment over the internet.

No more cash needed, no need to handle clunky cards. Even the process of fraud protection was made easier with machine learning.

Now Stripe works with widely known brands. These include Airbnb, Booking.com, Lyft, Shopify, Salesforce, Target, and DoorDash.


Robinhood 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Include Everyone

The stock market is an intimidating thing and exceedingly complex. In the past, few people participated in it.

Those that did might have even hired someone else to do it. Robinhood entered the arena with the motto “investing for everyone”.

What had once been a difficult activity was now cheap and affordable. Everyday people could now trade stocks with the best of them.

Robinhood is now worth $11.2 billion and is rushing to hire in order to keep up with its own growth.


Groupon 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Digitally Upgrade

Our grandmothers used to clip coupons out of a newspaper or magazine to save some money. Groupon took an old-style solution and launched it into the 21st century.

Now, without the risk of papercuts, users can access an almost unlimited number of deals. No other ‘coupon’ business can compete against this successful startup.


Houzz 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Fill The Gap

Houzz’s future founder and co-founder, Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen wanted to renovate their home. They grew frustrated with how few online resources were there to help.

That gap was an opportunity. Using a small group of fellow parents they built an empire.

Now their marketplace/community/directory services company has more than 40 million users. It employs a thousand people and is worth $4 billion.


Airtable 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Empower Your Customers

Airtable was founded in 2013 to do something that seems simple. It combines spreadsheets with an online database.

Founders Andrew Ofstad, Emmett Nicholas, and Howie Liu knew what their customers wanted. So they made a sophisticated productivity tool that they could share.

The database was easy to access for all. Their customers could now create workflows and share them with each other.

Their customer’s efforts, combined with the right startup tools, now pushed the business toward success.


Kaltura 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Tailor Your Business

Kaltura ensured its success by giving customers an experience tailored to their needs. It’s an open-source video platform that hones in on enterprise, education, and media.

It offers specific features and functions designed to meet the demands of each sector it caters to.

More than 300,000 organizations use Kaltura. This includes Groupon, Bank of America, Harvard, and HBO.


Atlassian 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Build A Driven Work Culture

This software company is well known for its business software. Its products are designed so teams of all sizes work faster and better.

But that isn’t what made it successful. Atlassian is a company people love to work for.

It encourages a positive work culture. That same culture is what they promote in their business software.

A mission-driven work culture significantly improves performance.


Instagram 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Fuel Your Startup In Your Freetime

Instagram wasn’t designed through exhaustive R&D and market research. Two guys made it on the weekends.

Originally named Burbn, it was born in 8 short weeks. Its founder, Kevin Systrom, built the entire thing during his free time.

Instagram is now a household name rivaling any social media platform.


Mailchimp 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Make Your Brand Known

Since 2001 Mailchimp has been handling email marketing automation successfully. Multitudes of businesses use it to deliver billions of emails each day.

This wasn’t achieved overnight. Mailchimp worked tirelessly to increase its brand name year by year.

It used online and offline approaches to secure media coverage and internet traffic. Now Mailchimp generates $700 million every year.


GitHub 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Apply customer feedback

Github provides a web-hosting service for developers. As its business grew, so too did requests from its customers.

Github found its success by listening to customer’s feedback on how to improve.

The first request was for private repositories, safe places to store code where it can’t be seen or stolen. Github listened and provided those repositories.

Github is well known for perfecting its products by listening to customer feedback.

Epic Games

Epic-Games 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Keep Building

Founded in 1991, Epic games created the Unreal, Gears of War, Shadow Complex, and Infinity Blade games series.

In 2017 it became a household name with its insanely popular Fortnite Battle Royale game. It used that momentum to keep building.

It leveraged its newfound popularity to secure more investments. Then it expanded its Unreal Engine offerings, branched into e-sports, and launched its own online game store.

Epic Games used their first success to push their company to many more victories.

The Honest Company

The-Honest-Company 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Be The Face Of Your Brand

Jessica Alba founded The Honest Company in 2011. It produces green hygiene and cosmetics for children.

She personally promoted her products by using them at every opportunity. Whenever possible she used her time to communicate face-to-face with customers.

Though one might not have the initial fame of Jessica Alba, her strategy can work for everyone. Personally promote your brand through example and customer interaction.

The Honest Company succeeded with that approach in Silicon Valley. Iconiq, Capital, and Lightspeed Venture Partners all are investors in its success.


Taboola 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Give Your Customers Control

Taboola stands out among successful startups. Though there are other content-discovery platforms, Taboola excels.

It provides recommendations based on what the customer is currently viewing.

Not only that, but the users can customize those suggestions themselves. Taboola puts its customers in control of the process.

With a revenue of $100 million and only 120 employees, Taboola has one of the highest revenue rates per employee in the world.


Doordash 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Connect Groups Together

Since 2013 Doordash has had only one goal, to connect restaurants to their customers.

Four Stanford students with experience from Facebook, Square, Vevo, and eBay put their expertise to use. They built a digital bridge.

Now, this food delivery service is connecting millions of hungry customers to restaurants. Its service reaches all across the United States and Canada.

This startup now operates in 4,000 cities and delivers for more than 340,000 stores.


Slack 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Try Something Different

Slack could be the most successful side project in history.

Its founder, Stewart Butterfield actually wanted to make a game. It had been his dream for decades.

During those decades, he created a side project, Flickr. That side project became so successful that he sold it to Yahoo for a fortune.

At that point, he realized it was his side projects that would make him successful, not his dream.

Following the success of Flickr, he created his next startup. Slack was born and is now a billion-dollar business communication tool.

It is proof that sometimes we need to set aside our long-term goal and try something else.


Square 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Use What People Already Have

Square started as an idea when its future founder, Jim Mckelvey tried to make a $2000 transaction. The sale didn’t go through because the seller couldn’t accept credit cards.

So he and co-founder Jack Dorsey (founder of Twitter) combined their efforts to provide a solution. That fix was Square’s first product, “The Square Reader”.

This device used what everyone already had, a cell phone’s audio jack. Using what was already in everyone’s possession is how Square found its success.


BrightInsight 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Do The Busy Work

Biopharma and MedTech companies are overwhelmed with data. They have data about patients, drugs, and devices.

This all needs analyzing, storing, and using. It is a massive amount of time-consuming work.

That’s where BrightInsight comes in.

It has become the go-to for healthcare providers swamped by information. BrightInsight’s success comes from handling the busy work so others don’t have to.

Angry Birds

angry2 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

You Only Need One

The creator of Angry Birds tried many times before they created a game that hit it big. Big enough to start a business with, big enough to create a franchise around, and big enough for a movie deal.

The lesson is that even if you fail many times, you only need to succeed once.


Voxy 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Niche Can Be King

This mobile app is built to help Spanish speakers learn English with tiny, daily lessons. Voxy stays focused on its target audience – Spanish speakers.

By focusing on one market Voxy has polished and perfected its offering. Now its presence in the market is huge, with over 3 million users and $15 million secured funding.


Linkedin 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From


Reid Hoffman had worked at SocialNet and PayPal. During his time at these businesses, he made many contacts and friends.

In late 2002 he used his network to recruit a team of old colleagues. By May 2003 that team had designed and launched LinkedIn out of his living room.

He once again pulled from his vast network of contacts to find customers. 350 of his personal contacts were the first to create profiles on the site.

Though it had slow growth at first, by the end of the year it had attracted the attention of Sequoia Capital. From there it obtained the venture capital it needed to become the success it is now.


WeWork 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Even Tiny Opportunities Add Up

WeWork, one of the most valuable startups in the world, almost didn’t exist.

Originally, Adam Neumann sold padded baby clothes called Krawlers from a small office in Brooklyn. The building had more space than his Krawler’s needed.

He saw a tiny opportunity to make some cash on the side. He and his co-founder leased that extra space at a cheap rate and opened a green co-working space.

Soon enough, that co-working space became a company worth selling. With the money they gained, they founded WeWork.

WeWork exists because they took the opportunity to make use of a little surplus office space.


Lyft 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Keep Expanding

Lyft had an uphill battle to success. Its main competitor, Uber, was already well established.

Lyft’s only hope was to spread its service as wide as possible. Founded in San Francisco in 2013, it expanded to more than 30 US states within one year.

In 2014 Lyft drew attention from investors like Alibaba, Third Point, Horowitz, and Founders Fund. The total investment was $250 million in venture capital.

Since then, Lyft has continued its expansionist business model. It is laying the groundwork to spread to international markets.

Lyft has gone a long way from its roots in San Francisco.


Netflix 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Invest in Research

Founded in 1997 by Mark Randolph and Reed Hastings as a media service provider.

The business has changed over the years. It went from a DVD mailing company to a digital media provider.

But one thing stayed the same. It cares about customer’s demands.

It dedicates massive resources to customer research. This information helps it to provide the most user-friendly experience possible.

Studying its consumers has paid off. In 2018 the company earned over $20 billion.


TechCrunch 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Be High-Quality, Be Consistent

TechCrunch played a huge role in making blogs a legitimate form of journalism.

Its massive base of loyal readers was only possible because it put out consistent, high-quality content. Subjects included everything in the tech and business world.

That regular addition of great content and the right execution of 10X content marketing strategy resulted in enormous growth and brand awareness.

Eventually, TechCrunch created the CrunchBase database. More than half a million startups and entrepreneurs utilize it.


Confluent 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Create A Template For Others

Confluent is an event streaming platform. It allows easy access to many types of data in real-time.

As an example, it allows users to buy groceries in an app. Then right away it alerts store workers to gather the order together for pickup.

But Confluent can be used for many situations and many types of businesses. The template is useful in many situations that require streaming of data.


Zenefits 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Be the Organizer

HR departments and managers have a huge amount of data to keep track of. Hiring, salary, and insurance records to name a few.

Zenefits is a company designed to manage that information for other businesses.

They use cloud-based software that provides easy access, storage, and organization of data. It is accessible from anywhere on the globe.

Founded by Parker Conrad in 2013, Zenefits went from an unheard-of startup to a giant worth $650 million in one year. One of its many Silicon Valley investors is Andreessen Horowitz.


ByteDance 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Diversify Globally

This tech company, founded by Yiming Zhang, manages many different content platforms. Toutiao, a popular news aggregator in China, and TikTok are two of its platforms.

Its success lies in focusing on global growth and diversifying its products to reach further afield.

Even now ByteDance is attempting to expand into the United States. It is recruiting from companies like Facebook and Snapchat.


Calm 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Consider Your Customer’s Health

Calm has made its mark on the world by staying focused on its customer’s wellbeing. This business is a global health and wellness brand founded by Michael Acton Smith and Alex Tew in 2012.

It has apps for health, sleep, meditation, and relaxation in both the App Store and Google Play store. Its apps have achieved over 50 million downloads.

It also creates audio content specifically for mental fitness. Its content strives to improve even serious health challenges.

Stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression are all tackled by its products.

Khan Academy

Khan-Academy 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

Inspiration Can Come From Anywhere

The last one of these successful startups is Khan Academy.

Sal Khan got a backhanded compliment from his cousins while tutoring them. They said they’d rather see him online than in person.

That simple statement could have so easily been ignored. Instead, Sal Khan used it to inspire a tutoring empire.

He started by creating short YouTube clips teaching subjects like biology and art. Soon the video tutoring took off.

He quit his job and now employs more than 100 people. This experience is proof that even an insult can be the idea that makes you a success.


Screenshot-2022-09-21-at-13.55.46 35 Successful Startups You Could Learn From

With a desire to help fellow students in their studies

Someone remembers student years as the most fun time in life, while someone remembers only countless sleepless nights reading books and notes and financial aid troubles.

StuDocu is a startup headquartered in the Netherlands, founded in 2013 by four students. Even then, they saw the opportunities that the Internet can provide for learning. Their idea was to help each other with their studies by uploading and sharing notes from their courses.

Today StuDocu has 15 million users. Students from all over the world share learning materials to help improve the academic performance of community members.

FAQs about successful startups

What Defines a Successful Startup?

Seems simple, right? Success. It’s not just turning a profit; it’s about cracking the code of sustainability in business. A startup that consistently outperforms its own benchmarks, not just surviving but thriving. Think market impact, culture, innovation footprint, and sure, financial health too.

How Do Startups Secure Funding?

A wild ride, funding. Startups often kick off with bootstrapping or angel investors‘ help. The big fish—venture capitalists—they come when you’ve got some traction. Some hit up crowdfunding platforms. It’s a pitch, a deal, and a handshake that fuels dreams.

What Role Does Innovation Play in a Startup’s Success?

Innovation isn’t just a buzzword; it’s our holy grail. Disrupt stale markets, create solutions that slap a big “why didn’t I think of that?” on everyone’s face. If your gizmo or strategy ain’t disruptive technology, you’re just another pebble in the jar, not the gem.

What’s a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Exactly?

Think of MVP as your idea’s baby photo—it’s your concept’s peek-a-boo into the real world. It’s got the core features that solve the problem. It’s not all grown up, but it’s enough to get people talking, beta testing, and yes, believing.

Are Business Plans Still Crucial?

Spot on. It’s less about the plan, more about planning. Forget those dusty old tomes; go for a lean startup approach. Sketch out your business model canvas, define your revenue streams, understand the market fit—use a napkin if you must, but get planning.

Can a Startup Succeed Without Investors?

Ever heard of bootstrapping? Funding with your own cash or revenue. Gritty? Sure. Impossible? Nope. It means growing without diluting control. It’s slow cooking your business to success. Sometimes it’s ramen nights, but hey, that’s startup life.

How Important is Networking for Startups?

Essential, to put it mildly. It’s not just who you know, but who knows you. Networking events for entrepreneurs aren’t just free wine and natter; they’re golden tickets to mentors, partners, even customers. Every handshake’s a potential game-changer.

How Crucial is a Startup’s Location?

People say Silicon Valley‘s the promised land, but the truth? It’s about the ecosystem. Can you find talent? Are there business incubators around? Supportive policies? Internet not from the stone age? Location matters, sure, but so does choosing a place that fuels your specific fire.

How Do Startups Impact the Economy?

Startups are the jazz in the economy’s symphony—improvising, innovating, keeping things fresh. They create jobs, stir competition, push industry innovation. Every startup that scales plants the seeds for more, loops in more tech, more minds—a beautiful domino effect.

What’s the Biggest Challenge Facing Startups?

Let’s call it the beast: scaling up without screwing up. You’ve got a demand, sure, but can you meet it without compromising quality, culture, or your team’s sanity? After the initial hit, it’s about sustaining it, managing growth without melting down. That’s the big one.


Alright, locking it down. We ventured deep into the heartland of successful startups, wading through the hustle, the marathons, and the gutsy leaps of faith.

  • Step by step, from bootstrap beginnings to Series A victories, we saw what scales a startup beyond its humble kickoff on the drawing board.
  • Innovations weren’t just shiny objects but keystones in building empires. MVPs showed us the art of crafting killer first impressions.
  • And the power waltz? The dance with venture capitalists and angel investors? A tango that could turn a pitch into a goldmine.

Our take-home? It ain’t just about the idea. It’s riding the wave of entrepreneurship with savvy, stretching every dollar, knowing when to pivot, when to persevere, and when to power through.

In the end, it’s about turning that audacious spark into a legacy. Wielding innovation and disruptive technology like Excalibur. Here’s to the brave, the wired, and the relentless. The startup sphere is a coliseum, and you’re armed to conquer.

If you enjoyed reading this article on successful startups, you should check out this one about startup consultants.

We also wrote about a few related subjects like IT outsourcing companies in the USAfinancial projections for startups, startup advicestartup press kit examplesnearshoringBerlin startupstypes of investorsshare optionsLondon startupsgifting sharesbest startup books, and IT outsourcing services companies.

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