“I think that people just have this core desire to share who they are, to anyone that would care. And I think that’s always existed.” – Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
Founder Topics: Amazon, Google, Walt Disney & Co, General Motors, Trader Joe’s., Marriott, FedEx, Coke, Under Armour, John Deere, Wrigley, & Yankee Candle.
Some of the largest companies in the world emerged from circumstances most people don’t know about or would even expect. Whether spurred by sweaty armpits, morphine addictions or just plain anger, these 16 founders built their empires through what turned out to be some rather lucrative motivations.
Jeff Bezos’ Amazon.com Fired up in his garage in 1994, and was driven by what Bezos describes as his “regret minimization framework,” designed to reduce the regret he might otherwise have felt for not participating in the lucrative Internet Business Boom. When trying to decide whether to quit his stable job to create his online Bookstore, Bezos remembers, “If I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me the rest of my life, so . . . it was an incredibly easy decision. ”In the first two months, Amazon sold to all 50 states and more than 45 countries, averaging $20K per week. Today, it is the largest online retailer in the world with $60M in sales annually. Bezos is now the richest person in the world at $150B,
Google. Larry Page was a Computer Science Ph.D. student at Stanford when he wrote his dissertation on the structure of the World Wide Web. His interest sufficiently piqued, Page focused on defining how Web pages linked to each other. He thought there must be something valuable about the number & nature of the links, and as it turns out, the rest of the world seemed to think so too, because Google now has 3.5B searches / day and is now worth $1200B. Larry’s personal is $55B.
Walt Disney & Co. Growing up on a Missouri farm, Walt Disney developed a love for drawing from the requests of his neighbor, a retired doctor named “Doc” Sherwood, who paid Disney to draw pictures of his horse. Disney later became a newspaper cartoonist & commercial artist, where he learned how to make commercials based with cutout animations. His fascination with animation inspired him to establish his own cartoon studio and eventually become the face of the golden age of animation. He was worth $5B before he died in 1966. His daughter asked him to create Disneyland, so they would have a fun place to go. He went on to have TV Networks, Movies, Hotels, Cruise Ships, etc, which are now worth over $160B.
General Motors. The founder of a successful horse drawn carriage company, William C. Durant initially doubted the automobile—“It’s stinky, loud & dangerous” and he certainly wouldn’t let his daughter ride in one. But in 1900, he heard the worried cries of the public concerning the dangers of cars, and Durant saw a “niche” opportunity to focus on improved safety. He went on to become one of the leading pioneers in the American automobile industry by founding General Motors which became the leading US Manufacturer and is now worth $70B.
Trader Joe’s. Joe Coulombe’s small group of convenience stores was dangerously close to the same model as the already popular 7-Eleven chain in his California area. To differentiate his brand, Joe went with a South Seas motif after traveling around the Caribbean, noticing touristy Americans would go home with new-found tastes for foods they couldn’t get in regular grocery stores. Offering just that, the first Trader Joe’s market opened in 1967 and now has over 500 stores which generate over $14B annually.
Marriott. Having experienced the sweaty summers of Washington, D.C. as a Mormon missionary, Marriott figured he could turn a profit by offering downtown pedestrians a cooling refreshment. In 1927, Marriott & his wife started a 9-stool Root Beer Stand. Wintertime brought chili & sandwiches to the menu, and then after 30 years in the food business, Marriott’s stand had grown to 56 restaurants. When air travel was on the rise in 1953, Marriott embarked on a $7 million venture to build a motor hotel near the Washington National Airport. It turned out to be a good idea. Today, Marriott’s lodging & restaurant business is worth $3.5B.
FredEx. [No FedEx] As a student at Yale University, Frederick Smith turned in an economics paper outlining an over-night delivery service for the up-and-coming computer info age. After Smith went on to realize the company on his own, he told a reporter that he didn’t know what grade he’d gotten on his original paper. Fedex now delivers 28M Packages/day, and is now worth $230M.
Coca-Cola came about from the experiments of a wounded Civil War veteran, John Pemberton, who tried using coca leaves & kola nuts to counteract his addiction to morphine. He named his medicinal tonic, “Pemberton’s French Wine Coca,” advertising it as capable of reducing nervousness & irregular organ behavior. 60M cans or bottles each day around the World are consumed & Coke is now worth $190B.
Under Arm [no, Armour] Kevin Plank, a former fullback at the University of Maryland, got tired of swapping out the sweaty shirts underneath his jersey. He noticed, however, that his compression shorts stayed dry. So in 1996, from his grandmother’s basement, Plank created a shirt using similar moisture-wicking synthetic fabric. His resulting line of Under Armour clothing went on to revolutionize the sportswear industry – which in now worth $9B & Kevin’s net worth is $2B.
John Deere. Before becoming a blacksmith in 1825, Deere worked at his father’s tailor shop, where he polished and sharpened needles by running them through sand. As one version of the story goes, Deere used this experience to predict that a correctly shaped plow made of highly polished steel would be much more efficient than the iron they were using. Company is now $45B.
Wrigley. After moving to Chicago in 1891 with just $32 in his pocket, William Wrigley began a Soap business. As an incentive to buy the Soap, Wrigley threw in a free can of Baking powder. Soon finding Baking powder was more popular than soap, he switched businesses. A year later, Wrigley started throwing in Chewing gum for buying Baking powder. When Chewing gum made a bigger profit than baking powder, Wrigley shifted businesses once again. [Ya gotta be flexible when you see new opportunities] His success with gum, however, stuck considerably well. Chew on the $23B evaluation for awhile.
Yankee Candle. In 1969, sixteen-year-old Michael Kittredge had no money to buy his Mom a Christmas gift, so he made a scented candle from melted crayons. A neighbor saw the candle and offered to buy it. With the profit, Kittredge made two candles—one to give his mom and another to sell. Thus came to light the premier scented candle brand in the country—yet another win for the American Dream and following the intuition of your creativity to the net worth of $2B.
Comments: Do you know of a famous Founder that has really impressed you?
from CEO.com 5/18 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4.biz