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Famous Entrepreneurs and Their Humble Beginnings

Everyone has to start somewhere, and thanks to the magic of the internet we can trace back some famous entrepreneurs and their humble beginnings. If you’re like me, you could use some inspiration to help you keep moving forward. These are some of the Internet’s greatest stories…

WhatsApp Logo

(Brian Acton and Jan Koum – former Yahoo employees)

Jan Koum asked his fellow forum members at frequent flyer/deal website FlyerTalk for “Thoughts about my free iphone app – WhatsApp“. As you can see by the users reactions it not only verified his idea but, he scored some of his first power users from the forum. This only worked because he had a quality product and was a genuine member of the forum not a shill trying to get free advertising on a board he just joined.

Brian Acton was rejected by Twitter and Facebook over the course of 3 months.

Brian Acton of WhatsApp Twitter Posts

Brian got the last laugh after selling to Facebook for an estimated $19 billion dollars. Just goes to show you that sometimes things you perceive in your life to be problems or obstacles can actually be for your benefit. As you can tell in both of his responses to rejection, he was very optimistic for the future. A good attitude quickly took this entrepreneur to the top 🙂 Everything happens for a reason.

Yahoo Logo - Jerry Lang

During his time at Stanford, Jerry Yang made a pitch to Usenet Group members to check out his concept for a web directory called Yahoo which he admits wasn’t organized to his standards…

Yahoo Jerry Yang


Who would have thought that making a quality web directory that was searchable was a great idea? Jerry did!

DropBox Logo

Getting DropBox off the ground required backup. That’s why founder, Drew Houston, applied to startup incubator, Y Combinator. You can still read his original application to Y Combinator from 2007. Which included quotes like:

“For fun last summer reverse engineered the software on a number of poker sites and wrote a real-money playing poker bot”

“I’d rather see the idea through, but I’d probably have a hard time turning down $1m after taxes for 6 months of work.”

To this day, Y Combinator uses this as their example of a quality applicant. Good thing that Drew didn’t take that hypothetical $1 million dollar offer because Dropbox has raised over 1.1 billion dollars in funding.

Amazon Logo - Jeff Bezos

You’re going to wish you responded to this job posting from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in 1994 on Usenet…

Amazon's Jeff Bezos Job Posting

Your compensation will include meaningful equity ownership.

Would love to see what Caribbean island that programmer is relaxing on today 🙂 You can tell from that job posting that Jeff Bezos was driven from the start and dedicated to making his startup become the #1 e-commerce site. I’m also glad he changed the name from Cadabra to Amazon. Apparently, he thought it sounded too close to Cadaver – his instinct was right!

Larry Page Google Story

Larry (Lawrence) Page was a genius but, he still needed lots of help to build Google. Sometimes, he would even publicly ask for help on technical news groups. Here he is asking about his “web robot which is a Java app”…

Larry Page asking a question about Java.

Bonus: Linus Torvalds made a now famous newsgroup post about Linux. “I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu)…”

Source: I was inspired to make this post after reading a status update by Blake Ross via Facebook regarding this topic.

These stories are great reminders that great things have simple beginnings that many of us can relate to. Keep working on it and you might just be the next story on here 🙂

If you have any additional Famous Entrepreneurs humble startup stories, I’d love to hear them in the comments!