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Opinions - December 18, 2020

The Craziest Startup Ideas that Actually Worked

Startups are notorious for being radical in nature. The ideas upon which they’re founded are most of the time unusual. Some of the world’s biggest companies launched with crazy startup ideas that were either considered ridiculous or downright impossible.

So If you’re looking to fuel the startup founder in you and let your mind roam free for groundbreaking ideas, here are some startup stories where the founders turned the craziest ideas into successful businesses.

The Million Dollar Home Page

In 2005 Alex Tew, a British student was struggling financially and his education was on the line. While looking for a way out he turned to the internet and created a home page website with 1 million blank pixels. He called this the Millon Dollar Homepage. So what exactly what his business model? He was selling web ads per 10 pixels and charging $1 per pixel. Considering that a pixel constitutes a very tiny portion of an image, people had to buy a good number of pixels for their ad to be visible. The outcome was, people bought several pixels of ads and Tew became a millionaire. Paying for tuition was no longer a problem for this entrepreneur. 


PayPal’s Pioneering Money Transfer in the 90s

When PayPal launched in 1998 it was proposing something that seemed very suspicious at the time. The internet was still gaining popularity and the level of trust for the technology was still very low, but PayPal, a little known money transfer service at software development company Confinity was asking people to submit their credit card data online. 

At the time, this looked like a business that will not last, but PayPal persevered through that era. It had a bulletproof business model that stood the test of time. In 2015, PayPal became an independent company and now has an estimated net worth of US$ 45 billion.

Snapchat – A social media platform that auto deletes posts

In 2011, Evan Spiegel explained the idea behind Snapchat in a product design class at the Stanford University and people thought it would never work. When you consider the idea behind the social media platform – a photo-sharing application that auto deletes photos within seconds, it’s easy to grasp why people couldn’t wrap their heads it.

However, Snapchat has gone on to achieve great success, with other social media platforms and messaging apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp emulating its wow factor (the ability to auto-delete and have regular fresh content) through Facebook stories, Instagram stories and Whatsapp statuses respectively. 

Evan Spiegal became very rich in 2017 when Snapchat held its IPO. Evan is currently worth USD$ 10 billion.

Airbnb – Rent your house to strangers

In 2007, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia struggled financially and decided to rent three air mattresses to strangers in order to raise their house rent.  This move inspired the duo to launch Airbnb a vacation rental online marketplace which enables people to rent out their apartment for a short period of time. On the surface, Airbnb’s startup idea looked crazy and bound to cause chaos. But the company has made it work and is now worth US$100 billion.

When you look at history, you’d find that some of the world’s biggest companies were built on crazy startup ideas. The most innovative and groundbreaking ideas are usually considered crazy or impracticable. Do not give up on yours. When you test your startup idea, it might become clearer that it was not such a crazy startup idea in the first place. You might just be the next Alex Tew or Evan Spiegel. 

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