Dream Big - 5 Small Projects That Became Million-Dollar Startups

Starting a side hustle is a great idea. Whether you want it to be a personal challenge, or you need another source of income, becoming an entrepreneur can work out. After all, we’ve heard so many stories of widely popular startups that were initially small projects. The best part of it is that almost all the people who started those projects kept their 9-to-5 jobs and they still managed to succeed. This means you can do the same and still experience the success you’ve always dreamed of. In case you need some extra inspiration, let’s look at five small projects that turned into million-dollar startups.

From a small project to a go-to live streaming service

Video live streaming service Twitch is one of the best examples of how some million-dollar companies have humble beginnings. The founder, Justin Kan, started designing the site way back in 2005 when he was studying at Yale. It was initially called justin.tv and livestreamed his life 24/7. He and his team wanted to create a Big Brother-like website as the popularity of live streaming started to grow. Kan said that the site didn’t experience a lot of success right away. Initial responses weren’t great as people weren’t fond of the reality show concept. The early days of Twitch were also difficult because of pranksters who kept reporting fake shootings and stabbings in Kan’s apartment. Still, more viewers started turning up and many of them asked Kan how they can start their live streams. Eventually, justin.tv moved on from only live streaming Justin’s life to allowing all users to livestream. Soon after, Kan and his team decided to focus on gaming and eventually, they changed the site’s name to Twitch. A few years later Amazon acquired the site in a $970 million deal.  Indeed, small projects can reap big paydays.

A small project that grew to become Slack

Slack founder Stewart Butterfield and his team planned to design a new MMORPG game but they ended up revolutionizing the way we communicate at work. The best part of it is that Slack started as a side project. Let’s take a look at how it all started. Stewart Butterfield had already made a name for himself by creating Flickr. The image hosting site became an overnight sensation and was soon sold to Yahoo. Once he sold Flickr, Butterfield wanted to fulfill his dream of creating a video game. While he and his team worked on creating the game, they realized they need a better business communication tool. They created the tool for themselves and continued to work on designing the game. Only later did they realized the potential of their tool and Slack was born. The backronym behind it stands for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge.” Slack became the fastest-growing startup in history after reaching a valuation of $1 billion after just eight months. This is one of the best examples of how small projects can go right.

An email list that grew to become a company

If you’ve ever shopped online, you had to hear about Craigslist. Now, Craigslist is one of the biggest sites devoted to jobs, services, and items wanted, but it wasn’t always like that. In fact, Craigslist really was just a small project, actually a list in the beginning. The founder, Craig Newmark arrived in San Francisco back in the 90s and wanted to make a name for himself. He decided to create a list of events he could attend and meet influential people. He figured out the list is something many people would like to have access to, and Craigslist was born. However, initially, it was just an email list he shared with other people. More and more people wanted to use the list and it looked like Newmark’s project worked out. Soon enough, he turned into a real website but decided to keep “list” in the name. Craig also ended up leaving his job and focusing solely on Craigslist. Today, the company is worth at least $3 billion and it’s constantly gaining more popularity.

A casino bartender built a million-dollar startup

During the last few years, online casinos gained much popularity. The iGaming sector is constantly growing and the biggest iGaming portal is doing the same. A company called AskGamblers is one of the best examples of how a small project can go right. Today, it covers over 1,000 online casinos and provides players with all the information they need. However, like all startups in this list, it had humble beginnings. The founder, Igor Salindrija, was looking for a job and he ended up working as a casino bartender. Salindrija realized the potential that lied in iGaming and he decided to build his own iGaming-related website. He started AskGamblers only 14 years ago and the company was recently acquired by Maltese Catena Media in a EUR 15 million deal. What’s also impressive is that the portal counts 7.5 million monthly pageviews and it looks like this number will only continue to increase.

The lack of resources led to a widely successful startup

Some startups are born after years of careful planning. However, there are also startups that don’t take that much time. Take Houzz, for example. All you need to do is Google anything home renovation-related and you’ll stumble upon this site. What makes it so special is that the site was created as a response to a lack of home renovation resources. All husband and wife Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen wanted to do was renovate their home. When they couldn’t find any resources on the web, they decided to build their own site. They shared it with local architects and parents at their kid’s school. It turned out to be an immediate hit and the company continued to grow. Today, Houzz counts more than 40 million monthly users and the couple is worth about $4 million. So, if you still don’t have an idea of what you want your small project to be about, remain patient. You’ll come up with it eventually and you may even experience just as much success as Tatarko and Cohen did.

The bottom line

As you can see, some of the biggest startups out there started only as small projects. The founders put enough time and effort into their ideas and they experienced the success they were working towards. No matter what sector you’re in and what your idea is, invest energy into it and it may do even better than you’ve always imagined.

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