5 Successful Business Projects That Started in College
Once you read the title, the first thing that popped up in your mind was probably “Facebook”. Everyone knows, after all, that Mark Zuckerberg created Facemash while studying at Harvard University. That project would later evolve into a social network boasting 2.8 billion active users worldwide as of 2021.
It’s no wonder so many entrepreneurial students find this story so inspiring. But it’s far from the only one – there are plenty of famous companies that were founded by college students.
Why does this particular period in a person’s life seem so prolific for starting a venture? Well, there are plenty of resources available for aspiring entrepreneurs, including guidance and mentorship. College is also perfect for finding and collaborating with like-minded people.
Sure, students tend to be already busy with homework and exams, but there are custom writings services for that nowadays. So, if you know how to prioritize, you’ll make time for venturing into the business world.
Let these five stories prove to you – anything is possible if you set your mind to it.
Originally launched as Picaboo, the idea for Snapchat was conceived by Evan Spiegel. He was a Stanford student enrolled in the product design program at that point. At the time, it wasn’t received well by his classmates and teachers. When Spiegel pitched it, the idea was criticized and no one thought it was viable.
Yet, he persisted. In collaboration with his classmates, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown, he launched the iOS app several months after that presentation.
Fast forward from 2011 to today – Snapchat is one of the most downloaded apps with more than 265 million users worldwide.
You’ve surely heard of Reddit, even if you’re not an avid user of the platform itself. It’s currently the seventh most visited website in the U.S. (according to Alexa Internet).
How did it come to be? Two college roommates – Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian – got set on their path thanks to a lecture they attended during their spring break. The lecturer, Paul Graham, invited the two to Y Combinator.
The entrepreneurs’ initial idea was far from today’s Reddit – it was a text-based food delivery app, and it didn’t go on to become successful. Their second idea, however, took off. Now, it’s at the core of the internet experience for millions of people worldwide.
What you might know as a contemporary satirical news website used to be a print newspaper created by two University of Wisconsin students, Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson. The year was 1988, long before the publication moved online – that would happen about a decade later.
But even in its printed format, The Onion gained its recognition, slowly but surely. At first, it was popular among students of the neighboring universities. But it got its fair share of praise for its fresh sense of humor nationwide later on.
More than 30 years later, a project started by two students (who sold it for $16,000 in 1989, by the way) still lives and prospers.
One of the most commonly used content management systems also came to be due to the effort of two people. Matt Mullenweg, a freshman at the University of Houston, partnered up with Mike Little to create a fork of an existing solution b2/cafelog in 2003. The rest is history, as they say.
Now, an estimated half of all websites online are powered by WordPress. It remains the go-to solution for many website creators because it’s free, open-source, and customizable thanks to a variety of plug-ins.
And it doesn’t power only blogs anymore, as originally designed. WordPress allows creating online shops, news portals, and more.
In 1984, a freshman in the pre-med program at the University of Texas decided to change the computer retail game. That student’s name was Michael Dell. He banked on reducing prices for end consumers by selling computers directly from manufacturers and taking middlemen out of the equation.
PC’s Limited, the company that was later reorganized into Dell, was operated out of Michael Dell’s dorm room. And it was a commercial success. Michael even dropped out of university to concentrate his efforts on growing the business further.
Now, Dell is a multinational company that comes in third in the ranking of computer vendors worldwide. It’s also been featured in Fortune 500 multiple times. So much for following the parents’ dream of becoming a doctor, right?
You Want to Start Your Business. Now What?
Got some inspiration for turning that one idea into a venture? Don’t rush into straight-out quitting college just yet.
Of course, once the enterprise gains a substantial customer base and takes off, it might be tough to juggle both studying and running a business. But it’ll be a long path to that point.
Here are a few tips to help you get focused and take those first few steps towards entrepreneurial success:
- Create a business plan. Having a revolutionary idea is good, but it’s not everything. You’ll need to think through its execution down to the nitty-gritty, especially when it comes to making it economically viable.
- Get some help from pros. Your alma mater probably has a hub or center for future entrepreneurs, so head there for guidance.
- Take part in competitions and programs for entrepreneurs. Competitions and programs are a great idea even if you don’t have a ready-to-submit business plan. There’s usually the educational part to them, as well as mentorship opportunities.
- Secure the initial funding. It can be your savings, loans from your friends and family, and investments obtained through competitions, pitch meetings, and awards.
- Prepare to work on it day and night. The stories look cool in movies like The Social Network, but the reality isn’t so glamorous or easy. It might take you years of hard work to get people to even pay attention to your venture.