Lots of big businesses started with a storefront, but how about these that were established in the garage?
• Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard met on a camping trip in 1934, and became classmates at Stanford University, studying electrical engineering shortly afterward. The pair pooled their funds of $538 and began building devices in a one-car garage in Palo Alto, California. In 1938, they invented an oscillator to test sound equipment, and their efforts were rewarded with the purchase of eight of the devices by the Walt Disney Company, launching HP’s success. They moved out of the garage in 1940. In 1951, the invention of a high-speed frequency counter to measure signals earned billions for the company. HP jumped into the space race by inventing a frequency synthesizer that was launched aboard spacecraft. Their introduction of a personal computer in 1980 revolutionized communication and technology. The net worth of the company today is in the $40 billion range.
• In 1976, Steve Wozniak was employed by Hewlett Packard, working on a home PC. When Wozniak presented his design ideas to the company execs, his ideas were rejected, so he teamed up with a friend, Steve Jobs, and Jobs’ colleague Ronald Wayne to form Apple Computers. They worked out of Jobs’ parents’ garage and launched the Apple II in 1977, experiencing sales of over $100 million by 1980. Apple is the first company in history to be valued at $1 trillion.
• In 1975, childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen worked out of an Albuquerque garage developing software for personal computers. They relocated to Bellevue, Washington in 1979. Eleven years later, their startup, Microsoft, went public, and the following year, Bill Gates became the world’s youngest billionaire at age 31.
• Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was renting a three-bedroom home in West Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, in 1994, and working out of the garage. The Princeton graduate had been working for a Wall Street investment firm, quickly rising to senior vice-president. But Bezos had plans for an internet enterprise, and drew up a list of 20 products that could be marketed online. He narrowed it down to books, and with his parents’ investment of $250,000, he started his company. He chose the name Cadabra for his company, playing off “Abracadabra,” but changed it a few months later when his lawyer thought the name was “cadaver.” Bezos settled on “Amazon,” because the Amazon River was the biggest in the world, and his plan was to be the biggest bookstore in the world. After five years, the company had shipped 20 million items to 150 countries. It was expanded to outside merchants in 2000. Today, it is the world’s largest online retailer, employing 1.1 million people in the U.S.
• In 1998, Menlo Park, California resident, Harvard grad Susan Wojcicki, was in need of some extra cash and rented out her garage to friends Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who were working on developing a new internet search engine. In 1999, she became the first marketing director of their company, Google. Today, she is the CEO of YouTube, acquired by Google in 2006. Her net worth is estimated at $815 million. Brin is the seventh richest person in the world and Page is the sixth, both with a net worth in the $120 billion range.